The UCC atrium was filled as the USC media debate hosted by The Gazette and Radio Western was held featuring the three presidential slates running in the 2017 elections.
The first debate of the elections season was moderated by Radio Western's Richard Raycraft and The Gazette's Bradley Metlin.
The questions for the debate were drafted by the two media outlets as well as a number of questions were sent in by students at large to The Gazette.
The three slates — Team Tobi, Team DiBrina and Team Jan/Mohammad — were quizzed on their platforms, their stances on various issues affecting the campus community and even got a chance to question each other.
Student engagement was a hot topic during this debate. All of the slates agreed that students feel they are disengaged with the USC, and determined that inclusivity and transparency are major hurdles.
Janmohammad: USC needs to be transparent. If students feel like they aren't being cared for, why would they care?— Amy O'Kruk (@amyokruk) January 19, 2017
Team Tobi noted that the programming offered on campus, specifically during O-Week, needs to move away from raves and focus on providing alternate programming — especially for international and mature students. They also want to focus on first-year students by working with residence councils and conducting town halls in residence.
Team DiBrina stated that they would focus on implementing cultural club programming for first-year students. They also wanted to bring back a first-year engagement coordinator, despite the role of first-year involvement coordinator being scrapped only a year ago.
Team Jan/Mohammad suggests introducing an international soph team made up specifically of international students. The slate also mentioned working with residences to improve the first-year experience.
The slates agreed that the current club system needs a reform. However, their methods of how it should be addressed differed.
Team DiBrina proposed implementing a clubs strategic plan, which would outline long-term goals to deal with the club issues. However, they were met with criticism from Team Tobi, who noted that a strategic plan is not best suited to deal with short-term, tangible goals.
Team Tobi, instead, proposed coordinating with the newly formed Student Organization Union (SOU) to address some of the concerns that clubs share.
.@VoteTeamTobi says they would use a Student Organization Union to hear these concerns— GazetteNews (@NewsAtGazette) January 20, 2017
Finally, Team Jan/Mohammad noted that it is important to recognize the disappointment and anger that clubs have expressed, and that their slate wants to work to address it.
Slates were asked hypothetical questions by the moderator regarding some controversial topics that have gained traction on university campuses this year. These included both the King’s University College's BDS referendum and University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson’s refusal to address students by their preferred pronoun.
While Team DiBrina implied that would facilitate conversations including BDS, the other two slates — Team Tobi and Team Jan/Mohammad — said they didn't believe campus would be the right place for the politically charged topic which causes divisions.
On the Jordan Peterson question, when asked how they would as USC executives react if the professor was invited as a speaker on campus despite criticisms from students, all slates leaned towards facilitating the conversation and not stifling debate although Team Jan/Mohammad was more hesitant and wanted to make sure that minority groups on campus would feel comfortable or would at least have the opportunity to protest.
Each slate was asked specific questions about their platform.
A heated topic throughout the debate was the use of UCC space. While Team DiBrina proposed closing the Purple Store due to a lack of revenue and replacing it with Freshii to provide healthy options to students, the other slates raised concerns that doing so would give the retail space to Western versus keeping it as a potential revenue source for the USC, student jobs and competition for the Wave and Spoke.
Team Tobi criticized the closure of the Purple Store, citing their worry that students would lose jobs, although Team DiBrina rebutted, stating the replacement business would also hire students. Team Jan/Mohammad said they would like the space replaced with something other than a Freshii, such as additional club space.
.@teamdibrina says the Purple Store is a duplicate of the Bookstore— GazetteNews (@NewsAtGazette) January 20, 2017
Team DiBrina’s platform called for Western Film to allow for free tickets in hopes that more people will attend and spend money on food and beverages.
The other slates questioned the likelihood that this change would increase revenue.
Team Jan-Mohammad: We don't think it's the ticket price. Nobody's going come to campus when they can watch a movie at home.— Amy O'Kruk (@amyokruk) January 20, 2017
A topic up for debate from Team Tobi’s platform was their proposal for an airport shuttle that would take students from campus to the Toronto airport. Tulk noted this is something out-of-province and international students have brought forth to him as wants.
Both Team DiBrina and Team Jan/Mohammad questioned the feasibility and practicality of the initiative.
Among Team Jan/Mohammad's platform topics that were criticized was a statement on mental health. On their platform they stated "Mental health and low grades are often correlated." Team DiBrina pushed them on how they plan to address mental health concerns outside of peak stress times and criticized them for stigmatizing high performing individuals with mental health issues.
.@teamjanmohammad admits the wording of that wasn't right in their platform— GazetteNews (@NewsAtGazette) January 20, 2017
Another point on their platform that was debated was their desire to have parental income disclosure removed from OSAP applications.
Team DiBrina stated it was unrealistic to think they could remove parental income, with Team Jan/Mohammad noting it was a long-term advocacy goal.
The next debate will take place on Tuesday and will be run by the USC itself. On Monday, watch the slates reveal take part in more light-hearted festivities at the Spoke for Western TV LIVE: Elections Edition.