First public debate held

Candidates from both the Representative Union (RU) and the Concordia Action Network for Democratic Organising (CANDO) presented their platforms to an audience of just over 200 students in room H-110 of the Hall Building.
Both slates took pains in their opening statements to stress the differences between their two platforms. While all two propose an extension of CSU services to Loyola, an improvement of student food services and pledge to keep education costs down, they also several points completely distinct from the other.
For CANDO, it is their proposal to run a campus-wide “eco-audit” in order to determine where Concordia can do a better job of protecting the environment.
Such an initiative, they believe, will eventually lead to a lowering of costs at Concordia through recycling and energy conservation. Also, they hope to bring back an on-line teacher and course evaluation program that would allow students to both register and read the pros and cons of certain teachers and courses over the Internet.
RU, for its part, is proposing a subsidized lap-top program, which would allow students to purchase lap-top computers at a considerably cheaper price than they normally would. RU presidential candidate Chris Schulz stressed the fact that these laptops would in no way be mandatory, as they are at other universities such as Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. One student criticised the plan during the question period, asking why the RU would invest in lap-tops while students required help simply paying for food, text-books and school supplies.
Schulz countered that those issues were addressed in other parts of the RU platform, and that laptops have themselves become necessities for students.
A major part of both slates is their commitment to keeping the cost of schooling at present rates and even lowering costs in the future. The ability of each slate to provide this economic security proved to be a major point of contention. CANDO emphasized the fact that three of its members are currently members of the Quebec branch of the Canadian Federation of Students, which recently won a promise from the provincial government that they would not raise tuition fees until at least after the next election.
According to CANDO presidential candidate Sabine Friesinger, because of her experience as chair of the CFSQ she has already established the contacts with the government necessary to deal with the issue of tuition fees. VP academic candidate Ralph Lee added that every member of Team CANDO was at a rally for accessible education held in Quebec City on Feb. 21, and wanted to know where members of the RU were.
Schulz conceded that they were not present, but at the same time said that he and others on his slate had been working within the university community to keep costs down and to improve the management of funds. Schulz pointed to the fact that both VP services candidate Riccardo Filippone and VP external candidate Yasmin Gardaad serve on ASFA where they have constantly fought for students.
Both slates had candidates who were singled out. For the RU, it was VP internal candidate Mindy Eklove. Students questioned her on two topics. The first was her involvement in handing out a pamphlet that described Palestinians as tyrannical and as terrorists. In her defense, Eklove said she had been doing a favour for a friend and, had she known what was written, would never have passed them out.
The second issue was the fact that last semester she ran against the RU, and in fact called for their resignation over alleged bribery charges. Eklove responded that since then she has realized that nothing illegal occurred, and that the more she got to know Schulz, the more she felt he was the best qualified candidate for president.
For CANDO, the embattled member was VP finance candidate Sameer Zuberi. He was questioned about why, after running with the RU last semester, he had decided to run against them this semester.
Zuberi responded that by the end of the campaign he no longer felt comfortable running with Schulz because of his use of lawyers and his close ties to the administration.
The question period was a raucous one, with both questioners and candidates often running over their time limits. As the debate drew on, the audience members themselves grew much more boisterous, frequently interrupting candidates’ responses, particularly those from the RU. This eventually led Chief Electoral Officer Stephan Herman to threaten students with expulsion from the debate if they did not calm done.
The tension between the two slates rose as well, particularly during CANDO’s closing statements. Lee was the final candidate to speak, and took the opportunity to criticize what he has perceived as a negative campaign from the RU based on fear mongering. This prompted outcries from RU candidates, with VP academic candidate Adeel Merali telling Lee, “Don’t talk shit!”
After the meeting, Schulz said he had hoped the debate would have stayed clear of cheap shots and personal attacks, although he did admit that the debate had been clean until then. For her part, Friesinger felt that the debate had gone well, and didn’t see Lee’s statements as an attack but as how he has perceived the campaign so far.
A second debate will take place at noon on Thursday, March 21, at the Hive at Loyola.


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