Hallways and classrooms across campus are filled with discussions on how best to combat student apathy and increase student engagement — at least in the hallways frequented by candidates for the Students’ Union. The promise to get students more engaged makes its way into the vast majority of candidates’ platforms. Unfortunately, ideas on how to actually go about doing this often remain vague and trapped as ideas. This is why the SU’s decision to cut short Monday’s forum for the presidential candidates was so disappointing.
The forum included the four presidential candidates (and joke candidate Supercow), who weregrilled by current SU president Raphael Jacob and members of the audience. All the seats in MacHall’s South Courtyard were filled and students crowded around the edge to watch. During the event, Jacob promised that after the hour-long forum ended the candidates would take more questions from the audience. After closing statements, the candidates agreed to stick around for more discussion. However, as a student was about to ask her question, vice-president external Conner Brown motioned from the side to end the event. The forum ended abruptly with students lined up to ask questions and the space still packed with onlookers.
The presidential forum is one of the few ways in which students can engage with candidates rather than gazing at obnoxious posters plastered around campus. It is ridiculous to deny students a chance to ask and listen to more questions when we have been told time and time again that SU leaders will increase student engagement.
Presumably the questions were cut short because the candidate forum for the arts representatives was scheduled to take place an hour after the end of the presidential forum. Regardless, the setup for this event entailed adding more chairs to the stage, a project that took about 10 minutes. That would have left at least another half hour of time for eager students to bring forward issues that mattered to them.
All parties concerned had an interest in seeing the event go on. Why the forum came to such an abrupt end is a mystery. Although there seemed to be nothing sinister in Brown’s call to end the discussion, it is clear that whoever made the decision had forgotten about the SU’s commitment to engage with students. Not often does an SU event of this kind attract such a large crowd, so it’s a shame they neglected to pursue the opportunity further.