Two slates and two solo candidates are battling for the top spots at the University of Toronto Students’ Union. At University College on Tuesday, slate Access and slate Change went head-to-head, presenting their platforms and challenging their opponents.
Incumbent Sandy Hudson named her accomplishments as helping to avoid a staff strike and continuing to push for lower tuition fees.
“We have to start walking over to Queens Park, not Simcoe Hall. We need to tell Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to drop our fees,” responded Jason Marin for slate Change.
Both candidates said they would work on engaging and involving students on campus. Unlike past years, the debate gathered a packed room, with students spilling onto stairs and the hallway. Most questions were pointed, and directed at one of the slates.
When asked about the lack of diversity on his slate, Marin’s response generated booming applause. “I’m a gay Costa Rican Jew. I think that’s pretty diverse.”
The night’s first controversial question, on UTSU’s position towards the Canadians Federation of Students, was pitched to candidates for VP external, James Finlay of Change and Hadia Akhter of Access.
“I believe U of T and its students should be put first. I will consult the student body before I fight for something alongside the CFS,” said Finlay.
Akhter drew the first difference between the slates, saying she will work on a case-by-case basis.
“Often you can’t put U of T first and CFS second. If the interest is the same for both, then I will move alongside the CFS.”
The CFS has spurred controversy on Ontario campuses across Ontario after York University’s student president went to a CFS rally during the recent CUPE strike.
Incumbent UTSU execs maintain strong ties with the CFS. Three members of Access are seeking re-election: Sandy Hudson, Adnan Najmi, and Adam Awad.
The VP internal debate, among incumbent Adnan Najmi of Access, Mike Maher of Change, and Perry Darkwa, grew heated.
A student challenged Najmi when he said he would create a student housing review site, judging from the UTSU website. Najmi responded that the website is in the midst of an upgrade.
The three disagreed on how to increase clubs funding.
Mike Maher outlined Change’s proposed funding increase of 20 per cent, and said money could be funnelled into clubs by cutting printing costs. Asked to clarify, Maher referred to a budget on Change’s website. The budget has since been removed after it failed to get approval from the chief returning officer.
Both Najmi and Darkwa said it was impossible to promise a certain amount of money.
Change’s proposed $1,100 cut to each exec’s salary, to create a scholarship for student leaders, also created tension. Najmi argued that it would affect UTSU performance.
French Club president Antonin Mongeau was a noted presence at the debate, speaking out of turn several times. Mongeau went to the mike to respond to Najmi when he spoke about clubs funding and mentioned Mongeau’s name, prompting protest from members of the Black Students Association, whose president is running for VP equity on the Access slate.
Sustainability figured prominently for the VP internal candidates. Andreas Kloppenborg of Change announced his plans to create a VP of sustainability for next year.