Editorial Board 1999-2000
Yesterday, the first of many University Students' Council presidential forums was held in the University Community Centre atrium.
Historically, this primary effort has been a light-hearted attempt to break the ice and introduce the candidates to the voting public in a fun, laid back manner. It has also, historically, been fantastically boring.
This year, the USC election committee decided to do their own version of the Regis Philbin gold mine, Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? entitled, Who Wants To Be USC President? Complete with lightening rounds and lifelines, current President SzeJack Tan played the cushy role of game show host and quizzed the candidates on their general level of Western knowledge.
This forum did not tackle any issues, probe into the candidates' platforms, or offer any avenue for debate. And it worked perfectly.
The candidates competed against each other in a lightening round question, after which the winner advanced to the stage to go one-on-one with Tan. The other candidates retreated to the men's washroom, which functioned as a rather crude isolation chamber, to wait for another question and a chance to get on stage. It was exciting, interactive (the lifeline option involved the audience) and most importantly, it drew more than a sideways glance from students walking by.
With 10 candidates running, this campaign more than any is susceptible to the apathy which traditionally plagues these elections. With so many faces to remember, an inevitable onslaught of information and forums which will last for hours, it was incredibly important to start off the campaigning with a bang create a buzz around the election to ensure student interest is kept high. In this context, judging by the size of the crowd which it generated, the forum was a success.
The only fault in its structure was the isolation of the candidates in the loo. Considering the length of the forum, the election committee should have maximized the exposure time for all the presidential hopefuls by allowing them to stay in sight while one was questioned. This way, students who needed to leave would have been able to at least put a face to a name of every candidate not just those they saw on stage.
With the first forum now behind us, it's time to get down to business. It will take a lot of time and patience to work through 10 candidates and allow the proper attention to be given to their platforms. The large number of hopefuls also puts a strain on the remaining forums, which run the risk of becoming superficial for the sake of time.
Forums have increasingly become stale with bland question and answer periods which bring up the same issues year to year. There is rarely an avenue for harsh comparison between the candidates. With everyone so concerned about time, this could become even more of a reality this year.
With any luck and for the sake of all students, the election committee will build on their encouraging start and ensure future forums maximize debate.