The gauntlets were thrown down in the first two debates between the candidates of this year’s elections for the BUSU executives and Board of Directors. A few common topics came out across all debates, showing what the candidate platforms really come down to.
One theme that ran through the majority of candidate’s speeches, was that they are here to listen to, and represent the students.
“I am from the students, for the students, and by the students,” said Mustafa Ali Rashid in his closing remarks during the first debate.
“It is not only important to consider the needs of the students, but it is the utmost,” said Alyssa Berardocco. “What better way to represent the needs of the institution than putting the student’s needs first.”
Both Rashid and Berardocco, along with Brandon Haidon are running for the one-year term on the Board of Directors.
Of the two candidates running for the two-year term on the Board, Jonah Graham and Aidon Hibma, Graham emphasized his status as a first-year student and specifically representing first and second year students.
“I find the first and second-year voices are generally ignored because the Board is made up of mostly third and fourth-year students,” said Graham.
On the VPEA side, all four candidates were outspoken in regards to their extensive talks with students in the preparation for their platform points.
“After consulting with various people throughout my time here at Brock and spending lots of time meeting with students, I have developed a platform that relates to what students want,” said Calvin Eady.
“In addition to speaking with student leaders across the province, I’ve had the opportunity to engage with thousands of students through Smart Smart and the Advocacy Hub,” said Antonio Sergi.
“I’ve spent the last four and a half years working directly for students,” said Julia Wood. “I believe that I am the most accurate representation [of the student body].”
“Rather than focusing on policy, [my platform] is focused on change. I desperately want to bring back to BUSU politics that serve you and only you,” said Olivier Kayitaba.
In both debates for the Vice President of Student Services (VPSS) and President, the candidates ardently tried to brand themselves as advocates for students.
“The VPSS should be seen in the hallways,” said Jad Nasser. “You might remember me as the guy who walked to Toronto, or the guy at the basketball games hyping it up.”
“The president should listen to the students and and speak out when they speak up,” said Patrick Foster, when asked what the most important attributes of a president are during the first debate.
“The president needs to be able to reach out to students, allowing for as much feedback and communication as possible,” said Spencer Dawson in response to the same question.
The hot topics in terms of common platform points were saving students money and mental health awareness.
Most of the candidates are claiming that they will be saving the students as much money as possible, looking to invest student money in the most fiscally responsible way, and helping to alleviate the student financial burden.
“I’m going to use my position to help save you money. We all want to save our hard-earned funds and I will make sure that happens,” claimed Hibma.
“The Division 1 Budget is the most important budget and I would also look at the subset of those budgets like the clubs and transit portfolios,” promised Haidon.
Specifically for the VPEA candidates, a question was raised during the first debate concerning OSAP and its efficiency and sustainability.
“The way [OSAP] is now is decent but there’s room for improved,” echoed Eady. “Especially for financially independent students who are burdened which how much money their parents make, and also the limited time you have to pay back OSAP.”
“With OSAP, we lobbied this year to increase the living allowance,” said Sergi, of his work with the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) this year as the current VPEA.
The candidates for VPSS briefly discussed the new $100 programming levy that will be going to referendum in March. This levy would directly influence the amount of funding that is available for O-Week, one of the biggest pieces of the VPSS’ portfolio.
“I like the idea a lot [of the programming levy],” said Chip McCrimmon. “A lot of first-years who buy the VIB card aren’t happy with it after the first week and I want to get rid of it.”
Mental health awareness was also mentioned several times in different debates and is on the platform of a couple of the candidates.
“I’m looking forward to working with the new executive team to taking away the stigma. All students need a better mental health support system and I’m here to ensure that improvement,” said Faisal Hejazi, the sole candidate running for Vice President of Finance and Administration (VPFA).
“I want to bring the initiatives that matter the most to students, including mental health awareness,” said Kayitaba.
“I’m going to elaborate on Wellness Week – bring in a kitten’s room and a nap room,” said McCrimmon.
“There’s a lot of services on campus that provide great structure and support, but students just don’t know about them. I plan on raising awareness about the services that already exist on campus, like the Student Health Services,” said Nasser.
Another point that was brought up that has the potential of becoming a hot topic is the fact that there is only one female candidate in the executive elections, and that last year’s executive and the current one are all composed of male students.
“It’s challenging for me to be the only female voice in this debate,” said Wood. “I would love to see more women’s faces up here with me. It is a well-known fact that a more diverse workplace is a more effective workplace, and having a female face would be a great step in the right direction.”
The third debate included a couple special questions from Brock’s president, Jack Lightstone for the VPEA and presidential candidates. Lightstone inquired of the VPEA candidates what they would bring to the greater Niagara community since BUSU and Brock have strong connections with the region, and he asked the presidential candidates what priorities they had for joint co-operative work with the senior administration of the university.
The first debate was held on Feb. 2, the second one on Feb. 4 and the third one on Feb.8. John Pappas, Chief Returning Officer of BUSU led the questioning of the candidates. Both debates were live-streamed by BrockTV and can be viewed on their archives at http://livestream.com/Brocktvlive
On Feb. 9, there will also be a free breakfast held in Isaac’s starting at 7:45 and a chance to meet and talk with the candidates.