Elections Report Card
The Link’s Guide to the 2011 CSU Campaign
Your Concordia set the bar pretty high right out of the gate. Just minutes into the election, the slate made a detailed campaign budget available to the press. The budget included a list of purchased items, the prices of each individual expense and even the actual purchase numbers of each item. Furthermore, the budget was updated one week into the campaign and The Link was shown each individual receipt from Your Concordia.
But of course, transparency extends beyond budget lines. Your Concordia has also opened up its Facebook page, website and YouTube videos to comments both negative and positive.
During Friday’s debate, Your Concordia presidential candidate Lex Gill said that it was important for the slate to acknowledge and respond to even the most critical comments.
Action deserves credit for producing an expense report one week into the election. Unfortunately, the slate doesn’t go into nearly as much detail about its campaign expenses as Your Concordia does. Although it’s unprecedented for a slate to even publish campaign budgets before the actual vote takes place, Action is definitely lagging behind its rival when it comes to bookkeeping.
On Friday, Action presidential candidate Khalil Haddad was confronted about why his slate disabled comments below its YouTube videos and blocked critical comments from its Facebook page. Haddad said that criticism should be framed in a constructive and respectful manner.
University students don’t like having arbitrary limits imposed on their free speech. It’s one thing if we’re talking about eliminating hate speech, but when one person chooses to remove any and all criticism from public discourse they don’t consider that constructive, it’s called censorship.
Your Concordia has an expansive platform that includes fighting tuition increases, creating new student space and a number of sustainability initiatives. Some of these promises are almost a lock: the student-run Hive Café at Loyola and the expansion of sexual health services will happen no matter who is elected because both are existing CSU proposals.
As for fighting tuition increases, a number of Your Concordia members were instrumental in organizing rallies for accessible education outside of Concordia University and the National Assembly. While the slate will need to mobilize students at a much higher rate to affect any real change on the tuition front, Your Concordia definitely has some street cred in that regard.
Other promises, like creating a clothing and food bank inside the union’s offices and updating the CSU’s raw financial data online on a daily basis, seem plausible.
Action shares a number of promises with its political rival. Creating student space, fighting tuition increases and banning bottled water from campus are among them.
Action has also hitched onto some existing CSU initiatives such as the Hive Café.
The slate has promised to convert some of the fifth floor in the LB building into student space, claiming it is cluttered with junk. Currently, the fifth floor houses the university’s department of education, a nursery, classrooms for English seminars and Instructional Information and Technology Services offices. Not exactly junk.
The plan to appropriate space on the fifth floor is already in the works and a number of Action candidates have known this for some time as they sit on the Library Fund Committee.
Action’s promise of monthly updates on the CSU’s finances is plausible and would be an improvement over this year’s situation, where Council was updated on finances only once.
However, Action’s promise to improve Concordia’s shuttle bus services might be a tall order (editors note: its also something Your Concordia is also looking into). More shuttle buses to Loyola would be great, but it is also outside of the CSU’s jurisdiction and would require tens of thousands of dollars in additional fuel, man-hours and possibly buses.
From the first days of the election, it was clear Your Concordia wanted to take a different approach to campaigning. The slate regularly updated its website with suggestions and questions from students, often accompanied by a response from Your Concordia.
The slate’s first two videos grapple with some serious issues with mixed results. Your Concordia’s first video is interesting, but the abrupt editing and flashing letters are jarring and distract from the slate’s message.
“What is the CSU?” breaks down the student union’s functions, finances and shortcomings seamlessly with an animated sequence. This video actually manages to explain something most students struggle to understand.
Beyond videos, Your Concordia has used social media effectively, responding to its critics in a timely fashion on Facebook, Twitter and its website.
Recently, the slate was accused of spreading attack ads throughout the Hall building, criticizing Action as a bunch of party animals who don’t take student politics seriously. So far no evidence links Your Concordia to the attack ads and CSU Chief Electoral Officer Oliver Cohen has not taken any punitive measures against the slate.
In a year where university tuition fees are on the rise and Concordia is facing a crisis in government, Action’s first address to students was a three-minute music video featuring partying, snowball fights and good times. While the video was catchy and somewhat amusing, a number of students took exception with its flippant tone.
Another small misstep occurred when the slate released its second, more politically charged video. The video featured footage of the candidates at protests and stills of people demonstrating against tuition hikes. Oddly enough, some of the photos were taken at protests organized by the Canadian Federation of Students, a national lobby group the CSU is currently suing for damages. These were likely unintentional oversights, but gaffes nonetheless.
Throughout the campaign, the slate has also been walking a bit of a tightrope. While candidates often emphasize their experience, they have also been attempting to distance themselves from the controversial Fusion slate, where many of the candidates gained said experience.
The slate’s presence of social media has caused controversy. A number of students have been blocked from Action’s Facebook page for being critical of slate’s policies. Action has also disabled comments on its YouTube videos.
Action has stuck to the traditional route of classrooms visits, flooding the mezzanine with handbills and having plenty of one-on-ones with voters. While the effectiveness of these tactics will ultimately be determined after the polls close, you can’t help but admire the sheer amount of discipline and effort put into their campaign.
This article originally appeared in The Link Volume 31, Issue 28, published March 29, 2011.
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