Debate differentiates candidates

The six rector candidates answered questions from the audience and Twitter in Common Ground on Wednesday

The six candidates discuss the rector’s role at the debate in Common Ground on Wednesday night to a crowd of approximately 65 students. From left to right: David Myers, Asad Chishti, Robyn Laing, Mike Cannon, Nick Francis and Laura Stairs.
The six candidates discuss the rector’s role at the debate in Common Ground on Wednesday night to a crowd of approximately 65 students. From left to right: David Myers, Asad Chishti, Robyn Laing, Mike Cannon, Nick Francis and Laura Stairs.

At Wednesday night’s rector debate, all six candidates agreed that effectively communicating with students is a priority. But each candidate has a different approach in mind.

Candidates Mike Cannon, Asad Chishti, Nick Francis, Robyn Laing, David Myers and Laura Stairs fielded questions from the 65-person audience at Common Ground as well as questions submitted from Twitter.

Mike Cannon

In response to a question on what differentiates the candidates, Cannon said his attitude in dealing with the University makes him unique.

“I’m realistic, I understand that the administration isn’t out to get students,” Cannon, ArtSci ’12, said. “I also acknowledge that we are in a tough financial situation.” While other candidates didn’t prioritize one issue facing Queen’s students, Cannon pinpointed a focus for his campaign. “The greatest issue the rector should deal with is mental health. Not because it’s necessarily the biggest issue, but because it’s the biggest issue not being addressed,” Cannon said.

Asad Chishti
Chishti said he’s able to communicate effectively with students though he’s a second-year with little experience.

“I understand the importance of listening,” Chishti, Sci ’14, said, adding that he has an impartial agenda.

He said his campaign focused on reaching out and connecting with students to give them a voice at the administrative level.

“I’m here for the individuals, I’m here for you,” Chishti said. “You don’t have to like me; I’m okay with just me liking you.” Chishti is currently taking a leave of absence from his position as an assistant photo editor at the Journal until the end of the campaign.

Nick Francis

Francis said his approach to issues is relationship-oriented and very student-involved, which differentiates him from other candidates.

“[A rector] needs to maintain that status as a student but also exist in that professional environment and build relationships with administrators,” Francis, ArtSci ’13, said.

One of the main misconceptions about the position of rector is that the rector is the president of the AMS or SGPS, he said, but in reality the position serves as a transition between elected students and the administration.

“They are not able to man change at a University level, but they are able to motivate change at a University level,” Francis said.

Robyn Laing

It’s a good thing that the rector candidates’ platforms are similar, Laing said.

“It’s demonstrating that we all understand what the rector position is,” she said.

Laing, ArtSci ’11 and MES ’13, said her experience, which includes serving as last year’s Arts and Science Undergraduate Society vice-president, makes her unique.

She said her experience as both an undergraduate and graduate student at Queen’s would allow her to address the needs of all students. She added that she would target disciplines and create issue-specific committees within the rector’s office so that each group was reached.

“You can’t assume that everyone experiences the same things,” Laing said.

David Myers

External experience and professionalism separate Myers from other candidates, he said.

“I’m the only candidate up here in a professional graduate degree program,” Myers, ArtSci ’08 and JD ’13, said. “I’m the only one up here that gets paid to advocate on behalf of people.”

Myers works at a Toronto law firm. He said the culture of alcohol consumption wasn’t just a Queen’s-specific problem.

“What we need to do is educate new students to the school so they know how to do it responsibly and safely,” Myers said, adding that this year’s Frosh Week alcohol ban in residence was a success.

“Health Services has been doing a great job in this and we need to build on those successes.”

Laura Stairs

Last year Stairs was a student with no official title. She said her attempts to facilitate change within the University at the student-at-large level makes her stand out.

“A lot of the interactions with administration, even the AMS at times, made me really angry,” Stairs, ArtSci ’12, said. “But I think I was able to be diplomatic.”

Stairs said equity and diversity were main focuses of her platform, and that she was dismayed no other candidate spoke to the issues.

“A lot of my experience within Queen’s has been actually through the Social Issues Commission,” Stairs said, adding that as rector she would work to make campus safer for all students by working on the issues that have been brought up but not adequately addressed.

— With files from Jordan Ray

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