So I liveblogged the first 45 minutes or so of the debate before my computer decided to shut off without saving anything for me. So, it’s all gone. Believe me, no one is more pissed about it than I am. I will, however, be catching the debates for the Vice President (Internal) and President candidates. I’ll also provide my overview of the debates for the Vice President (Education) and Senate candidates. I’m skipping Vice President (Student Life), because Dahn’s race is boring (though apparently there are lots of questions?).
I’d like to talk about Senate, but I’m going to have to dig out of memory for it. In the meantime, I’ll say that all of the candidates displayed a pretty solid level of understanding of the position. I was impressed. While the candidates are very different, I’d say there’s fairly evenly matched. Doesn’t mean I won’t nitpick later. I will also say that last year’s candidates are lucky they weren’t running against these guys, because they probably would have all lost.
Vice President (Education) Candidate Overview
Dempsey was nowhere to be seen. He showed up later, and I left before the end so I’m not sure if he had a chance to speak or not. Both candidates present were asked to stand at the same time. There was a bit of an awkward moment.
Price pointed to his broad range of experience in volunteer organizations, non-for-profits, as a volunteer firefighter, and owning his own business. Leforte talked about his accomplishments this year and having the experience necessary. Said he’s “eaten, slept and breathed” post-secondary education issues. Emphasizes a need to know the issues.
Price made a compelling case for his experiential learning platform plank. I was fairly impressed, at least until Leforte turned around and proposed a different way of doing it. While Price talked about 5% course credit for volunteer work for all programs, Leforte said it should be 100% for certain programs where it would be applicable. Price did recover in rebutting some of the numbers he had as part of the plan coming directly from Dr. Tom Traves.
On my question (would the candidates focus internally or externally next year, and why), Leforte talked about internal accomplishments before saying that his priority next year would be external. He emphasized negotiating the MOU and that he intends to have a seat on the table. I thought that Price stumbled badly here. He spouted off a number of terms ranging from students getting value for their tuition, producing engaged citizens, and referenced his social life. I wasn’t able to make sense of it. The bottom line seemed to be both?
Verdict: I’d say Leforte won the day here, though Price spoke quite well for the most part. While Price has been repeating the same shtick, and it could work for him, Leforte is focusing more specifically on the issues. On top of that, Leforte also took the time to rebut one of Price’s key platform planks.
Vice President (Internal) Questions
General Question: Cooperation and teamwork are important, and there is also a need to be collaborative. What makes you suitable for this position?
Whitfield: Says he brings teamwork. At Howe Hall, worked together with other residences to bring positive change. Though he wasn’t in an elected position, he tried to foster teamwork and tried to bring positive change in the residence community.
Blake: Has been Outreach Director for Students for a Sensible Drug Policy. Says that meetings can be touch and go, so he’s learned a lot about how to deal with people. Says he’s gone across Canada and talked to people “from every university”. Thinks there needs to be more intersociety events. Points to experience in diplomacy and organizing events.
Hiltz: Says his whole platform is based on getting more students involved in the DSU. Didn’t used to know anything about it, and wants to show others. Communication is the key to his platform, references grants, the food bank and the 200+ societies on campus as things he wants to advertise. Says this will require teamwork with other members of the executive. Wants to see the exec work more as a team rather than all just working individually.
Kurin: Best suited for the job based on a wide range of experience, particularly with societies. Lists off several including DASSS, Classics, Students for Peace in the Middle East and others. Says she has been able to hone her communication skills. Needs to deal with issues when they come up, not take sides, but to listen to what everyone’s saying. With different views, if you argue, nothing will get accomplished.
Specific Question for Hiltz: How will more office hours on Sexton (platform) solve issues, and what do you plan to do with Carleton?
Problems and apathy in the past, and will happen no matter what. Wants to use the new website to promote events and societies and what not. Would also like to see more of a presence from the whole exec on Sexton, rather than just the mandatory office hours. Carleton is “always an issue”, but “only a stone’s throw away”, so we need to work harder on Sexton.
Specific Question for Whitfield: Personal interaction with societies. How will you do this will all societies?
Putting in the hard work and putting in the time. Says that VP Internals haven’t put in the time (HAHAHAHAHAHA). Says it’s not a 9-5 job, and the VPI needs to live the issues. Need to get a hold of the VPI on a regular basis? Need to be available. Wants Grants to meet every two weeks, says it has been less before. Wants to talk to individuals about the issues that they have. Talked for almost 3 hours to students with concerns on Sexton.
Specific Question for Kurin: How will you get more student feedback?
Wants a formatted society feedback form. Students don’t always have time to get feedback to the DSU, may not even be around when they have time to drop by the office. Using email to ask if there are any issues, wants to use the website as well.
Specific Question for Blake: How will you make intersociety events as VP Internal?
VPI knows about all the societies, what’s going on. Can make suggestions and point to other groups to get involved with. VPI also knows what’s going on, knows which societies may have a history of successful events. Talks about his Grant Scrapbook platform plank. Could give other societies ideas for future events and things to do.
General Question: This year’s executive created a new website. How will you advertise and educate students about this new website to make sure it is well received?
Hiltz: Not going to solve all problems, but a great resource for communications and advertising. Give students a reason to go there every day. Put links on the main page for my.dal. Make events visible on there, let things pop up and catch students’ eye. Get students to visit the page not just once a day that way, but maybe 3-5 times a day.
Blake: Says Hiltz’ stuff is very true. Wants to create a DSU listserv. Asks how many people read the DSU emails (many people raise hands), “Yeah, but the people here go to the DSU website!”. Nods from the audience.
Kurin: Excited for the website. Students don’t know about the services that the DSU offers. Says that we need a long term marketing campaign to advertise the things that we offer to students. Says this, alongside regular updates, will get people to go to the website and continue to go to the website, as well as show their friends.
Whitfield: All of the issues that the candidates raised can be solved through one thing: DSUTube. References Craig Jennex for having the idea.
Question from Audience: Dealing with societies that are hosting anti-semetic events with speakers from terrorist organizations.
Whitfield: It’s terrible that it would happen, and he would actively work to make sure that things like this don’t happen on our campus. Price looks incredulous.
Blake: Cautious but effective. Says that while it’s horrible that the asker didn’t get to ask questions when he attended the event, he says that we need to protect the free speech of societies.
Hiltz: Agrees with Blake. Talks about the safety of students of campus.
Kurin: Talks about bringing people together to deal with issues, and acting as a mediator to do so.
Another question that I missed due to this damn computer shutting off again…
Question from Audience: How are you going to accomplish two-way communication?
Blake: Wants to start a radio show where societies can interview the VP Internal.
Whitfield: Points to hard work and putting in the hours. Wants to have a personal relationship with the societies. Name drops Sexton again (this is the Studley debate, folks…). Need to be out there talking to students so they know who you are.
Kurin: Suggests sending out a list of resources to societies upon ratification.
Hiltz: Says one of his biggest flaws is that he could talk your ear off for an hour, says it would be an asset for two way communication. Huh. Wants an open forum for students to come in and express concerns.
Question from Audience: What can you do with the Residence Relations Committee?
(is this a drop for Whitfield?)
Blake: Didn’t live in residence. Couldn’t even though he wanted to because of the mandatory meal plan. Knew people in residence, doesn’t as many people now, but loves residence life anyway. Will be cheering for Risley at the hockey game.
Hiltz: Also didn’t live in residence, didn’t have as much experience with residence, but is willing to learn. Never had a chance to live in residence before. Wants to work with the incoming VP Student Life.
Kurin: Lived in residence in 1st year. Was at Risley Council last night. In residence, you live right on campus, but that doesn’t mean you’re connected to campus. Many res students don’t even know what the DSU is. Need to work with Hall Councils to get the word out, let them know that there is a DSU and a committee trying to make things better for them.
Whitfield: Passionate above residence, lived in Howe for three years. Residence has been his life for the past few years, and he’s gotten results. Was able to turn the society around. Got it ratified, fixed the problems with the money that went missing, and made it best residence society the next year.
Verdict: Tough call. Kurin and Blake both performed well, though no one did badly. Whitfield may have taken a hit for suggesting DSUTube as a solution for everything and for the freedom of speech, where I felt Blake did an excellent job of defending the rights of students without getting down into the dirt. Kurin did a great job emphasizing her own experience and putting her ideas out there. Hiltz lost some points in my book by describing his ability to talk your ear off as an asset in two-way communication.
I’m going to say that Blake and Kurin tied for best performance. Hiltz probably had the weakest performance, but I’m not ready to count him out yet.
Why should a voter choose you? Why are you the best candidate?
Rock-paper-scissors to go first. Debogorski screws it up, but gets the other candidates to do it his way afterward. All scissors, then Bailey wins and goes first.
Bailey: Talks about conversations. Issues that have come up with a VP impeachment this year that took up a lot of time. Says while campaigning, people express what they want people to hear. Says only about 0.4% of the student population here. Is not addressing the people who need to be addressed: the people who aren’t part of the conversation. Says 15% voter turnout is abysmal. Wants to look at the food on campus. Says that now, thanks to the food forum, there are now the beginnings of a plan.
*Bailey is much better one on one than he is at the podium; he did alright, but didn’t wow me. He did mention that he just called up Tom Traves for a chat one day, which is impressive. Ballsy move.
Debogorski: Starts talking about his vision of the DSU. He then starts asking questions of the audience, and puts their ideas to a vote. Says that what stops people from getting involved is asymmetry in information, students don’t know anything and could care less as a result. Says everyone here calls him crazy, but every student he talks to doesn’t know what the DSU is supposed to be doing, and that students don’t care because the union doesn’t case. He says he has the strength to stand up to angry mobs at the next AGM. “Because let’s face it….” and gets cut off.
*Debogorski is performing better than ever, and had a really creative way to his opening at the debate. In some ways, I’d even go so far to say that he was the best public speaker of the three. When we get to content, though, I still think that has as much to do with low expectations as it does actual good performance.
Saulnier: He’s spent the last three years passionately trying to make the Dal experience better for everybody. Talks about experience as an engineer, orientation day there. Talks about engineering representation on Council currently, and the bonding of the engineering community. Says he was fundamental in this movement. Has chaired the Executive Review Committee, talks about getting training and skills that the Exec need. Says every answer that the Senators gave earlier about improving Council are already in his platform, says Council is ineffective because it’s time is spent too much on petty things rather than talking about the real issues.
*Saulnier easily seemed to be the most prepared, both as a speaker and on the issues. With that said, as one of the 15,000 or so Dalhousie students who is not an engineer, I felt a bit put off by his emphasis on engineers. I think he took it a bit too far, in particular when he got into how great it is to see so many engineers on campus.
Shut down again. I hate my laptop with the burning fire of a thousand suns. I’m done. Hopefully someone else will cover the last questions. In the meantime, based on this what I heard of the next question or so…
Tentative and Highly Limited Verdict: Unless something big changed in the later questions, Saulnier took the debate. If Bailey wins, which I consider to be a very real possibility, it will not likely be through debate performance. Debogorski will get more votes than ever, but I’m still expecting a third place finish.
I know this is limited coverage, so I direct you to the comments to add more on some of the other questions. Hope what is here is helpful for those who couldn’t make it out today. And if anyone is going to be liveblogging the debate on Sexton, let me know.
In a little while, I’ll be posting some other general comments and thoughts, including on the candidates who came out to speak to DAGS Council last night. Cheers!