Anyone who thought the previous presidential debates too tame likely had a great time Thursday night during the annual Huron debate. Moderated by our always amicable vice-president university affairs, Pat Searle, the event was definitely the most passionate of the three major debates.
While the Media Forum was arguably a breakout success for Logan Ross, the Huron debate showed how important home field advantage can be. Fearnall, previously the president of the Huron University College Students’ Council, was in his element and it showed. He seemed the most at ease speaking at the front of the crowded room, and deftly handled questions regarding all things affiliate. When asked about the affiliates’ role at Western, he presented himself as “the HBK candidate” when he promised that if elected, he would take the affiliates into account before he made any decision as president. He also brought up the hot topic of affiliate accessibility to USC services, the only of the four candidates to do so.
The playing field was more even when it came to other topics that weren’t as squarely in Fearnall’s wheelhouse. Ross shone when it came to platform feasibility, and definitely came off as the candidate most sure of the feasibility of her ideas, particularly her path behind Talbot. She seemed to really be trying to live up to her promise to be a student, not a student politician—the least rhetoric of the four candidates came from the one in turquoise. She also handled herself well when her experience was brought up for roughly the thousandth time, characterizing her lack of USC experience as a strength allowing her to better connect with students, again for the thousandth time. I’d say it’s time we put this dance to rest, because it doesn’t seem to be getting her competition anywhere. On the other hand, when she listed off being in charge of student events at her high school as part of her relevant experience it made her look like she was grasping at straws—let’s stick to post-secondary achievements, shall we?
Surprisingly, it was Jon Silver who had the most to answer for when it came to questions of experience. McArthur, backed up by Fearnall and Ross, called Silver out for not effectively representing students during his two year tenure as a Board of Governors representative. To his credit, Silver defended himself well, despite being interrupted on numerous occasions by the other candidates, usually McArthur. The most baffling point was when Silver was castigated for missing the last BoG meeting. When Silver explained he couldn’t attend because he had to go to class, Fearnall and Ross quickly quieted down, though McArthur raged until she was cut off by Searle. A fairly obvious blunder by McArthur, especially considering she is trying to come off as the “average student” candidate—what do students do if not go to class?
This was only one of McArthur’s many gaffes throughout the debate. While she did reasonably well at the Media Forum, McArthur did not bring her A-game to Thursday’s debate. She talked about herself well enough, but constantly interrupted the other candidates with snarky and occasionally outright rude remarks, such as when she interrupted Silver to characterize one of Fearnall’s points as “cute”—but not it a good way. She even made a number of quite basic mistakes. When questioned as to whether the USC needs Premier Life to put on a successful concert, McArthur claimed the USC needed to learn from Premier Life before they could put on their big boy shoes and organize one independently. Point of information—didn’t the USC’s independent Arkells concert make over $2,000 while Premier Life’s Kardinal Offishall lost over $3,000? Her biggest blunder came when she told Fearnall she wouldn’t trust an a candidate with an affiliate background to make decisions in the best interest of main campus, which sent the room into quite a titter.
By the end of the debate, the candidates had mostly devolved into rhetoric and interruptions, despite Searle’s noble attempts to keep things civil. Unfortunately, this happened during the open forum section of the debate, when Searle asked questions sent in by students. This dragged down the overall quality of the answers and caused some eye rolling amongst the audience. Next time, the candidates, especially McArthur, should remember the old Churchill adage “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”