Last Wednesday was the final debate of the USC Presidential Elections, the Media Debate. Two representatives from the three main campus media outlets, 94.9 CHRW, the Gazette, and The Big Purple Couch asked questions during the three hours. Unlike the past two debates, there were no different sections of the debate and no breaks, going straight from 2-5. There was heated competition between Team Belman and Team Helfand throughout. The debate even began by asking the candidates the worst part about each other’s platform.
The Heat is On
I could only catch a glimpse of the Presidential Debate. However, I noticed the debates got more heated throughout the election campaign. The media debate was no exception, with more frequent rebuttals than ever before. As noted, each slate was asked to reflect upon the worst aspect on the opponent’s platform. Brian Belman said the proposed fee freeze was the downfall of their opponent. Matt Helfand believed it was the kiosks, especially since he felt there was no clear explanation in the platform.
Keep in mind this isn’t the first time similar questions were asked. At the VP Debate, both the VP Internal and VP External candidates were asked why they believed they are more qualified than their opponent. Either way, it’s expected for the election season. Voters have to decide who they believe are the best candidates for the USC Slate, Senator at Large, and faculty presidents. Looking at the different platforms, and listening to what the candidates have to say, will help shape the vote.
The highlight of the debate, however, was when Belman was asked if he felt the language should be cleaned up to guarantee a graduate student wouldn’t run for USC President. All it took was for Belman to say “yes”, for Helfand to reply “ouch”. The former Social Science Students’ Council President justified why he was running, and added that the only reason why Belman responded as such was due to the fact he’s his only opponent. After Belman’s rebuttal, VP External Candidate Jen Carter said on her way to the debate (she arrived late), another student told her he thought it was cool that she was running with a graduate student.
I’ve been studying at Western University for four years, but this year was the first time I heard of a graduate student running. Either way, bringing up the topic brought interesting discussion at the debate.
There were finance related issues throughout the debate. For instance, the undersold One Love Rally in November was brought up, with both candidates having different stances on it. Belman recognized internal communications should play an important role in promoting the event, if it were to run again. He also said he would be open to it, but Helfand felt the event, and similar ones, should not happen if it’s going to lose the university money.
In my coverage of the VP debate, I noted both the VP External Candidates had similar stances on free tuition. The similar stances were raised again in this debate, but on supporting free tuition. Carter recognized that it wasn’t realistic, but said perhaps it could happen within ten years. Wright noted that while he did not agree with free tuition in the first debate, he does support the idea.
Free tuition is certainly a topic to examine. The idea of it is utopianistic, but not realistic at the moment. With budget cuts, it’s unlikely it will happen this year, if at all. However, it’s interesting that the VP External Candidates first recognized that free tuition isn’t realistic. While there wasn’t a lot of contrast in the separate debates, both candidates displayed the different opinions on the issue throughout the election season.
Another topic that was brought up was the USC Executive retreat, where they travel to the United States to check out American universities. From there, they examine what the councils in their councils, and adopt their methods. Both slates agreed that the method might not be best for a Canadian campus, with Belman suggesting different team building activities. Emily Addison of Team Helfand added she researched Canadian campus radio stations while on the CHRW Board of Directors. Either way, the discussion revealed where some of the students’ money is going towards. Yes, team building and leadership skills are important in an organization like the USC, but there are more ways to achieve it than travelling across the board.
On Campus Media
When asked about campus media, the only outlet that was thoroughly discussed was the Gazette. In particular, both candidates wanted to use the paper to reach a larger audience across campus (ie: Ivey, affiliate colleges) and in the city. Granted, this was the only question directly about campus media, and the candidates don’t have much time to respond. Also, the Gazette is known for publishing daily coverage, and any campus media outlet is beneficial to students. However, it isn’t the only campus media outlet, so other publications should have at least been mentioned.
Other topics that were brought up during the debate included Project LEARN dropping their zero tolerance policy, and the former “I Know Someone” Coordinator, Jessica Thom, stepping down from her position. Overall, the media debate participants provided topical coverage for the candidates. There’s no telling if similar issues will arise in the 2014-2015 school year, so it’s beneficial the topics are relevant, so the future candidates can build upon what happened in the past year.
**DISCLAIMER: The opinions reflected in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of OPENWIDE, the USC or the FIMSSC.