Platform similarities prevail at rector debates

Teaching and learning, graduate-undergraduate relationships raised

Candidates take questions from students during Wednesday night’s rector debate.
Image by: Christine Blais
Candidates take questions from students during Wednesday night’s rector debate.

This week’s rector debates underscored similarities between the seven candidates’ platforms; most of their truncated answers to questions posed verged on identical.

The seven rector candidates were limited to 30 seconds per response, giving them a chance to show how they handled themselves under pressure. All the debates centred on the vision of the rector and how he or she will handle the responsibilities and challenges associated with the job representing such a wide range of interests.

The relationship between graduate and undergraduate students took centre stage at Wednesday’s debate as candidates were asked how they would bridge the gap between students at the different levels.

All agreed the rector needs an increased knowledge of the distinct needs of both groups.

They were asked how specifically they would manage the differing views on tuition of OUSA and CFS, the student organizations of which the AMS and the SGPS respectively are members. None of the candidates had a concrete answer. Six of the seven said extensive consultation would be required to arrive at the best solution for both sides. Quynh Huynh said she would separate the two sides.

“They both have different needs, you need to treat them as two different issues.” She said she doesn’t see a major divide between the two groups. “The gap that we see is only at the foremost level between the AMS and the SGPS. At the student level, the graduate students and the undergraduate students are engaged with each other.” Several candidates raised the issue of teaching quality regarding co-operation between graduate and undergraduate students.

“I think it’s really important for us to foster relationships,” Leora Jackson said. “I’d like to see more opportunities for collaborative learning experience.” Jackson said working as a teaching assistant in the math department has given her some idea of the challenges graduate students face in terms of teaching and learning.

Chi Yan Lam said the University should look at rewarding teaching so professors have a greater incentive to improve their skills.

“There’s a great emphasis on research because it brings in money.” He suggested starting research projects looking into the best teaching methods to link the two facets of scholarship.

All the candidates said they saw the job as one of advocacy and information dissemination. They all said they hope students can turn to them when they don’t know where to go.

In Tuesday’s debate in Victoria Hall, six out of the seven said they would use Orientation Week to raise the profile of the rector on campus and make it accessible to first-year students.

“Frosh Week is one of the most underused resources here at Queen’s,” John Wintermeyer said.

Andrew Yaworski said it isn’t enough to be visible.

“The problem with the rector is that it’s not relevant to students under their perspective. We need to engage first-years.”

Audience questions raised issues of alumni relations and fundraising. One student asked candidates if they would lobby for the liquidation of material donations—such as the Rembrandt painting donated by Alfred Bader—to redirect the money.

“I don’t believe in selling culture,” Brooks Barnett said.

Dalke, Lam, Jackson and Yaworski all said they would honour the original wishes of the donor in making the bequest. Huynh said it’s something she would have to discuss with the donor and with members of the University.

When asked if they were willing to commit to holding the position through its official three-year tenure, Wintermeyer, Barnett, Huynh and Yaworski all said they would.

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