Last Tuesday was the annual President and VP debate of the Marianopolis Student Union, the first to be moderated by a student journal. How did the candidates do? Did the debate hurt or aid them?
At first, by looking at the entrance and exit polls, we can affirm that the debate did have an impact, but majorly on the presidential candidates. The entrance polls gave Stefan Stevanovic an important lead in the race for president, and did the same for Diana Di Iorio in the race for vice-president. However, when the debate came to an end, Anthony Koch became the leading presidential candidate, while Diana remained the leading candidate for VP. This can be attributed to the fact that VP candidates, in a smaller number than presidential candidates, got less “screen time” than their presidential counterparts. This coupled with the many engaging debates that got the presidential candidates arguing between themselves proved to outshine some VP candidates.
Speaking of those engaging debates, Raymond Zuo, candidate for MSU 2016-2017 Presidency, was the first to mention transparency in his opening statement, a topic that would engulf an important part of the following discourse, and attacked the present Congress for their lack of transparency and accessibility. He also later brought up the fact that Congress was not recognized as a Non-Profit Organization, something he strongly felt should be addressed. Victoria Kalisky continued the debate by stating that transparency among MSU was not an issue, an argument for which she received backlash from many fronts, as critics reminded her of her campaign slogan “What’s Victoria’s secret? She has no secret. VIC FOR TRANSPARENCY”. She responded by admitting that she deemed no changes to the present Constitution necessary. This was quickly rebuffed by Anthony Koch who accused the current Congress of being both ineffective and inaccessible, and deemed transparency an important issue, which also gained the agreement of fellow candidate Keeyan Ravanshid. However, when it came the time for Keeyan to address his plan for a “democratic reform” of the Constitution, he was attacked by Koch who argued that the “hypocrisy” of the other candidate’s reform, underscoring the fact that through this reform he was essentially “giving himself veto power”, would, according to him, undoubtedly lead to a “dictatorship”. Keeyan responded to these accusations by admitting to the existence of the veto power, but only in a procedural capacity, stating that “many other school presidents have done it” and that “it would get things done.” Through this dynamic debate, we saw a power play come to light, especially between the previously mentioned candidates. For some, this proved to be a good thing: for example, candidates Anthony Koch and Victoria Kalisky both experienced a surge in following polls, but it also seemed to have proved detrimental to others, like Keeyan, who seemed to have lost vote shares in polls that followed.
However, Keeyan was also one of the candidates who argued with the most assertiveness and conviction during the debate, scoring points when addressing adversary Stefan Stevanovic’s platform which consists of a focus on activities, that reached broad fields, such as academics and creative outlets, and more communication with the student body. While some may embrace such broad platforms, others like Keeyan reject them on the basis of their ambiguity. Candidate Stevanovic responded with a light reference on a video he posted on Facebook following the debate, captioned “There’s nothing ambiguous about these moves.” Some saw the video as ‘obnoxious’ or not serious enough for an election, but fellow candidates were quick to respond in support for Stefan’s approach, with Victoria Kalisky reaffirming that running for presidency should not imply an unbreachable curtain of seriousness. One platform that stood out from other candidates’ was that of Tiffany Habelrih, who spoke of a more comfortable and accessible campus, through the extension of and increased accessibility to green spaces, as well as the ability to borrow outdoor material, a novel and original idea.
On another note, the first question of the debate addressed the candidate’s qualifications and relevant qualities and achievements. This year, we saw a great portion of candidates with experience serving on Congress, such as Keeyan, who serves as Coordinator of External Affairs alongside Yiwen Li, who is currently the Coordinator of Social Justice, as well as Stefan and Diana who are Members at Large. Others spoke of more independent experience, such as Anthony Koch who spoke of the Marianopolis Board of Governors as an intimidating group of “old white dudes”, with whom he says to have experience working with through his political involvement. The VP candidates were also quick to underline their personal experience, such as Jie Mei who serves as executive for the Chinese Student Association (CSA), and Grace Li who is active in MariMUN, the Marianopolis Investment Club and MYLO, as well as what she described as “essential qualities”, like being outgoing and sociable which would make her “more accessible” to the student body. Others denied the basis of the question, like Nicholas Bailey, stating that he is “no more qualified” than any other candidate, and that nothing other than being a “hard worker” is required to run be President, as he hopes to give more power to the students. Finally, Victoria spoke of her experience as president of her high school, as well as the “need for vision, creativity and opportunities” for students.
All in all, this has been an interesting race that has brought forward a lot of new discussion, especially on the theme of transparency, which is not only relevant in our College, but in our political institutions, federal and provincial. Every candidate has brought forth an interesting campaign and platform, and the entire team of the Marianopolis World Review wishes every candidate good luck, and wishes to encourage the student population to vote on Monday and Tuesday.
Written by MWR writer Laurence Doucet, edited by the MWR team