It’s that time of the year again. The time where some of us, by any means possible, campaign for their closest of friends to become the next president, while others among us get annoyed by the endless notifications being sent to our phones due to the infinite campaign posts on the MSU page. Nonetheless, there is also that select faction of students, whom, as much as they care about raising their R-Score, care equally about endorsing who ares best suited for the two golden seats around the Congress room table.
Without a doubt, the Spring 2016 presidential and vice-presidential elections are not like any other. Second-years would attest in a heartbeat to the fact that it is by far better structured, better regulated, and exponentially more competitive than last year. With 7 candidates for the presidency and 4 candidates for the vice-presidency as opposed to last year’s 3 and 4 respectively, an organic means of advertisement has sprung in favor of the Student Union, as the simple new system of conducting polls and generating coverage of the election hosted by the Marianopolis World Review is engaging the general population on a day-to-day basis.
More specifically, the election debate has been much of a highlight, which was held in the auditorium this year as opposed to the student lounge last year. Candidates fought tooth and nail in order to secure whatever votes they already had pre-debate, and to further poach a new significant amount of the electoral share. For the presidency, the contenders are Nicholas Bailey, Anthony Koch, Raymond Zuo, Keeyan Ravanshid, Victoria Kalisky, Stefan Stefanovic, and Yiwen Li, while Jane Mei, Tiffany Habelrih, Diana di Iorio, and Grace Li compete for the position of Vice President of the MSU.
Opening statements were much of what you would expect from your typical presidential and vice-presidential candidates. Bailey did not entertain the thought of directing his campaign towards concrete official platforms, as he entrusted students with their will to possibly vote for him due to his zeal, although he did suggest to build a stronger sense of community among the students, a decreased parking fee, a better 124 Victoria bus service, and the enhancement of accessibility to Wi-Fi throughout the College. Anthony, on the other hand, pressed on the fact that ability and will were key to being the ideal president, as he also touched on introducing gender neutral bathrooms, as well as a stable and continuous working nurse coming in 5 days a week. Raymond brought up the recurring issue of transparency, while he emphasized the importance of bringing forth realistic plans that will serve the students’ best interest. Also, he introduced possible student mentorship programs supported by Marianopolis alumni, as well as an enhanced Wi-Fi system. Meanwhile, Keeyan proposed a democratic reform package which he also outlined in his platform, and called for students to choose the candidate who will deliver on a realistic basis with a lot of passion. Meanwhile, Stefan desired to engulf the whole student population in terms of their relationship with Congress, while he also called for an increased quality of academics, not to mention the importance of fitness and the sense of community in students’ lives. Furthermore, Yiwen called for support as he believed in a president who would best serve the students’ interests, be an advocate for humanitarian causes, and generally enhance the atmosphere among students on a daily basis. For the vice-presidential candidates, Diana Di Iorio called for awareness on specific issues, such as eating disorder campaigns, inter-program competitions, and an increased level of parties held by the MSU, all in the spirit of fraternity. Jane Mei, called for “serious changes” – candidates who can not only “talk the talk” but also “walk the walk”, as she also advocated for more parties, and increased cafeteria hours for those staying late for classes. Tiffany Habelrih, citing her past high school experience on student council in 3 different high schools in three countries, announced an initiative for a more comfortable campus, through the development of green spaces, games, restructuring of the student lounge, and once again an increased amount of parties. Grace called for the push of increasingly funded activities, as she pledged to serve the student union with all her will and ability.
When asked which achievements they felt made them best suited for the job, candidates responded similarly yet in their own fashion. Keeyan, known for his much-debated 10-page platform, stated that his term in the past year on Congress as the Coordinator of External Affairs, as well as his job as a founder of his own private business, aided him in understanding how to bring the best results possible to his constituents. Yiwen, founder of his own NGO, felt that as Coordinator of Social Justice, his connection was strengthened on a personal basis with each and every student. Raymond Zuo indicated that as an executive and member of several clubs at the school in various extracurricular fields, he benefits from experience both inside and outside the school, as he also runs a company alongside one of his classmates. Nicholas, on the other hand, did not specify any achievements, as he entrusted the students with his charisma and will to do what needs to be done. Additionally, Grace Li stated her experience as a part of Hallyu, a Marianopolis dancing club with much organization and professionalism, while also touching on the fact that there is a broad spectrum of differences between students. Jane, being an executive of the Chinese Students’ Association (MCSA), and taking care of the finances in the annual singing contest, felt that the discussion should not be limited to her personal achievements, but also include her ideas and what she may bring to the table, while being able to handle feedback, whatever it may be.
Now comes the continuously reoccurring issue of the Constitution. When asked what they would change about the Constitution, candidates mostly split into two sides, especially when it came to transparency, real change, and participation of students in this change. Victoria stated that transparency wasn’t an issue, as Congress was doing its best to accommodate the students in the best format possible. Anthony pointed out that that the issue isn’t the fact that students were told or weren’t told about the changes brought forth by the MSU, it is simply the issue of them being at the forefront in the first place. Calling for an immediate accreditation of the MSU in the next academic year, Anthony felt that was the way in which the Constitution could actually be made relevant to all students in the College. Stefanovic specified that while Congress does have its issues, and even though the amendment to have the president and vice-president running as a team wasn’t passed, the Constitution was to be increasingly relevant to students as their initiative would help issues that need passing to be eventually passed. Last but not least, Di Iorio stated that as a member at large, she was in total agreement with the recent changes, but she saw the issue of MSU’s representation as a first step to be taken immediately. With struggles arising for people to simply attend the General Assemblies, an immediate solution must be brought forth by the next holder of the contested positions.
In terms of relationship between Congress and their clubs, candidates were in similar agreement, while deriving specific points to be addressed. Keeyan thought that clubs should be able to know the justification for the funding they were given every semester, as there should be a point of focus on not only a handful of the clubs, but on all of them. Yiwen stated that clubs only receive on average 20 percent of the funding they ask for, while he pointed out that as the MSU is nothing without its clubs, he would be ready to sit down with each and every club and listen to their complaints and or demands, and strongly advocated for video updates each month which would lay out all the plans and activities initiated by Congress. Anthony stated that even though he applied for Congress and was rejected, he had the privilege of starting his own club while being an executive of pre-existing clubs. He proposed a revamp of the Marianopolis Hub, the portal on which all club executives access their information, events, and all other resources pertaining to the organization of their club. Additionally, Raymond specified that the relationship between Congress and its clubs was less than ideal at the present time, while stating that he was ultimately willing to sit down with each club and work together on their plans for the upcoming year. Grace referred to the Constitution, pointing out that it was the Vice-President’s job to be a liaison between Congress and its clubs, as she was ready to compare and contrast her platform with the club executives, as it was their natural right to be an active player in the role the MSU plays. Finally, Tiffany expressed that given that many students do not currently place much value in their relationship with Congress, she wanted to reverse that dynamic by promoting it on a personal basis amongst the students and making this relationship much more intertwined.
Moreover, Congress is comprised of close to 20 students. Candidates answered in different fashions when asked what they thought they would do if their ideas were mostly opposed by the next year’s Congress. Bailey stated that an idea should never be “forced down people’s throats.” He responded that he would ask people at the General Assembly what they thought, and the decision of the students relative to his idea would then become official policy. Koch stated that while being a part of the few people that are possibly elected, he would make sure that if his ideas were supported by the popular vote, he would ensure that they were passed in an orderly fashion, and wouldn’t let the few voices of personal interest shut the advance forward. Victoria simply stated that rejecting an idea in itself isn’t negative at all, it only means that if the popular opinion feels that it simply isn’t worth it. Di Iorio wanted to engage the students in molding ideas that weren’t so perfect, into ideas that would take a return trip in serving the students once again. While calling Keeyan out on his form of “dictatorship”, Stefan uttered that as Keeyan would allow the president to have veto power in certain circumstances: a vote for Keeyan would decrease the ability to let ideas take their free course, while Keeyan thought that it was a procedural matter in getting things done. Anthony also called out Ravanshid, as he stated with assurance that “a vote for Keeyan Ravanshid is a vote for a Keeyan Ravanshid dictatorship.” That issue remained well-discussed throughout the debate, and even more so during the period for questions from the audience, as Eran Stysis, a notoriously implicated student, addressed that very issue on Keeyan’s policy.
The question period was very much stimulating. Eran Stysis, for instance, questioned the numbers that were presented on Keeyan’s platform, alleging the payment of a salary to the VP of Finance, drawn directly from the carryover funds and the interest rates set out in the candidate’s platform. Keeyan rebutted this statement by stating that there was no such payout, but instead a transfer of funds from larger clubs to smaller clubs, who would be able to use the money to increase their presence at Marianopolis. Tristan, a first-year student, also asked a question pertaining to the actual interest of students in the MSU activities. Stefan, having hosted the MSU’s basketball tournament with Nicholas Johnson, felt that activities engulfing the students were what were to be used as an incentive. Anthony, in response, pointed out that students were currently apathetic because a lot of candidates may have initially been motivated by nothing but another bullet point on their CV, while he, once elected, would make it a priority for students to appreciate the role of MSU in their college lives, as he was there for the intrinsic drive, and not for the personal resume achievement.
Although regulated, there were a couple of slingshots thrown left and right during the debate, and even though Anthony Koch and Diana Di Iorio took home the first win of exit polls, voting procedure has now started. Yes, some students may have advocated or endorsed their fellow classmates and their biased opinion may have taken the better side of their judgment, but in the end, it is up to the close to 2000 constituents to decide who will sit at both ends of the oval table next academic year. Candidates appealed to the soft side of the voters, but without a doubt, just like any other political race, each and every one of them has a unique trait which is not as apparent in any other candidate. All that is left for us, the average general R-Score bearing student population, is to select which of those traits will provide us with the best representation. March 28th and 29th are those crucial days. This, dear reader, is your college.
Written by MWR writer Bilal Gomdah and edited by the MWR team