With a turnout of about 30 students, the first of two Concordia Student Union general election debates started last Thursday in a civilized atmosphere.
Each of the A Better Concordia and Concordia Could Be affiliation candidates for president, VP external, VP sustainability and VP internal and clubs were gathered on the 7th floor of the Hall building to present their campaign platforms and answer students’ questions and concerns.
Candidates were notably asked to develop their campaign promises on issues such as Reggie’s continual deficit, student representation on governing bodies, student spaces and ways to improve the communication between the student body and the CSU.
“There was a lot of talking about collaboration and communication between different student groups, as well as about the tuition hike debate,” said A Better Concordia presidential candidate Schubert Laforest after the debate. “Students seem to be eager to make Concordia more cohesive and I think both affiliations felt that need.”
Although candidates for VP external were not debating that day, a repeated concern was the CSU candidates’ ability to represent students in major external campaigns. The debate took place a day after students gathered at a CSU general assembly voted in favour of a week-long strike against tuition hikes.
After it was pointed out that the candidates running in this general election would only be dealing with the aftermath of the tuition hikes debate, both affiliations admitted that this year’s CSU campaigning lacked communication with students and sometimes misrepresented them.
“Some groups were forced in taking a position they did not believe in in that debate,” said Concordia Could Be VP sustainability candidate Iain Meyer-Macaulay. “Faculty associations and departments play a large role in disseminating the information. It’s important to let these organizations who directly represent students know they have the opportunity to take position against a campaign.”
A Better Concordia VP sustainability candidate Andrew Roberts said that many students were not given the chance to have an open discussion with the CSU.
Laforest added that, in the future, he believed the CSU should use a direct democratic approach where all students would have the opportunity to vote in a referendum, rather than a general assembly.
When asked about the general outcome of the election debate, one student questioned the organization of the event and its promotion.
“I consider myself fairly immersed in Concordia politics and I only knew about this debate the same morning,” said the student, who asked to remain anonymous. “There was no advertising, no Facebook page, and look how small the turnout was. The debate went very well and all candidates have very solid platforms, but the next debate should have more advertising.”
This feeling was also shared by several candidates, who expressed frustration with the formatting of the debate.
“It was so frustrating to be up there because I have so much to say and no questions were addressed specifically to my portfolio,” said Concordia Could Be VP finance candidate Stephanie Beauregard. “Most of the questions were touching upon VP external portfolios when they weren’t even debating.”
The next debate will be held this Thursday, March 15, from noon to 2 p.m. at Loyola’s The Hive, and will see each affiliation’s presidential, VP external, VP academic and advocacy, VP student life and VP Loyola candidates take part. Polling kicks off March 20.