ASUS Executive debate recap

Candidates sound off on consulting students and shifting campus culture

Team David and Matt.
Team Chris and Taylor.
ASUS executive candidates faced off in an open debate on Thursday for their final discussion ahead of elections on Jan. 28 and 29.
Team David and Matt and Team Chris and Taylor had the opportunity to discuss their platforms and make their case to voters in the Lower Ceilidh of the JDUC on Jan. 23.
Team David and Matt consists of presidential candidate David Niddam-Dent, ArtSci ‘22, and vice-presidential candidate Matt D’Alessandro, ArtSci ‘22.
Team Chris and Taylor consists of presidential candidate Chris Yuen, ArtSci ‘21, and vice-presidential candidate Taylor Magee, ArtSci ‘21.
In the debate, candidates responded to a number of questions related to their platforms and campaigns, including leadership style, financial accessibility, equity, and student wellness. 
Chown Hall
When asked about how they plan to change campus culture in the aftermath of the racist and homophobic Chown Hall incident last October, Magee called the incident “unfortunate” and said that as a queer student, it greatly impacted her. 
“The best way to address these incidences is to start with a consultation to see how students are feeling, what they feel the best way to address these issues are,” she said. 
Team Chris and Taylor said they would use that information to create policies and events that promote inclusivity on campus, so that they can create “a safe and respectful environment for all students.”
“We want all students to be aware of their positionalities and their privileges,” Magee said.
D’Alessandro said that as a queer student at Queen’s, the incident “was really hard to see,” but he believes Team David and Matt’s platform is designed to support all students, including those from marginalized communities.
He mentioned their desire to create an Equity Director, which would operate within the Equity Commission to ensure that ASUS is an equitable society. 
Niddam-Dent added the team wants to make equity and cultural sensitivity training available on campus in the same way that bystander training is currently available. 
“We need a broader cultural change in order to stop that from happening [again],” Niddam-Dent said.
Financial Accessibility
When asked about their ability to manage the ASUS budget, approximately 1.2 million, both teams stressed the importance of financial accessibility.
“As someone who relies on OSAP, financial accessibility is important,” Magee said. Team Chris and Taylor proposed a non-mandatory $0.50 fee increase for ASUS, as well as shifting the budgets between different commissions. 
D’Alessandro said Team David and Matt are going to advocate for a Worker’s Academic Credit to make Queen’s more financially accessible to students. This initiative will allow students who are working alongside their degrees to declare three credits per semester as pass or fail.
At this suggestion, Yuen asked whether Team David and Matt had considered the impact of this credit on students applying for master’s programs and professional schools, which might not accept those credits as valid. 
Niddam-Dent said they understand Yuen’s concern and are planning to educate students on the program’s limitations, acknowledging that some students will not be able to take advantage of [it].
“We don’t think it takes away from the advantage it provides to all the other students,” he said.
Student Wellness and Academic Support
Both teams were asked to identify the biggest issues raised by students over the course of campaign week and explain their plan for addressing it.
For Team Chris and Taylor, Yuen said that students are concerned about the availability of academic support within ASUS. 
They want to streamline the student’s experience from the moment they are accepted to their last day here at Queen’s, identifying course selection and the process for graduation as some possible areas for improvement.
“We believe the information is out there, but it’s not presentable in the most simplistic way,” Yuen said.
Niddam-Dent said Team David and Matt identified a number of issues, including the fall term break and sexual violence prevention and response. However, he highlighted student wellness as one of the biggest issues on campus.
“The University has recognized this issue, but there’s still more work to be done,” he said. “We think it’s really important that, as a student government, we’re able to foster wellness within the Arts and Science community.”
Eligible voters for ASUS elections will cast their ballots on Jan. 28 to 29.

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