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CSU slates take different approaches to campaigning

by Evan LePage March 22, 2011

The first week of CSU elections may have brought the familiar sights of classroom speeches and poster-covered walls, but the two slates have actually taken very different approaches to campaigning thus far.

Specifically, the two party leaders have expressed different goals for their interaction with students during the campaign period.

Your Concordia’s presidential candidate Lex Gill said her slate is generally running a different sort of campaign than the CSU has seen in recent years, “one that’s focused on building meaningful relationships with students; asking people what they want before we tell them we’re representing them; creating dialogue; acknowledging that we don’t have all the answers but that we believe that we’re able to work together to make Concordia a better place.”

Action’s presidential candidate Khalil Haddad, on the other hand, said that, while his primary goal of campaigning is simply speaking to as many students as possible, his team stood out because they were offering students answers, rather than only asking them questions. “If you were to look at our campaign points, they’re all concrete and feasible. It’s all the steps that we need to take, everything is clear, it’s not about fluff talk,” he said. “We want to know what [the students] want but at the end of the day we need to propose solutions and see what the course of action is for next year. I think that’s our main strength.”

The two slates have differed in their campaigning practices as well. For example, while Action’s presidential candidate Khalil Haddad and his teammates can often be seen hanging around the mezzanine chatting with students on their way to or from class, Your Concordia’s leader Lex Gill said her slate had intentionally taken a step away from traditional tactics, including what she referred to as essentially “spamming” people.

“It’s important for us to maintain some presence there but we don’t feel like we win any sort of meaningful support by screaming at people in the hall or creating tunnels of our candidates so that they’re forced to walk through,” Gill said. “So we’re trying to move away from that as well. It’s not a football game, it’s an election.”

Both groups have also maintained a continuous presence online, each staying active on Facebook and their respective websites. The Your Concordia team has posted three videos for their campaign to team Action’s two. But the former stands out for its use of a blog, on which it posts and responds to student’s suggestions and questions as collected in person or in a section of their website called the idea generator.

While the CSU’s past elections have been known to be riddled with political attacks and cheating, this year chief electoral officer Oliver Cohen has yet to hand out any sanctions. He said that contestations had been filed regarding poster violations, but that he has “been dealing with it accordingly, speaking with both the parties and resolving the issues as civilized, mature human beings.”

From Cohen’s point of view, the first week of campaigning went very smoothly. “It’s been pretty clean overall and everybody’s been focusing on the campaign and less on the petty politics which is a good sign.”

Haddad, who was unwilling to say anything positive or negative in regards to the Your Concordia campaign or its slate members, also said that he had tried to emphasize a clean and positive campaign to his own team members from the beginning and, in his belief, it had paid off. “This year I think it’s been very good because we’ve been talking with the other slate as well, we’ve been very friendly about it,” he said. “If there are any concerns we bring it up to each other. So there have not been any major negatives.”

However, Gill seemed to have a different outlook on the situation. While admitting that it had been cleaner than in previous years, the Your Concordia leader said that some of her teammates felt the Action members hadn’t acted properly during poster night. “There was a dialogue about behaving with respect, integrity, not pushing and shoving; that poster night was not an election, that posters don’t vote. We wanted to start off on that foot,” Gill said. “I feel like some of my candidates felt those values were not as upheld by the other side.”

She also said she had filed an informal complaint with the CEO about postering, followed by a formal contestation when no action was taken on the issue. Gill was however quick to point out that Cohen was working with what she called flawed electoral rules which made it difficult to act when rules are broken. “This is definitely a problem with structure of the CSU standing regulations and bylaws which make it very difficult for the CEO to impose sanctions or enforce any rules,” she said. “So perhaps there’s a sense that he’s been unresponsive but there’s also the question of what he can do about certain things.”

The CEO did agree that the rules were ambiguous as they stood, but said he had only decided against imposing sanctions on the postering contestations because he didn’t feel “that a team that puts a poster in a wrong place, aside from having them remove it, should be sanctioned harshly because of it.”

“I don’t want it to come to a point where these violations would be used as a political tactic for slates to use to damage the other person’s campaign,” Cohen continued.

But this lenient approach isn’t beneficial from Gill’s perspective. “I think that stronger sanctions in a culture where electoral rules were properly addressed would make for a healthier democratic process,” she said.

She also said that the Your Concordia slate was playing the fairest game possible “to see if it’s even possible to win a CSU election by following the rules. Part of this is an experiment.”

A candidate debate is set to take place on March 23 between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. in room H-110, with a second debate organized by CUTV potentially taking place later in the week.

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