O-Week and Transit highlight BUSU debates

The 2017-18 Brock University Students’ Union executive election campaigning period began this week – with three of the four candidate and referendum debates taking place. The first debate of the executive election was on February 6, followed by a debate on Feb. 8 and 9. All three debates featured candidates running for the four executive positions: President, Vice President of Student Services, Vice President of External Affairs and Vice President of Finance & Administration. The three candidates running for Senate were also able to introduce themselves and their platform points, as well as arguments for and against the two referendums on the ballot this year regarding funding for the Student Justice Centre and Ontario Public Interest Research Group Brock.

The Feb. 8 debate was dominated by the Finance and Administration discussion, with quite a bit of criticism levelled between the four candidates. Bilal Khan, a fourth-year Accounting student who serves as an At-Large Councillor on the Student Action Committee (BUSAC), accused Mel Gencer of “stealing platform points”  during the 2016-17 election period, in which both candidates ran for different positions. Gencer, an Economics student at Brock, has pledged to create an annual survey for BUSU’s Health and Dental plan, fight for more financial institutions on campus and give students more voice in decision-making.  Khan has made transit a big feature of his platform; promising to lobby Thorold city council to bring back the Winterberry bus route, increase hours of operation and explore additional bus routes for spring and summer students. Gencer and Khan were back-and-forth all afternoon, with Gencer demanding proof of Khan’s leadership experience and Khan painting Gencer as being “misinformed”, “not willing to learn”, and “not doing his research”.

The other two VPFA candidates were not left out. Jordan Albanese, a Neuroscience major who is campaigning on the Zone, transit and the health plan (and whose campaign slogan apparently is “Badgers, Beets, Battlestar Galactica”) criticized the behaviour of Brock students partying off-campus in Thorold neighbourhoods. Georgie Gagnon, an Economics major who has pledged as VPFA to work with the Pen Centre to create more store options for students, claimed there is “no value” to Thorold without Brock. Khan criticized Gagnon for her stance on the Pen Centre and Gencer attacked Albanese for not having a booth set up all week to talk to students.

Every executive candidate and Senate candidate has a table present in the Academic South hallway – it is their choice to use the tables to speak to students regarding their platform points. Albanese, according to Gencer has not used the opportunity to campaign in Academic South.

The VPEA debate was shorter and more subdued. Candidate Peter Henen pledged to work for better “campus culture on mental health” (tying that in to Brock’s need for a football field), fight for free online textbooks and better food prices for students, an issue Henen claims to have been working on for the last six years. The second VPEA candidate, Ja’miil Millar, who currently sits as BUSU’s Advocacy Coordinator, has pledged to work for better first-year student relations and to “Indigenize” Brock (Millar opened up her statements with a traditional land acknowledgment). In short, both candidates were pretty close on the issue of affordable textbooks, and Henen repeatedly brought up the subject of football on campus, however he did state that he has not spoken to the Brock Athletics department regarding this topic.

VPSS candidate Curtis Rohl has pledged to keep his campaign “accountable, accessible, and available” for all students, as well as changing the current state of Brock’s O-Week. Joyce Khouzam, the opposing candidate is a third year Con-Ed major. She echoed Rohl’s comments and promised to make O-Week more inclusive if elected to serve as VPSS.

As far as BUSU’s two referendums, we only heard from the “Yes” side of the SJC debate during the second and third debate.. BUSU is campaigning on the “Yes” side, which is asking students to increase the fee for the Centre from $0.91 to $4.88. Current VPSS Maddy Wassink told viewers during both debates that higher fees will allow the SJC to run more programs and services, including sexual violence support and anti-racism work.

In the Senate debates, newcomer Kaileigh Montgomery pledged to send emails to students on the issue of Senate meetings, and candidate Tooba Fateh Muhammad pressured David Stark, the Social Engagement Coordinator at BUSU, to make firm promises to students on why they should vote for him. It should be noted that Stark was the only Senate candidate present during the Feb. 6 debate.

The Feb. 9 Presidential debate saw current VPFA Aidan Hibma, current VPEA Nadia Bathish and fifth-year Business Economic student Alston Mahendran square off. All candidates plugged their experiences in student government and talked about subjects ranging from O-Week to Alternative Reading Weeks to community advocacy. The crowd on Friday seemed to favour Hibma, who drew the most excited crowd response of any candidate.

Finally, in terms of the OPIRG debate, BUSU President Faisal Hejazi argued for the defunding of OPIRG, bringing up the opt-out option for students and the results of last year’s referendum. OPIRG representatives countered Hejazi by mentioning all of their current initiatives, which focus on social justice issues on campus.

The fourth and final debate will take place Feb. 12 starting at 2:00 p.m. and will be about three hours in length. The location of the debate will be the dining area in Union Station.

Students can vote on the BUSU elections Feb. 13-15, via their @Brocku.ca email account.


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