Presidential forum

By Natalie Sit

One hundred students listened to Students’ Union presidential candidates speak about their plans for the future on Mon., Feb. 10. All candidates had ambitious goals, but apathy got universal attention from the field.

“There’s more than 30,000 students on campus, only a select few end up caring,” said Kyle Gould. “I’m that person who’s going to incite people to stop and care.”

Chris Blatch’s idea for reducing apathy among students is to inform both them and members of the community about student issues.

“If they get it from us from more angles, maybe they will get it from the community,” he said. “Every SU has tried to do the same things each year and it’s obvious it’s not working. We’re going to have new ideas which hopefully have more effects than last year.”

Current SU Vice-President Academic and presidential candidate Jayna Gilchrist agreed that the external image of the SU and of students needs attention.

“The problem is that the Calgary media and the campus media don’t stand for students,” she said. “Do you ever see anything written by students? We need to ensure students aren’t seen as whiney. We need to work as a team, we have 30,000 people.”

Candidate Mohamed El-Rafih believes an area lacking attention is undergraduate research.

“I’m all for more research when all students are involved,” he said. “Right now, ten per cent of students are involved in research; 100 per cent are involved in learning.”

Another university’s plan–implementing differential tuition–was an important concern for Gould.

“If nothing else gets done next year, I’m going to stop differential tuition and effect a tuition freeze,” he said.

El-Rafih will also address tuition.

“Tuition is a big problem; who would know I could afford it? I live in the Northeast,” he said to applause. “We want to take this university and have more profit to it and send it to students, send it to classrooms instead of the president’s pockets.”

Blatch agreed that differential tuition was an important issue, and promised to seek help from previously underused sources.

“Why are we appealing to the Liberals and the Tories? They’re the ones in power,” he said. “Why aren’t we going to the [Canadian] Alliance or the NDP whose job it is to point out what’s wrong with our society?”

In response to concerns about the candidates’ effectiveness in lobbying administration, Gilchrist responded from personal experience.

“I’ve already had a run-in with [U of C President] Harvey [Weingarten],” she said. “If you back down, he’ll walk all over you, I won’t back down.”

Blatch believed that in order to affect change with the administration and provincial government, the SU’s image needs to improve.

“I’ll create a dignified SU. I’ll have events that will bring respect to the SU, not childish events,” he said. “If I respect [administration], they’ll respect me.”

At the end of the forum, all candidates promised accountability.

“If I’ve made a mistake or if someone doesn’t like it, come and tell me,” Gilchrist said.

“I solemnly swear that if I misrepresent you 70 people in the audience, you can come up and punch me right in the gut,” said Gould.

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