The core of every presidential campaign is its platform. Forget social media, signs and bag tags—no matter how pretty your campaign posters are, every student voter will ultimately cast their ballot based on their unshakeable belief in the principles and vision of their choice candidate’s platform.
Ha! Had you going, right? Don’t worry, I’m not that naïve—everyone knows the choice for USC president is decided by who has the best video and the most Twitter followers. Unfortunately, just like in the real world, the winner is not always the person with the best platform, but usually the one with the most resources. But a guy can dream.
But despite how many (or how few) people base their votes on the issues, they’re important, dammit, so I’m writing about them. So without further ado, my first impressions of the platforms:
At six pages, Vivek’s platform is the shortest of all the candidates. It has some good ideas, such as the creation of a few new commissioner positions for multi-faith and financial aid, which could provide some real benefit to students. This idea isn’t as visible as, say, midnight breakfasts, but it has the potential to create lasting, meaningful improvement in the quality of life for Western students.
But after a read-through, I came away with no clear idea of the overall plan. In order to access the substance of Vivek’s vision, you first must navigate a labyrinth of buzzwords and meaningless fluff. To wit:
“Identifying effective strategies for communication and developing a more comprehensive visioning document for community/university/police relations is a priority. Open dialogues and partnerships where common understandings can be established for the benefit of all parties is crucial in achieving this vision.”
I think I get the gist—that Vivek wants to improve community relations. But this description isn’t good enough. Like many of his platform points, it offers no details and is linguistically alienating.
Vivek has some good ideas here. But if he wants to engage the average student, he should really be leveraging his networking synergies to facilitate a dynamic partnership between connectitude and transparency, to empower students in a way that is conducive to pedagogical advancement.
Annoying, isn’t it?
Ashley’s platform can be summarized in one word: familiar. It’s simple and concise, and largely service-oriented. A lot of points are similar to platforms of yore—improve the Spoke & Wave, run mental health campaigns, improve accessibility of information about the USC, and so on—and there are a few new ideas, like improving training for incoming USC councillors, an often-overlooked necessity. Ashley proposes to “emphasize the importance of engaging with students to gather opinions and make the decisions students want.” Commendable, and desperately required, say I. Pair that with some comprehensive training in Robert’s Rules and the quality of debate in Council could increase considerably.
It’s doesn’t blow me away, but Ashley’s platform is solid. The heavy focus on services and visible changes gives it mass appeal—I’d wager the average voter is more likely to be swayed by a yoga rave than government lobbying efforts.
This platform falls down, however, in the same place that so many do: it’s just too vague. Each point has four or five lines of text outlining a problem and proposing a solution—but we’re left with no real idea of how feasible these points are, or exactly how they will be achieved. “The USC will lobby the Administration” just isn’t doing it for me.
At 19 pages, Patrick’s platform is longer than the other two combined. Clearly, this guy means business—while Vivek and Ashley focus more on service and student experience, Patrick is about big-picture, behind-the-scenes issues like lobbying for per-credit tuition fees and increasing accountability.
We’ve seen similar strategies before, but the difference here is the detail—the reason the platform is so long is not because it has more points, but because each point is followed by a detailed description of how it will be achieved.
In many areas, the platform echoes concerns raised by Fearnall in his Western Untold speech. Unlike most platforms, which play it safe and try to appeal to everyone, Whelan takes shots at the administration, the USC (including a thinly-veiled jab at Fearnall under the “council 2.0” section) and even the London Police Service. Adam Fearnall waited until he was safely elected to reveal his agenda and name his opponents, but Whelan puts it right in the platform.
This isn’t a platform, it’s a manifesto—and manifestos tend to be divisive. This approach could easily alienate voters who are more concerned with all-day breakfast than structural change (not to mention people who don’t want to read a 19-page platform). This platform is impressive in its scope and detail, but risks being dragged down by its own complexity.