Monorail. That’s what the Concordia Student Union (CSU) executive presidential hopeful Justin Levine wants students to think of when they think of his party, the Aspiring Students Promoting Educational Responsibility (ASPER).
In a wide-ranging interview, Justin Levine and Benjy Levine, candidate for VP establishing the third floor, emphasized their plan for a monorail to connect the downtown Sir George Williams campus with Loyola.
As an exercise science student taking most of his classes at Loyola, Justin Levine feels a monorail, which he said would have a lower emissions-output and travelling time than the current shuttle bus fleet, will help to ease tensions both between the two campuses and between student groups.
The group also proposes to allow marijuana to be legally smoked on campus, another way of bringing students together, said Benjy Levine.
“Nothing unites people more than smoking a joint,” he noted.
Both Levines, first cousins, also answered to accusations that they are simply a joke slate that will pull out of the race before the elections.
“I feel personally insulted when I hear that,” Benjy Levine said. “We’re in it for the long haul.”
In order to ease the tensions of election time as well, the ASPER slate is proposing to abolish regular CSU executive elections, saying that the main problem of democracies is that as soon as one government becomes established, elections roll around and through things off. What they propose is that elections only be called at the whims of the student body.
Another proposal they are putting forward is to change the seventh floor of the Hall Building into a commercial centre, where McDonald’s, IBM, and possibly Krispy Kreme donuts will be able to hock their wares.
They readily admit that there are only men running on the slate (one woman was to run, but has since become engaged and pulled out), and they are all Jewish.
But they both feel students shouldn’t worry they won’t be represented: “We’re looking our for student interests. People may say we’re against Muslim students, but that’s not what it’s about.”
One of the biggest issues this election is breaking away from the CSU’s chequered past. The Clean Slate has come under repeated fire by other candidates for not being ‘clean’ at all and instead representing the same group of students which has been running the CSU for two years now and which many blame for the problems Concordia has been facing on and off campus.
Slate presidential candidate Youri Cormier has firmly denied any links to the past, and has taken every opportunity to distance himself from this year’s executive. Although he does admit that Clean Slate is a left-wing slate, he is fast to point out that many are far too quick to lump everyone on the left is the same group.
“If you look, all of the criticism has been aimed at the executive, and none of us [have been involved with that],” added Maiko Ishii, candidate for VP academic.
According to slate members, what Clean Slate hopes to accomplish is what many past executives have promised and failed to deliver: a greater sense among students of being represented by the CSU and a higher degree of accountability.
Some early signs point to the possibility that Clean may be able to accomplish some of this, with financial accountability being a centrepiece of their platform. This year’s CSU has come under repeated fire for a lack of financial transparency, something slate members say will not be an issue if they are elected. They plan to host a website which would contain all official CSU documents, including a breakdown of the budget and fund allocations.
Also being pushed is the inquiry into racism on campus, which three slate members, Cormier, Ishii and VP external candidate Fiona Becker, brought forward at the last CSU general assembly. Such an inquiry, they claim, will examine all aspects of Concordia, including the CSU.
Many students have become disillusioned with left wing activist slates – even Ishii admits “Everyone hates the CSU” – but Clean slate members have vowed to continue fighting for student rights in whatever way is necessary, whether through negotiations or demonstrations.
Evolution not Revolution
Since CSU campaigning opened last Monday at midnight, many of the Evolution slate’s posters, which say, “Evolution not Revolution,” give the first names of the candidates and the URL of Evolution’s website, have been torn down or defaced.
Evolution president Natalie Pomerleau said a few of them had “slut” written across her face when she found them -and that’s just part of the hateful behaviour she’s faced since launching her campaign.
The reason? “We consider ourselves moderate,” said Pomerleau, but she acknowledged that Evolution is perceived as a far right-wing slate.
Members of Evolution want to negotiate peacefully with the administration, restore Concordia’s reputation with investors and alumni, and put a freeze on CSU fees.
“We’re about putting the students first. We want the general student population to have some confidence in the CSU,” said Pomerleau, adding that Evolution will accomplish this task by, “letting student clubs represent their own issues, and by not taking sides on external political issues.”
Evolution also fully supports an inquiry into racism at Concordia, but Pomerleau said the inquiry was already initiated at the March 5 General Assembly and so will not be a major focus for the party. Financial transparency will be one of Evolution’s focus points. As Pomerleau said, “You can’t have people on the finance committee who allot money to their own clubs.” The budget will be accessible to all students via Evolution’s Web site, which Pomerleau said would also contain quarterly reports of CUSACorp and the CSU, and complete information about campus events, to be updated daily. They will also be reviewing the health and dental plan students are currently using.
Other plans include getting federal polling stations at Concordia to increase the sway students have with politicians and negotiate a permanent tuition freeze, and convincing the administration to stop writing TBA on class schedules because, as Pomerleau put it, “Let’s face it, what teacher you get makes a big difference on whether you’d want to take that class.”
The Free Thinkers Parliament
“Don’t harsh our mellow, man.” That’s the slogan the Free Thinkers Parliament want students to remember them by. Their purpose: to bridge the great divide they sense between students at Concordia.
“Clearly there’s a divide in this school between those who do have a sense of humour and those who don’t,” said Simon Reader, FTP President, who also goes by the name of Psyman Queero. “Our goal is to bridge that gap.”
This group of creative writing and dance students includes Alli Blakely aka. Mysticalli (VP Dot Coms), Nic Boshart aka. Nick Fury (VP Ex-boyfriends), Ben Read aka. Zen Ben (VP Solar Flair), Allison Trumble aka. Mumbles Dick Tracy (VP Show me the Money) and Owain Lawson, (VP Be-ins).
Reader and Trumble told The Concordian that their slogan was “Left, right, whatever,” as they made an “L” sign with each hand and then merged them to make a “W.” But Reader specified that FTP was “not just some joke party.”
Their suggested improvements to community life at Concordia include couches on the Mezzanine, better dances, psychic readers, more coffee and, Reader added during the interview, acceptance of a deterministic universe, as well as sandboxes.
That’s not all. If elected, members of FTP have promised to improve the quality of campus life by making additions and improvements to the physical structures currently in place. “We’d like to purchase an island in the Caribbean and make it Concordia
‘s third campus,” said Reader. “The library building,” he added, “should have its own diapers so as to prevent embarrassing incidents.”
Trumble and Reader said they were looking for something to do until the warm weather sets in when they got the idea to run a slate for the CSU elections. “You’d be surprised how easy it is to run a campaign,” said Reader; all FTP operations have cost about $20 to date.
“Obviously, we’re the most popular party,” said Reader. Trumble chimed in, “Yeah, we want to win this popularity contest.”
The New Vision Party wants to restore balance to student politics at Concordia. New Vision presidential candidate Joseph Burchill explained that his slate is impartial and unlike some of the other slates, it is not backed by any secondary party, interested in influencing the CSU.
“We are a moderate slate and we have come out with the approach that we want all undergraduate students represented equally that for once we should have a CSU that does not have a self-interested party behind it,” explained Burchill.
Burchill and his slate would like to see the CSU begin to refocus its energies where they matter most and that is with primary service to students. One aspect of the CSU that he would like to work on is its relationship with the university’s administration, which over the past year has been strained.
“It’s been my experience in life that you often get more results from co-operation than confrontation,” said Burchill. “We would certainly like to sit down and confront certain issues with the administration on an amicable level.” He added that a cozy relationship with the administration is not the slate’s goal but rather he hopes to develop a mutual respect that would enhance the CSU and the administration’s working relationship.
He also said that his slate would strive to be impartial when mediating campus conflicts and dealing with various student groups. “We have to really focus on all student issues, it is not in the CSU mandate to take a side on specific issues […] my personal feelings can’t really enter in [to the debate], our personal politics get left at the door.”
Renaissance Concordia is billing itself as the slate that can allow Concordia to experience a rebirth of ideas, experiences and create stronger relations between students and their union.
“Our platform is based on 10 pillars. Namely of which are accessibility, dialogue, freedom of speech, sustainability, campus enrichment and fun,” explained Marc St-Martin who is running for president of the slate. “We basically asked people if they could change one thing about Concordia what would it be and these things are what people came up with.”
St-Martin says that unlike some of the other slates running for the CSU executive, his slate has concrete plans to make their campaign ideas a reality. “Our whole thing is about being a completely open and honest CSU, we want to have bi-weekly meetings where all students can come in and voice comments and ideas,” he explained. One key aspect of the slate revolves around keeping students abreast of developments, this would include issuing monthly press releases, financial statements and keeping an up to date web page with relevant information.
As for the sticky campus issue of politics and where the slate stands on international issues such as the Israeli/Palestinian conflict St-Martin explained that his slate would help all student groups regardless of their political beliefs and they would try to give student groups with different political beliefs equal time to express their opinions on various issues. “It is impossible to be completely neutral, but we have set ourselves up not to take sides,” he said. “We will never forget our primary responsibility which is to the students and not just one group of students but every single student.”