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The Varsity

The University of Toronto's
Student Newspaper Since 1880

Slates clash at UTSU election debate

Candidates argue about clubs funding, budget transparency, and the viability of an undergrad bar

By The Varsity Staff
Published: 9:14 pm, 1 March 2012
Modified: 1 am, 5 March 2012
under
UPDATED

Shouting matches and arguments were the theme of UTSU’s all-candidates debate held Wednesday night at Hart House’s debate room.

For over four hours, the large but divided crowd debated campus issues like clubs funding, study space, budget transparency, and and slate StudentsFirst’s proposal to build a campus bar.

For most of the night, the crowd was divided evenly between Team Unity and StudentsFirst supporters. When a candidate spoke, the opposing side engaged in mockery and name-calling.

Independent presidential candidate Rohail Tanoli noted this and began his speech by saying that the audience needed to respect the candidates.

“The problem with U of T is that we’re all taking sides,” Tanoli said.

Despite these appeals for civility, accusations of racism, terrorism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia continued to be exchanged.

Debate moderator and Multi-Faith Centre director Richard Chambers tried to calm the hostile crowd and steer the discussion forward.

At one point, during a speech from current UTSU VP external and Team Unity presidential candidate Shaun Shepherd, supporters of StudentsFirst held up posters saying, “No More Dirty Tricks, Mr. Shepherd.”

Of the many issues discussed, StudentFirst’s proposal to create a UTSU-run campus bar was among the most contentious.

Shepherd pointed out that U of T already has several campus bars. He listed Sammy’s Student Exchange at Hart House, engineering bar Suds, and the Graduate Student Union’s bar as examples of current on-campus bars, and added several off-campus locations to the list, including Molly Bloom’s, the Brunny, and Ein Stein’s.

Brent Schmidt, StudentsFirst’s presidential candidate, retorted that there’s no “undergraduate UTSU pub for all students.”

“This is the distinction Shaun fails to make,” Schmidt said, “If he tells me to suck it up and go to these other pubs where alcohol is very expensive, then he’s clearly not taking the issue very seriously.”

StudentsFirst’s VP equity candidate Karthy Chin proposed that building a bar would provide students with a more equitable and accessible space on campus.

This sparked a whole set of questions on how a bar counted as a “multi-faith space,” especially in regard to students who choose not to drink for religious reasons.

The campus bar proposal was only one of several issues addressed. Candidates also discussed the quality of food and food services on campus, the possibility of a “grade forgiveness” policy, where students could remove poor grades from their academic records, and whether the UTSU should support Israeli Apartheid Week.

For full coverage of the debate and an extensive look at campus election season, be sure to check out the next issue of The Varsity, online and on stands Monday.

  • Hardy Weinberg

    You gonna post some of Varsity’s fav tweets on this topic? THere was some heated discussion and pointed commentary on the issue

    • interested

      like what?

      • Hardy Weinberg1

        If you can filter through the people who are overtly and known campaigners for each slate you get to see some of the currents of independents or more objective leaning people. Find out who is making important points and who is not. You also get insight as to what the discussion and jeers from the crowd are both good and bad, both neutral and offensive. Also there were some satirical accounts making some hilarious commentary.

        I was at home so i couldnt experience everything live.

  • Moodeline

    Important note! As stated by students first on their twitter page, those holding up the no more dirty tricks signs were NOT associated with the students first slate! Please fact check so a certain slate is not incorrectly implicated!

  • Buildabear

    What about Build a bear?

    • Hardy Weinberg1

      LOL I totally agree, the union does’nt even have to look into it, all the information needed is right here: 
      http://www.buildabear.com

    • Hockeyrocknrolldude

      That was funny.