The USC’s presidential candidates met for the first time at a debate on Tuesday evening.

The debate was hosted by former University Students’ Council president Adam Fearnall and the event was well attended with almost all audience seats filled.

The debate format allowed the presidential candidates to debate first, followed by the vice-presidential candidates and culminating in an all-candidate on stage segment.

A number of issues were discussed, including freedom of speech on-campus, mental health issues, functioning of the USC, relationship with the University, race, cultural and gender issues on campus and soph apparel changes for the 2015 Orientation Week.

The Palin-Cohen slate emphasized the importance of physical activity and wellness initiatives outlined in their platform.

According to vice-presidential candidate Robbie Cohen, his slate would work towards a more active campus and use those initiatives to prevent mental health issues at their root.

Aiden Mckendrick, vice-presidential candidate for Team Roy, stressed that mental health issues on-campus needed a different approach such as lighter course loads instead of just more funding for programming.

For Team Avila's Jamie Cleary, mental health initiatives were focused on using the existing resources on campus, such as the Peer Support Centre.

While Fearnall moderated most of the debate, USC president Sophie Helpard came on stage to ask questions about female representation on the USC.

“It’s definitely a systematic issue and something we need to talk about,” Mike Roy, presidential candidate for Team Roy, said. 

He added that besides gender, race and economic issues were also prominent on campus and needed the attention of the USC.

Brandon Palin, presidential candidate for Palin-Cohen, pointed out that while promoting female engagement in USC leadership positions is important, it should be noted that most of the faculty presidents this year are female. He also added that diversity goes beyond gender to include race issues. 

Eddy Avila, presidential candidate for Team Avila, thought the discussion of female engagement should stay on point that currently there were no females running for the USC presidency and that was an issue.

The debate got heated up when the discussion moved to banning of soph apparel earlier this year.

Team Palin-Cohen spoke against the changes brought about such as the banning of the Mohawk haircut. Palin said the banning of the haircut was actually offensive to members of the Mohawk tribe as the hairstyle was not what the orientation planning committee presumed it to be.

Avila, orientation coordinator this past year, defended the move by saying that students felt threatened on campus and their safety was more important than a transparent feedback system.

Mckendrick supported Avila’s stance on the issue and said that it was important to address race and cultural issues on campus and the feedback process for the changes was sufficient for the banning of the apparel.

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