STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY

On March 21, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) presented a second round of executive debates on the topic of union operations. Unlike the first day, all positions present — President, Vice-President Internal, VP Campus Life, and VP Professional Faculties — were contested, allowing candidates to discuss weaknesses in one another’s platforms.

Compass emerged strong on the second night of executive debates. Compass candidates’ financial and operational knowledge of the UTSU’s past actions presented them as better prepared than their opponents. Compass also expressed ideas that considered all aspects of the university, including student need and financial support.

Though 🅱️oundless and independent candidates conveyed solid ideas as well, these paled in comparison to their opponents’. 

Independent candidate Spencer Robertson and Compass candidate Yolanda Alfaro presented very similar ideas for VP Campus Life, with Robertson putting an emphasis on the importance of the Student Commons as a central, uniting space, and Alfaro focusing on improving access to on-campus student life for commuter students. This was the friendliest of the debates, with moderator Jaren Kerr making time for questions like whether or not they would book Drake for orientation if they had to brand the show the “Drake Pepsi Concert.”

Compass VP Internal candidate Tyler Biswurm and Compass VP Professional Faculties Yasmine El Sanyoura emerged as clear winners in their respective debates.

“Humanizing” the UTSU was central to Biswurm’s ideas, who presented himself as someone fully aware of the UTSU’s shortcomings and who would be able to use this knowledge to form substantive, realistic goals that aim to increase student engagement. While pointing out the difficulties in creating new bursaries, he noted the need to simplify and centralize applications to make financial aid more accessible.

El Sanyoura supported her ideas with a detailed history of the VP Professional Faculties position, and she proposed policy amendments for faculties beyond her own, indicating that the medicine faculties’ gym fee adjustment rates could set an example for potential future adjustments for other faculties with sessional start and end dates.

In comparison, 🅱️oundless candidates seemed flustered and unprepared as members from the Compass slate revealed inconsistencies and shortcomings within the 🅱️oundless platform.

Specifically, Biswurm noted 🅱️oundless candidate Alyy Patel participated in a $3,000 off-campus retreat in her role as UTSU orientation coordinator, which is hypocritical in light of her platform points in this regard. 

Though she noted that she “wasn’t the only orientation leader” who took part in the retreat, she didn’t own up to her choice or explain how and why her opinions may have changed since.

In addition, Biswurm criticized the idea of running a pub within the student commons, calling it unrealistic considering the deficits experienced by other student union-run pubs around the country.  

To their credit, 🅱️oundless candidates seem to be trying to reach out to students who don’t have much knowledge of the UTSU’s operations. However, though this accessibility is an important aspect of student outreach, their ideas seemed to be stagnated by this perspective, as candidates chose to focus on making the UTSU seem fun and relatable rather than constructively educating students and providing services.

This was painfully clear when🅱️oundless VP Professional Faculties candidate Gallop Fan responded to a question about whether the engineering faculty should have a fall reading week with the statement, “I want other people to make my decisions for me.”

🅱️oundless’ numerous slip-ups support the statement made by Fan during the introduction of his slate on the first night: “Let’s be honest, we’re running for the trolls.”

All in all, 🅱️oundless candidates seemed unprepared to debate topics unrelated to the few mentioned on their slate, which became apparent in contrast to Compass candidates’ overall better preparation and knowledge of the UTSU.

The presidents’ debate between Compass candidate Anne Boucher and independent candidate Michelle Mabira covered a range of topics, from the Hudson lawsuit settlement to clubs funding.

Like other Compass members, Boucher had a strong focus on specific, administrative changes that could be made to improve student relations with administration and the UTSU, emphasizing the need to balance student services with financial realities and making it clear that meeting with the UTSU does not fill a student consultation quota.

Boucher clearly has a good understanding of the UTSU’s faults, such as the absence of direct communication with students about finances and the lack of student support in running advocacy campaigns. To both ideas, she suggested making the budget more “readable” and hiring part-time student employees to run campaigns.

Mabira likewise suggested improving the “readability” of the budget, but went further by suggesting social media posts that actively inform students about their finances. Both candidates did a great job presenting their ideas, many of which overlapped.

Ultimately, the second night of debates was one of the best opportunities for candidates to make their intentions known and, overall, candidates took advantage.

Compass candidates showed their preparedness in terms of knowledge of the UTSU. Independent candidates Robertson and Mabira were able to bring in dimensions of passion and personal investment that made up for their inexperience within the UTSU itself. And even 🅱️oundless candidates effectively communicated their desire to improve the UTSU, however implausible their ideas may seem.

Angela Feng is a second-year student at St. Michael’s College studying Anthropology and Cinema Studies. She is The Varsity’s Campus Politics Columnist.

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