Gazette endorses Team Helfand

February 11, 2014 30 Comments »

Today and tomorrow, Western students will go to the digital polls to vote for their faculty representatives and presidents, senators, and of course, the University Students’ Council presidential slate. (For the uninitiated, you can cast your vote at voteusc.ca any time from 8 a.m. today to 8 p.m. tomorrow).

Both Team Belman and Team Helfand certainly have their strengths, and neither would be a bad choice for the USC executive. No matter what happens today and tomorrow, the USC will still be here a year from now. Students will still have their bus passes and health plans and the Spoke will still serve beer.

Team Belman’s platform focuses on high-minded ideas like advocacy and mental health support, but in terms of realistic, grounded goals that can be accomplished in a one-year term, his platform is lacking. When faced with this criticism in debate, Belman’s go-to defence has been his “Western Wiki” idea, which has been tried before —  not very successfully — in the form of Adam Fearnall’s Western 311 website. Belman’s buzzword-laden pledges are admirable, but on a USC presidential platform advocacy and mental health support are expected, even assumed. Any president can and should push for more crisis counsellors.

Team Helfand, on the other hand, has put forth a platform that could result in a few significant changes within the one-year term. Specifically, Helfand wants to freeze the USC’s $77.46 base student fee, a feat he narrowly failed to achieve as Social Science Students’ Council president last year. Both slates have acknowledged that students’ fees are too high, but so far Helfand seems to be the only one putting our money where his mouth is. Accompanied by wide-ranging service reviews, a Helfand presidency would create the potential — if not the certainty — of a more efficient, cost-effective USC. Helfand’s goal to give the USC’s full-time managers more direct control over programming budgets will also significantly mitigate the possibility of another One Love fiasco.

The clearest way in which the candidates have established their difference is through personality. Where Matt Helfand comes off as charismatic and bold, Brian Belman seems passive by comparison. In a bureaucracy, having a big personality can go a long way to moving projects along, particularly in a time-sensitive situation such as the USC presidency. On the other hand, Helfand can sometimes appear arrogant and hot-headed. But balanced out by his more pragmatic running mates, Helfand’s personality might actually breathe some life into the organization.

The candidates’ running mates set them apart as well: Both Team Helfand’s vice-presidential candidates have experience as affiliate council presidents, and are more well-spoken than Belman’s less experienced slate — an important consideration for someone whose main job is convincing others to pay attention to students’ concerns.

Brian Belman would bring careful caution to the job as president, and if elected, he would likely do a fine job. But the USC desperately needs to increase engagement, and Matt Helfand is the clear choice in that department. To some, his personality might make him appear to be a risky choice, and we agree. But without risk, there’s no reward.

The Gazette endorses Team Helfand for USC executive.

— The Gazette Editorial Board

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