The University Students’ Council presidential debate was held in front of a full house in the Mustang Lounge Wednesday night. #voteusc became a Twitter trending topic, and the tweets were shown next to the stage using a live feed.
At the debate councillors asked the candidates general questions which were answered by the candidates with a time cap of two minutes. There was no clear winner of the debate, as each candidate had their own strengths and weaknesses in the group setting. Below is a review of how the candidates handled the crowd—but first, a tip from someone who’s been to a couple of these before.
First thing’s first—candidates need to know their audience. USC councillors know their stuff, so don’t try to fool them. This gang know what the finances of the USC are and what’s feasible. Some of them are idealistic, and some are jaded—but all of them care about this organization and the students it oversees. Many of these students are already on campaign teams as well. What I’m trying to say is these friendly looking people pack a bit of a bite, and know where to place it. There’s a time and a place to talk about warm fuzzy things, but this place is about the issues.
Claire McArthur attempted to make her points using frequent television analogies. Which would have been great if her audience had watched as much TV as she does. And if they didn’t have access to Twitter to pick on her.
She threw her “real student” pitch well. She frequently mentioned things like her finances and her parents. McArthur also showed a more than passing knowledge of the USC, mentioning things like the presidential initiative fund and her meetings with several managers. The knowledge of the USC came as a bit of a surprise.
Her weakness, on the other hand, was her rambling responses, and the fact that she didn’t always answer the question. For example, when she was asked about changing the USC’s brand to reflect the university’s, she explained how much she loved the school and quoted Shakespeare. She also appeared confused on initiatives which were already in place. She explained the USC should have monthly meetings with administration—the president currently has regular meetings with several key members of administration, and sits on several committees which feature key members.
Logan Ross seemed underwhelming during the debate. She avoided several questions and appeared unsure for several as well.
She frequently praised the current council, saying she would continue the peer phone line and supporting the current council’s habit of sending out surveys. Ross aimed small and relatively feasible with her platform, which she could have highlighted more in the debate. For example, she mentioned she would lobby for recycling to be a higher priority on campus, but failed to mention how this would actually happen.
Ross has learned to use her lack of experience to her advantage, however. She explained how she would be able to stay in touch with students after becoming president, and also noted her desire to continue using the tools of the current USC, such as Facebook, to communicate. She also explained being a student at large allowed her to critique it, and make it more accessible. She mentioned having town hall style meetings, because students at large cannot currently speak at USC meetings.
Jon Silver clearly showed he was at ease with the crowd and knew what he was talking about. He frequently mentioned specific people who he has spoken with, showing his knowledge of the organisation.
Jon Silver spent a good chunk of his answers praising past executives. He praised past vice-presidents of university affairs for their lobbying work, because it takes so long to make the university move on an issue, for example. He also frequently dropped his extensive USC knowledge, including a shout out to former president Fab Dolan, who tried to sue the university.
Silver mentioned he would trust his managers and his team, frequently mentioning he “was not the expert.” While this is true, it sometimes undermined the point he was trying to make. For example, he mentioned when choosing to offer a new service, he would consult with partners in the community so the service would be feasible. This is the smartest idea when you’re in the president’s chair, however to the average student it may sound like an excuse.
Adam Fearnall let his experience shine this meeting. He often highlighted his role as Huron University College Students’ Council president. He noted this was a similar position to what he was going for as USC president. He neglected to mention some of his main campus USC experience however, which may lead students to think of him as “the Huron kid,” and not a Western student. This also meant he failed to share some of the USC knowledge he currently has.
Fearnall came off as one of the most approachable candidates during the debate. He openly admitted when he did not necessarily know the answer to a particular question. He frequently told stories about his peers and his Grade 1 self, making it sound as if he has actually spent some time with students. This also included acknowledging that many students were involved at Western, just not in the USC.