#CSU2014: Teams Square Off in Election Debates

3 Teams, 2 Independent Candidates Debate Student Space

Candidates square off in front of the CSU offices on the seventh floor of the Hall Building Photo Shaun Michaud

Turnout was high compared to past years at the Concordia Student Union’s election debates this week, with around 40 people coming to listen to the three teams and two independent candidates at the downtown campus Wednesday and roughly a dozen the following day at Loyola.

A major point of debate was student-run spaces on campus. One of the first questions was what the candidates would do to have a student café open in the space currently occupied by Java U on the Hall Building’s mezzanine.

Independent presidential candidate Chuck Wilson said the CSU was obligated to create a student-run café in the space because students voted in favour of such a café.

“It was a binding referendum question, and the CSU has to do it,” Wilson affirmed. However, he said there should be options beyond the co-operative model.

“We should be offering possible options, right, rather than a yes/no—personally I don’t really like a yes/no dichotomy; I like to be able to see what’s actually possible. Certainly a co-op is one of those options,” he said.

Community Matters presidential candidate Benjamin Prunty, on the other hand, was entirely in favour of the co-operative model for a student-run café.

“This year I’ve been working on this matter pretty much non-stop,” he said. Prunty went on to say that three members of his team were founding members of the Concordia Food Coalition, who focused “specifically on food security as well as food sovereignty.”

“I think that there’s a lot of possibility in a shared governance structure with The Hive,” he said. “Specifically, the co-op model is really important for this […] if you have the co-op model, you can bring together all the people with an interest specifically in food, and then that’s all that they work on.”

CSUnited answered the question in a broader sense, saying that they welcome any student initiative, especially a student-run café.

Experience CSU candidate Scott Carr wanted to “clear up a misconception,” saying the question was likely aimed at him.

Carr went on to state that Experience CSU was not against the idea of a student-run café. He said that when the referendum question was asked, the numbers hadn’t been considered. Since the CSU was mandated to make the space a student-run café, he said they were committed to making the project happen.

Another student asked candidates their opinion on the per-faculty fee levy question, giving Experience CSU a chance to elaborate on their position, which they published in a statement last week.

The statement reads, “as executive candidates for CSU, it is inappropriate for us to collectively endorse a political position that will alienate a large number of students.”

Wilson said that the question was more complicated than a yes or a no, and that faculties needed to collaborate if a reform was ever going to happen.

CSUnited opposes the per-faculty fee referendum, and said that they would work with fee levy groups to support their visibility on campus. However, they said they would make it easier for individual students to opt-out of being in the fee-levy groups.

Similarly, Community Matters is opposed to the proposal of participating in fee levies on a per-faculty basis. Heather Nagy, running for VP Finance under the Community Matters banner, emphasized the importance of fee levies as community organizations with communal benefits.

In contrast to the well-attended debate between campaigning politicians, only three panelists attended the debate on the fee-levy referendum. They were all members of the ‘vote no’ committee
The members took the time provided to speak about why fee levies should be supported by Concordia students. Gene Morrow said fee-levy groups at Concordia had been the most important factor in his decision to go to the university.

Morrow explained that the fee-levy groups create a “vibrant community” on campus and that voting ‘yes’ on the question would put the groups in danger. Furthermore, fracturing the sponsorship of the groups would be a “first step into their dissolution,” he said.