Tuesday, February 28, 2012

SU Elections: President

Hey there,

Being the washed up old SU hack that I am, I figured it was important to inflict my opinions on the upcoming SU elections on any of you who are so brave as to actually read this. If you're still reading, thanks a lot!!

My plan over the next week or so is to write about every contested position to try to get my thoughts out there, and maybe (just maybe) have someone read something that I write. I'm going to start off with President today and work my way through the rest, and I hope these will be informative and maybe even slightly entertaining!

Before we begin, though, I'd like to mention that I won't be writing a post on the VPSL race as it's uncontested. That being said, Saadiq Sumar is a stand-up individual with support from all the right people, and you'd be lucky to have him as your Vice President.

Without further ado, onto the presidential candidates! (Yes, I am ignoring the joke candidate)

Colten Yamagishi: Having served as a councillor for several years and as vice president this year, I have known Mr. Yamagishi for a long time. In running for president, he is following a long tradition of Vice Presidents Student Life who have gone on to run for the presidential post. Colten's three promises are Revolutionize Communications, Restrict Backdoor Tuition, and Re-Ignite Past Promises. I'll get back to these in a second after I look at some of the other candidates.

Aditya Rao: I've known Adi for two years now, first as a councillor last year, and this year through his other many involvements on campus. From what I've seen, Adi is running alongside a group of similarly-minded individuals across several of the other platforms (whether intentional or not), all with an extensive social justice and advocacy focus. His platform promises he will Resist, Reform, and Engage.

Farid Iskandar
: I've also known Farid for two years, again as a councillor last year and then as a Vice President last year (sound familiar?). Farid's platform features Negotiating the phase-out of the CoSSS fee, Strengthening businesses, and Creating a Student Academic Centre.

All three candidates address fees, so I'll start with that. Congratulations - you don't like paying money! That'll hit a strong vibe with students! Colten and Adi would lobby the government to enforce a tuition cap, whereas Farid would actively try to get rid of the CoSSS fee. Both Adi and Colten also talk about the $40 installment fee and how much they dislike it - looks like Farid missed the bus on that one.

Believe it or not I proposed selling grocery items in SUBmart a long time ago, so I'm actually glad it's starting to catch on in promises. Otherwise, though, Farid's platform (so far) seems a bit thin - he hasn't promised lots apart from continuing to work on promises from two years ago, and the usual staples of "increasing resources" and "restructuring communication."

The most interesting feature of Colten's platform is re-igniting past promises (because, let's face it, communication revolution has been promised by everyone and will be promised forever). The only issue I have with this promise, though, is that none of these past promises have been 'dug up'. The fall reading week is something he's currently working on and has been a major focus of the SU for a while, and he would almost be negligent if he ignored it more so than a hero for continuing it. The PAW centre and powerplant are issues that all presidents will have to face (more so the VPOF, perhaps), and promising to deal with them sadly doesn't mean much more than saying he won't ignore them.

Adi, on the other hand, has more of an outlier of a platform. The Students' Union has spent a considerable amount of effort in being an efficient advocate on student issues, and has explicitly limited itself to these student issues in order to avoid diluting its message. Specifically, his idea of screening honorary degree candidates for human rights seems to be quite reactionary to what's going on on campus now. An elected Adi would likely bring about fundamental changes on how the SU does advocacy, and that's a choice that I suppose students will have to consider.

Summary of promises:

Farid5 X
1 X

Adi6 X
1 X

2 X

8 X
1 X

What I think will happen
I've heard a lot of people talk about how Colten and Farid, both being vice presidents, will split the vote and how this will make Adi win. These people do not understand our system. The only way vote splitting could even be a factor is if it results in anyone winning on a first round count, in which case 'un-splitting' the vote wouldn't have made a difference any way as that candidate would have received more than 50% of first-place votes.

I think all three candidates will run popular enough campaigns that nobody will win on the first round. However, I think that Colten and Farid's platforms, experience, and support bases are similar enough that they will have strong secondary votes for each other on their ballots.
Because of this, my best guess at what will happen is a fourth-round win for Colten, with Adi coming in second place. I say fourth-round because NoTA will get eliminated in the first round (I suspect NoTA will run a little lower than normal, perhaps only around the 5-8% mark), Big Notorious will be eliminated the second round, Farid will be eliminated on the third round, and his subsequent votes will transfer primarily to Colten.

The main reason that I think Colten will outlast Farid is exposure. We've recently come off a world-record dodgeball game, and successful events such as Antifreeze, giving the Student Life portfolio a good amount of press recently. Unfortunately for Farid, his major project (Get out the Vote) was postponed due to the Alberta elections occurring later than hoped, and his other major promises (such as MNIF restructuring) have simply been brushed aside by the powers that be. Farid hasn't had the opportunity to shine recently as much as Colten, and I suspect that will hurt him.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. I'll be back soon with VPOF!


Unknown said...

The narrow focus on student issues to "keep the message undiluted," from what I can see, is a total effectiveness fail. There's "messaging," and then there's actually *organizing.* The Student Union is really stuck in a paradigm, where, having no effective power to bring to a negotiate through provincial umbrellas or otherwise, they seek "general awareness" among decision makers and their own student body — as if having a rational case ever won the day in itself. I'd really like some elaboration and examples regarding what you mean by "effective" advocacy.

Issues that have actually carried the day and turned into successes and social change have been enmeshed in broad-based social movements. The SU, intentionally or not, silos the students it represents as a "special interest group" who can be easily dismissed by both decision makers and counterparts in other sectors of the economy with "I don't get X, why they should get X?" When what we should be saying is, "We should all get X."

For this reason I'd support a candidate who is more attentive to social justice concerns and how to organize to have those concerns addressed and re-dressed, than one that focusses on services. It's not as if being screwed over in the economy only happens to students.

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