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NextBus and Second Floor Reno dominate CSA Election Debate

Friday, March 7, 2008

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Written by Josh Dehaas

From March 10th to 14th the undergraduate student body will have its chance to vote online or at CSA polling stations to select next year’s five CSA execs. With two forums held on March 6th, one in the U.C. and one at the Bullring, students got their chance to ask the candidates why they’re running and where they stand. The big issues this year are shaping up to be the controversial proposal to renovate the second floor of the U.C. and the recent frustrations students have faced in light of Guelph Transit’s multiple service changes this past year.

Because the Local Affairs Commissioner is the executive who works most closely with Guelph Transit, both candidates Caitlyn Lyon and Arden Hagedorn singled out the need for increased dialogue with the city as a must-do next year. “NextBus is a huge issue for us” said Caitlyn, “so I’d like to put electronic communicators at every point in our community, espeically since the system [NextBus] is not accessible as not all of us have cell phones.” Hagedorn stated that she often felt unsafe at night when the unreliability of NextBus had forced to her to walk alone in the dark. She also suggested that since the cost of the new 20-minute service will be reflected in a higher price for the universal student bus pass, Guelph students should have an increased say in transit decisions. She plans to set up an online forum where students could blog about their transit concerns so that she could better advocate on their behalf to Guelph Transit. Both candidates would aim to increase communication with the student body as well, Lyon proposing to write Ontarion articles summing up what went down at city council meetings while Arden would set up a forum online.

The candidates for Communications Commissioner faced some tough questions from the audience about the relevancy of the CSA and how to improve participation in student government. “That’s the million dollar question” replied Tucker Gordon when challenged by a student on how the candidates would “actually get people to come to the AGM [Annual General Meeting].” While Tucker suggested saving the free pizza until the end of the meeting, Jeff Rotman thinks better prizes would entice students to come and vote. “Free pizza and t-shirts aren’t enough” he said. Rohan Mathai suggested that if students don’t feel they can relate to the issues, “they’re not going to come and they’re not going to stay” proposing more advertising to gauge student opinion of what those issues are. And it seems empowerment was the buzzword of the day with all three claiming it as a focus of their campaing. Some of the more novel ideas to improve communication include Mathai’s plan to buy space in the Ontarion each week where he'd publicise CSA jobs, advertise CSA services and summarize CSA board minutes. Rotman’s intention is to hold his office hours in student hangouts rather than in the office and Tucker Gordon’s got a twice-per-semester newsletter in mind for next fall.

The third big race to be decided on next week is the election for Finance and Human Resources Commissioner with all four candidates running on a platform of fiscal and leadership experience. In his opening statement Interhall Council president Joel Harnest identified the proposed second floor renovation as the big issue he would tackle first thing on the job. “A lot of work has happened this year and students are really talking about this. It’s time the university recognizes how much effort we have put into the process so far.” Matthew Meade agreed pointing out that he knows the frustration caused by the second floor space crunch quite well having gone without an office as CSA Staff Rep and having had to share an office in his current position as SafeWalk Coordinator. “As far as the process goes, it’s my understanding that there were concerns expressed and that the current executive went ahead with it anyway leaving a lot of people who felt they’d been short changed.” Jonathan McDowell noted it was something he had been talking to students about in his campaign and Bradley Webb demonstrated extensive knowledge of the issues involved reminding us that Anderson Coats Photography and the Dentist on Campus are facing temporary closure if the current plan isapproved. Harnest suggested a realistic approach. “It’s important that when we do move forward that students are informed. You can’t please everyone, but it’s important that you don’t piss everyone off.”

Cailey Campell is running uncontested for re-election to her position as External Commissioner, focusing her campaign on the need for more open forums and “active participation” by students in their CSA. The Academic Commissioner race has also fielded only one candidate, twice-elected College Government President and Student Senator Christi Garneau-Scott. She’s running on a platform of better assessment and thereby improvement of student involvement in leadership, academic and extracurricular opportunities. Both candidates still hope students will check their name off on the ballot since to get elected they still need to receive approval from the majority of voters.

The CSA Elections are held next week, March 10th to 14th using online ballots that can be accessed through WebMail or at polling stations that will be set up all across campus. For more details on the candidates, click here

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  1. Posted by: j_ on Mar 8, 2008 @ 11:51pm

    I think the biggest question that these candidates need to address is: Why should students care about the CSA?

    The majority of students simply do not care about how the second floor is arranged. What we'd all like to know is what the CSA is doing to improve our lives as students. What are the candidates going to do that is relevant to everyone (or the majority at least). 6 hour meetings about floor layouts are not relevant for the majority of the 18,000 undergraduate students.

  2. Posted by: on Mar 9, 2008 @ 3:12pm

    NextBus, NextBus, NextBus...

    Can we find a new dead horse to beat?

  3. Posted by: on Mar 9, 2008 @ 5:20pm

    J, in terms of why students should care about the CSA, there are a number of reasons. The Bus Pass, Bullring, SafeWalk, Meal Exchange, Food Bank, Dayplanner... these are all CSA Services and Initiatives.

    I completely agree that a lot of students will never set foot on the second floor, so discussions surrounding any reconfiguration of that space is completely irrelevant to them. There are, however, a very large number of students who are involved in Clubs and the renovations would affect them. As for the students who aren't yet involved in clubs or the CSA, we're hoping that the renovations make the 2nd floor a more welcoming place for all students at Guelph.

    The CSA acts as an advocate for students, but there's very little we can do if the students don't let us know what they think are the most important issues.

    Evan Dalzell
    CSA Local Affairs Commissioner

  4. Posted by: on Mar 10, 2008 @ 11:28am

    Hi Folks,

    Footage from the UC all-candidate debates is available on the CSA Elections website and on YouTube. The Candidates were asked lots of questions, including those along the lines of "why should students care about the CSA?"...check out their responses here:

    http://www.csaonline.ca/index.php?page=election.forum

    Cheers,

    Derek Pieper
    CSA Academic Commissioner

  5. Posted by: Milosz Zak on Mar 15, 2008 @ 6:35pm

    Very professional, a pleasure to read; :D let's hope the city does not let us down.

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