Members of three slates debate student apathy, sexual assault
Sustainability, sexual violence and student engagement were the main themes of the night as candidates for the Concordia Student Union’s (CSU) general elections participated in a debate on Monday.
Candidates squared off in front of an audience of about 60 students in the Hall building’s seventh-floor lounge. Candidates for each position took the floor alongside their opponents to answer pre-submitted questions and those from the audience.
“What do we stand for? It’s in the name,” said Chris Kalafatidis, the general coordinator candidate for the slate Cut the Crap. “But most of all, we want to clean the bathrooms.” Kalafatidis is a fourth-year political science student, CSU councillor and the president of the Political Science Students Association. He emphasized sustainability, saying it was “the one issue every student is affected by.”
Kalafatidis’s opponent, Margot Berner, stressed the need to combat sexual violence and hold the administration accountable in light of Concordia’s sexual violence scandal. “We have to be able to hold our administration accountable past the end of the year,” said Berner, who represents the slate riZe. A third-year English student and CSU councillor, Berner helped redesign the Arts and Science Federation of Associations’ (ASFA) anti-harassment and sexual violence policy last fall. She also pledged to bring international students into the CSU’s health plan.
Members of the third slate, New Community, faced tough questions about their connections to the Solidarity Economy Incubation Zone (SEIZE). SEIZE is a Concordia-based group whose goal is to support local businesses that operate in the solidarity economy. This semester, their proposed fee levy referendum was rejected twice by the CSU’s council. Now, New Community, whose candidate for general coordinator, Marcus Peters, is also the project leader of SEIZE, has made the group a key part of its platform.
Political science student and former CSU councillor Alex Karasick asked if the slate’s intention was to promote SEIZE’s agenda, despite being rejected by council twice. Although SEIZE was a key part of their platform, external affairs candidate for New Community, Jessica Avalos Salas responded that the resources New Community was promising to provide would be accessible to all students.
Candidates also addressed the issue of student awareness of the CSU. “I think it’s pretty sad when Concordia Spotted has more likes on Facebook than the CSU,” said Kalafatidis. Peters said the key to promoting engagement is to appeal to the diverse interests of the student body.
Only CSU councillor Jane Lefebvre-Prevost ran independently, under the banner “No More Slates.” In her pitch for academic and advocacy coordinator, the fourth-year women’s studies student emphasized the need to support low-income students. She said that when she first became a Concordia student, she relied on food banks. “When you’re putting this much into your studies [as a low-income student] and you’re barely even making even, why even try?,” she asked. If elected, Lefebvre-Prevost said she would advocate for a subsidized tutoring program.
Monday also marked the first day of the campaign period, which will continue until April 1. Polling takes place between April 2 and April 4.
Photo by Hannah Ewen.