USC election: Breaking down the candidates’ platforms

Vote USCUSC election season can be a confusing time for students. How are you supposed to cut through the slogans, flashy videos, and mobs of campaigners to get at the issues that matter? Fortunately, the mitZine team has undertaken the task of breaking down the candidates’ platforms and laying out the bottom line for FIMS students. Keep an eye out for even more USC election coverage in the February issue of the mitZine, which includes this breakdown.

                                                           Adam Fearnall

Adam Fearnall

                                                         By: Stephen Wright

Slogan: It’s Time Western
Program: English and Political Science (Huron) — Year 4
Huron Soph
USC Speaker
President, Huron University College Students’ Council

Best platform point: USC 311

Fearnall’s simple and potent goal to centralize the University’s online amenities is a welcome and much-needed idea. I think we can all agree that the digital labyrinth that is the University’s online service is not only primitive but cumbersome. Learning to navigate Western’s unwieldy online experience certainly doesn’t alleviate the overwhelming apprehension a first year student faces when registering for courses or trying to access financial services. Fearnall’s vision for the website is based on Toronto 311’s concept, which would place links to all of the University’s services on one page.

Worst platform point: Mustang Hub

As if we aren’t bombarded with enough broadcast media, Fearnall has the silly vision of a space in the UCC outfitted with multiple TVs “tuned to the strongest news channels”, newspaper stands, and free coffee between 6am and 8am. In addition to its eccentric phraseology, this platform point is both impractical and unnecessary. Several new TVs were just installed in the main lounge, but they’re spread out all over the place. There are ways for those who are interested in getting the “strongest” news to do so; in the immutable words of Apple, “There’s an app for that.”

Bottom line for FIMS:

As many of us are in the business of not only critiquing media but also producing it, Fearnall’s apparent passion for the arts is something many students in FIMS can respect. His plans to establish a flourishing arts community include providing financial and professional support for a community of artists, writers, and musicians, updating the recording studio at CHRW to provide more recording space for students, and partnering up with ‘Writer-in-Residence’ to inspire and provide resources to aspiring authors. Although some points seem vague, it’s good to see enthusiasm for the creative spirit that FIMS embodies. Fearnall’s platform also has many points in support of academia, like undergrad research initiatives, a debate series, and “interest credit” opportunities.

                                                         Claire McArthur

Claire McArthur

                                                By: Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood

Slogan: You Deserve More
Program: History and Political Science — Year 5
Social Sci Soph
Western Sports Business Club writer
ChicsCLIC mentor

Best platform point: Improving the Spoke Experience

I’m going to cheat here and lump together a number of her platform points, all of which are geared towards improving the overall Spoke experience. Integrating varsity athletics is a novel idea that should benefit both the Spoke and our Mustangs, making hot water accessible is a no-brainer, installing a line cam should help with inconsistent wait times, and purchasing Dyson Airblades and a jukebox will only attract more Spoke patrons. Assuming all of these ideas are feasible—and they should be—they will help the Spoke to continue growing as the main undergrad hangout on campus.

What stands out about McArthur’s Spoke platform points compared to her opponents is that she is not planning on changing the way the Spoke operates. She wisely leaves things that should be left to the management, like menu and pricing, alone.

Worst platform point: More Student Parking

McArthur’s platform is weakest where she has no tangible plan besides lobbying on behalf of students. This is especially evident when it comes to student parking, an area far outside the jurisdiction of the USC. Will she lobby to have new parking lots built? Or does she want students to get higher priority spaces compared to staff and faculty? It’s simply not clear where “more” spaces will be coming from.

Bottom line for FIMS:

McArthur is running a populist campaign that is in no way faculty-specific. If you’re a Spoke regular with an interest in Western’s physical campus, there’s plenty in her platform to get excited about. Things like laptop chargers, live bus time boards, more outlets, and a new crosswalk are tangible infrastructural improvements that students want to see. The big concern is whether or not any of these things can actually be done, since they will require extensive cooperation with Western, the LTC, and the city of London, not to mention the large cost of implementation.

If you’re looking for more out of the USC’s other services, like the clubs system, for example, or for an academic focus from the president, you’ll be better served by the other candidates.

                                                              Logan Ross

Logan Ross

                                                        By: Elizabeth Sarjeant

Slogan: Because I Care
Program: Environmental Science — Year 3
Science Soph
Off-Campus Advisor

Best platform point: Environmental Initiatives

Both the best and worst aspects of Ross’s campaign reside in the fact that it isn’t final. She’s committed to adding points as she gains insight from students throughout her campaign. While giving her platform the democratic advantage of being somewhat student-generated, it’s hard to commit to a vote when we won’t know the extent of her platform until the election.

So far, Ross is the candidate most notably focused on environmental initiatives. While more recycling bins and bike racks on campus are hard to dispute, a paperless USC office and online textbook library are more challenging goals. However, this Environmental Science major’s passion for tackling green issues rang true at the first presidential debate. She’s also personalized the often-heard environmental stance with her distinctive cute factor, promising to advocate “equal rights” for recycling.

Worst platform point: Frost Week Plans

Ross’s plans for Frost Week are the most ambitious and least feasible part of her platform. At Wednesday’s presidential debate, the other candidates were quick to condemn her proposed beer garden “in the middle of January” as relatively unimportant to the school’s improvement. Western students already have plenty of venues for drinking. Of course, a platform can’t be all work and no play. But in general, the USC should be willing to spend the most money on what’s most important.

We should also keep a critical eye on those conspicuous “Vote Logan” signs that have cropped up around campus. All that teal-coloured paint won’t hide the wood from trees sacrificed for this supposedly pro-green campaign.

Bottom line for FIMS:

Strictly speaking, Ross has ignored USC-funded campus media in her platform. When accused of overlooking the Gazette, CHRW, and Big Purple Couch during a BPC interview, the optimistic candidate quickly saved herself: “They’re really great right now, so I didn’t see any room for improvement.” Meanwhile, Ross’s platform does pitch a few improvements to online media, such as a President’s Corner blog and better-functioning USC website. Most interesting to the FIMS-trained mind, however, is her stance on information access. The self-declared “USC outsider” knows what it’s like to be “information poor” when it comes to student council’s inner-functioning, and her proposed open-access town hall meetings are unmistakably reminiscent of Habermas’ public sphere – Ross’ actual inspiration aside.

                                                              Jon Silver 

Jon Silver

                                                           By: Paul Craig

Slogan: Get More Western
Program: MIT — Year 4
Charity Head Soph
Board of Governors Undergraduate Rep
MITSC VP Communications
USC Councillor
USC Charity Coordinator
USC University Affairs Standing Committee Chair
MIT/Charity Soph
MITSC Charity Commissioner

Best platform point: Focus on Health

Currently, dozens of students are waiting for treatment from Psychological Services – and even more students are awaiting assessment.  Jon Silver’s proposed solution is a twelve-hour student helpline, and there even seems to be a plan to implement it. Inspired by similar programs (such as Leeds University’s Nightline), student volunteers trained by qualified professionals would be available all night to listen to any student in need in full anonymity and confidence.

I also like Silver’s plans to make the Spoke healthier and more environmentally friendly. Silver has outlined several feasible-sounding changes that, overall, leave a good taste in the mouth.

Worst platform point: Focus on Everything

Reading Jon Silver’s entire platform is a daunting task. It’s a swollen, gelatinous monster oozing promises.  Some of them, such as Spoke coupons, appear facile, while others (full-wall whiteboards) sounded to me like USC-election specials: equal proportions eager-to-please and vaguely detailed.

After requesting details for some of the hazier initiatives, I was pleasantly surprised to receive many ostensibly achievable implementation plans.  For example, IdeaPaint makes any wall an instant whiteboard.  That’s pretty good.

Unfortunately, while many of the goals are individually achievable, the whole gamut of the platform isn’t.  There’s simply too much breadth her – too much unfocused sprawling – to get everything done, and at this point it’s not possible to predict which promises will be left by the wayside.

Bottom line for FIMS:

Most of Jon Silver’s proposals have universal appeal, rather than targeting any specific faculty. For example, his refinements to the Spoke and campus study spaces, student cooking initiatives, and exam-relief ideas are all quite general fixes.

It’s true that his support for student artwork aligns with FIMS’ “prosumer” ideology, and his dearth of new webpages might present employment opportunities for Internet-savvy FIMS students. However, the most appealing aspect of Silver’s platform to FIMS students is certainly his promise to lobby for more academic counselling staff.  As FIMS continues to grow, so does the strain on its over-saturated counsellors, and any plan to address this should be eagerly welcomed.

7 thoughts on “USC election: Breaking down the candidates’ platforms

  1. I would just like to point out that Marissa Joffre, the current VP Campus Issues of the USC, is in the process of implementing a Mental Health Phone Line, which coincidentally was modeled after Leed’s University Nightline. The line will run on a trial basis at first to assess the most recurring needs of callers so that the appropriate training can be administered to volunteers for a fully functioning phone line for September 2012. So if Jon is going to work on a phone line, it will simply be tweaking a well-established service.

      • The current line set up by the VP Campus Issues is a great initiative, but it doesn’t go as far enough. It is being rolled slowly during daytime hours, and will encompass a wide variety of issues and initially manned by Marissa herself. Mental health issues can affect us at anytime, day or night, we need to do more.

  2. Hi Patrick, thanks for speaking to that. Just to clarify, the plans on the go for the phone line are preliminary, with three phases. The eventual plan is have a peer-support phone line avaialble as many hours as deemed necessary. If that’s 24 hours thats great. Our research from U of Waterloo and U of Leedes shows that often in the first year, a line being available 24 hours is skipping steps because students won’t try to access it until it has a reputation. We also have to of course value the time of students volunteering and decide over time what times work best for students. In addition, we are also bringing much more awareness to the London Crisis Line, and hoping to bring their services to our campus as well. The plans this year have always been to continue this way. Jon’s plan could perhaps supercede mine with creating solely a mental health crisis line, but there is already a budget and business model put in place. We hope to begin volunteer recruitment and training in the spring. Jon knows that plans are moving forward a certain way, though with Elections he perhaps has not had time to discuss this with me as of late. Just wanted to clarify!

  3. Pingback: Last day to vote, have your say! | mitZine Online

  4. Pingback: 2015 Platform Analysis: President | MtApathy

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