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All-Candidates Forum Sets the Stage for Election Week

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Written by Gonzalo Moreno

Last Thursday, the Central Student Association got all the candidates for executive commissioner positions (Finance and Human Resources, Local, Academic, Communications, and External) together in the UC for a good old-fashioned grilling from current commissioners, concerned students, and the university community in general. The event set the stage for this week’s election, which will decide the composition of next year’s CSA Executive and Board.

The morning started slow, with two candidates that are running uncontested. Jakki Doyle, the sole candidate for Finance and Human Resources, said that two of her main priorities if elected would be transparency and promoting what the CSA can offer to students. She vowed to make her administration of the CSA’s resources “transparent through [communication with] the elected members of the Board” and to “raise awareness on-campus of the CSA’s resources,” especially by working more closely with the somewhat heterogeneous CSA club structure.

Evan Dalzell took over the stage from Doyle, as he is only candidate for Local Affairs. He thinks that the “most pressing issue” that would fall under the portfolio for which he is running is “the stance of disrespect between the University and the City.” Dalzell feels that a great component of his work would be to “reach a really happy medium between what the City wants and what the University wants,” although his experience in Interhall has taught him to “get a little scrappy” if the need arises. Dalzell also vowed to “have commissioner downtime” “right from the beginning,” to allow for the Executive to work better with each other.

Things got more interesting as the four candidates for Academic Commissioner took to the stage. Dian Chaaban, Derek Pieper, Tommy Lau and Momina Mir took turns fending off questions from the audience. The first and biggest one was about tuition fees. Pieper said “the majority of student focus should be going to the provincial level,” while Lau said that he wants “to collaborate with Career Services” to ease the burden on students. Mir wants to “increase bursary funding,” but added that “if tuition is increasing we need to look at the quality of the education and the services” that students get in return. Chaaban concluded that “we need to accept that tuition is going to increase; we have to do what we can so that it doesn’t keep increasing.”

The candidates used the occasion to flesh out some of the ideas mentioned in their platforms. Chaaban wants to implement an official ‘group policy’ that would say “what you are responsible for as a group member in a group project,” for those pesky projects where some group members don’t pull their weight. Piper said his experience in the UoG Senate has given him the experience to “advocate for the academic needs of the students at Guelph." Lau advocated for a more collaborative effort with University Administration to help students out, while Mir wants to make course evaluations public to enhance the quality of education through transparency.

The debating table got even more crowded as the five candidates for Communications Commissioner took there places. In what appears to be the most disputed race of them all, Maanda Makwarela, Meaghan Hourigan, Troy Frost, Bob Pryzbyla and Cathleen Yoo each want to get the job that makes them the most visible CSA figure on-campus, and they all have different ideas about what to do with it.

Makwarela wants to help “students learn about their rights on our campus,” if elected, by “increasing the visibility” of the union. One of her initiatives is to hold “CSA days, to highlight the people and the services offered.” Hourigan wanted to emphasize that the CSA has to be in tune with what students want, saying that she would “program fun activities that are relevant to what students want” and “support students’ extracurricular activities, fighting for the University to recognize them.” Yoo said that her main priority would be to “reconnect with the students that they represent,” which she would do by “seek[ing] out different groups of students and talk directly to them.” Frost agreed that the CSA is “very distant from campus members” and proposed “’Town Hall’ meetings” as a way of bringing the groups together. He also said that events like the CSA’s Annual General Meeting should be “more of a social event” in order to attract student participation. Pryzbyla sees his role as more of a communicator that needs to “be effective at communicating what is going on” by “engag[ing] people from the beginning, from O-Week”

The table emptied up considerably for the last candidates of the forum, Romesh Hettiarachchi and Cailey Campbell, who are running for the position of External Commissioner. Campbell sees the role of External Commissioner as a way “for student voices to be heard,” while Hettiarachchi says that “we need to engage students by going into their lives, funding their campaigns, their initiatives, their businesses…” Both agree that a large part of their office would be to build coalitions to lobby the provincial government to provide more funding.

When Pat Case, the head of UoG’s Human Rights and Equity Office, asked the candidates about the recent spatter of controversy between his office and the CSA’s Human Rights Office, both candidates were also in agreement. Campbell says both offices should be “greatly linked,” while Hettiarachchi said he would work to “emphasize and communicate problems that have happened in the past.”

Don’t forget that this week (March 19-23) is Election Week. Check out our interviews with all executive candidates, come back to Thecannon.ca for news and updates on the electoral process, and vote for the candidate of your choice!

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