Experts rank prez candidates' platforms

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Fab Dolan and the USC presidential candidates

Joyce Wang

AND NOW WE KNOW WHAT FAB’S O-FACE LOOKS LIKE. MEH. WE’VE HAD BETTER. University Students’ Council President Fab Dolan hosted a debate between (left to right) Chris Reynolds, Josh Safer and Tom Stevenson yesterday. The presidential hopefuls would like to break their O-faces out in celebration Wednesday night.

For the past two weeks you’ve listened to the University Students’ Council presidential candidates ramble about their platforms and the feasibility of 12-month bus passes, grocery stores, laptop loan programs and street teams. Each candidate has stood by his platform, claimed it’s feasible and criticized many of his opponents’ ideas.

The Gazette took the key issues from this year’s presidential race and consulted the experts to find out who’s done his research and who’s throwing out jargon.

12-MONTH BUS PASS

Tom Stevenson said he wants a 12-month bus pass for all students. He said students have told him they want and need this service and that it will encourage more students to live and work in London.

Chris Reynolds said a 12-month bus pass will be a waste of money for most students who aren’t from London. Instead he will advocate a year-long pass for professional school students who sometimes have classes in the summer.

The experts said: Whether or not most students would want or use a 12-month pass can’t be determined easily because it’s never been tried before at Western.

However, USC General Manager Karen Jackson said the issue has been raised several times in the past and the overwhelming opinion is not enough students want the extra service to make it worthy of the increase in student fees.

It turns out Reynolds’ suggestion is already in motion. According to Andrew Burke, VP-internal for the Hippocratic Society, the student association for the Schulich School of Medicine, medical students have been advocating for a 12-month bus pass for a couple years.

After months of meetings and negotiations, Burke and representatives from the condensed time frame nursing program have submitted a proposal for a 12-month pass and await a response from the London Transit Commission.

Burke said all three candidates discussed their ideas with him and said “It’s a tough nut to crack for us.” He said Stevenson is correct in stating the LTC prefers an all-or-nothing approach because it would be more profitable for them to introduce a 12-month bus pass.

However, he also said it has taken a long time in negotiations to get to this point, and is “hesitant about a plan that would disrupt current negotiations...that would be bad.”

The Gazette says: Reynolds’ proposal is more concrete and feasible, though it has already been put into motion by another group. Stevenson has yet to prove most students actually want a 12-month pass, but should he do so, his proposal is possible.

UCC GROCERY STORE

Stevenson said students want a grocery store in the University Community Centre, and even though the proposal has failed in the past, he will try harder and make it happen. Reynolds said he’s considered the idea but his research says it’s simply not feasible since we already have services like grocerycheckout.com.

The experts said: A service along the lines of a UCC grocery store has been attempted by presidents the past couple years, and while students ask for the service, they haven’t used it.

Jackson said Stevenson’s statistics come from a survey conducted by President Nick Staubitz two years ago and a grocery store was the no. 1 request for a new service. Past presidents tried to accommodate the request by introducing things like bread, fruits and vegetables and milk into Mustang Alley, but the items never sold.

“We just threw everything out,” Jackson said, adding students still prefer larger grocery stores for major shopping trips and will often use other convenience stores like Mac’s Milk for emergency items. She said the USC endorsed the student-run business grocerycheckout.com by providing it with cheap or free advertising on campus.

Jackson said Mustang Alley, which still sells apples and bananas, is a successful business and can’t be expanded due to space constraints.

However, she added, “We can always try. It hasn’t worked before, but if a board decides it’s something we want to do, we should start with Mustang Alley.”

The Gazette says: Stevenson hasn’t given us reason to believe he can succeed where others have failed. Successful platform ideas aren’t built around “hope.” Reynolds wins this one.

THE STREET TEAM

Reynolds and Stevenson both said the USC should re-work its external promotions team so more students can get involved. Reynolds said he’ll disassemble X-PAC, the USC’s current external promotions “action committee,” and form a street team with a new attitude. Stevenson said he will restructure X-PAC.

The experts said: All USC Board members agreed X-PAC “sucks” and needs major restructuring. Vicky Simanovski, VP-student events, said there’s so much going on all the time that it might be hard to choose which events to promote.

“The challenge is to send out a message that doesn’t get lost,” she said.

Communications officer Aron Yeomanson, who manages X-PAC, said he met with Reynolds and they agreed on many factors concerning the future of USC external promotions. He said such a team must be campus-wide and have lots of first-year students involved. He said Stevenson has some good ideas about how to revamp X-PAC and his experience as a member of the group gives him insight on necessary changes.

The Gazette says: Both have good ideas for getting more students involved in the impermeable clique that the USC sometimes seems to be. However, Reynolds has more concrete and detailed ideas.

SOME ADDITIONAL CRITICISMS

Almost everyone on the USC Board of Directors expressed concern about Reynolds’ initiative to create a First Nations co-ordinator. All agreed First Nations students have unique concerns not being addressed, but that creating a paid co-ordinator isn’t the solution.

“I think a better approach would be getting all the different bodies to come together in a working committee,” said Pedro Lopes, VP-campus issues. “Who and why one person would become the co-ordinator could be problematic.”

Lopes was also concerned that neither candidate addressed representation of services like the Women’s Issues Network and PrideWestern, though he said Stevenson has incorporated feedback from members of PrideWestern.

Several board members also questioned the feasibility of Reynolds’ Oktoberfest.

“The biggest challenge would be the timing, since it comes right after Orientation Week and Homecoming,” Simanovski said. “My other challenge would be: how does it differ from Homecoming? It would be challenging, but it’s possible.”

Yeomanson challenged Reynolds’ idea to bring national newspapers into the UCC. He said the USC needs The Gazette to promote events and other newspapers could negatively affect that promotion.

The Gazette gives us better coverage than anyone, and in a way you’d be discouraging students from picking up the paper,” Yeomanson said.

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