QJPolitics: Berkok stays above the fray

David Hadwen is the Journal’s political columnist and will be offering his personal insight on the AMS elections. Hadwen is a fourth-year history student and is not part of the Journal’s Editorial Board. Hadwen’s opinions do not represent those of the Journal.

Thursday night’s Presidential debate was a showcase of three passionate candidates. Whatever deficiencies the vice-presidential candidates had, Queen’s students can rest assured that they will elect a team with a hardworking leader. That being said, the candidates vary greatly in what they bring to the table. The small minority of students who actually vote in AMS elections should keep this fact in mind.

PDA’s Alexander Prescott didn’t disappoint those in attendance who were looking for agitation. A murmur went through the crowd as he deployed yet another rant describing a culture of arrogance in the AMS office. His opening statement contrasted with those made by Troy Sherman of team TNL and Eril Berkok of team BGP, who spoke of the president’s mandate in much more positive terms.

Prescott took an early opportunity to denigrate team TNL’s bridge project. When answering a question about accessibility he implied that the bridge couldn’t be made accessible to those with physical disabilities. Team TNL was visibly frustrated and Troy Sherman responded by rejecting Prescott’s allegation.

The question that followed asked the candidates to describe how they would deal with different stakeholders in their capacity as president. Prescott took the question as an opportunity to deride Sherman’s record as the Municipal Affairs Commissioner. To be specific, Prescott pointedly accused Sherman of having “failed” to defeat the implementation of Kingston’s new one garbage bag policy.

Candidate’s records in AMS positions should be up for debate, and it is to Prescott’s credit that he’s unabashedly critical in an environment calculated to reduce disagreement. However, it’s incumbent on Prescott to establish why his strategy would be better. Rather than offering constructive solutions, Prescott just voiced empty rhetoric about being “professional.”

When asked about the working relationship between the AMS and its member societies, BGP’s Eril Berkok had by far the most impressive answer. He told the audience about being the head of a small faculty and the challenges he faced in that capacity. He reiterated BGP’s deferential managerial style insisting that faculty heads know their constituents best.

Berkok also had the best answer when asked about the institution of a new student fee to pay for an “advancement campaign.” He appropriated PDA’s narrative of reducing the fiscal burden on students and took advantage of the fact that Prescott gave an uncharacteristically weak answer.

Troy Sherman had the most comprehensive response when the candidates were asked about the expansion of off campus housing. It’s clear that he has engaged heavily with this very important issue.

On this night, candidates Troy Sherman and Eril Berkok demonstrated their experience and Alexander Prescott played the critical outsider’s role. PDA’s success depends on convincing voters that there really is something wrong with the AMS and significant reform is necessary to fix it.

If forced to pick a winner I would say that Team BGP’s Eril Berkok won the evening by staying above the fray and presenting himself as a passionate advocate for students from a diversity of faculties and identities.

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.