Rector candidates debate in JDUC

Candidates discuss student engagement

Rector debate took place in-person on Mar. 16.

The 38th Rector debate took place on Mar. 16 in the JDUC with all six candidates—Caitlin Sankaran-Wee, ArtSci ’24, Leo Yang, ArtSci ‘25, Sahiba Gulati, ArtSci ’23, William Bruce-Robertson, ArtSci ’25, Emils Matiss, MA ’22, and Owen Crawford-Lem, ArtSci ’23—were present. 

The debate was moderated by Erica Johnson, AMS chief electoral officer, and Laura Devenny, AMS internal affairs secretary. 

There were four rounds of prepared questions followed by one round of audience questions, as well as opening and closing statements.

In his opening remarks, Crawford-Lem highlighted his reason for running.

“I realized that there needs to be more support for students. One of my good friends experienced dramatic events a few weeks ago. I watched him navigate the services that are available to students. There are many in their basket who don’t know where to start,” Crawford-Lem said.

Gulati echoed her personal experience as an ASUS Senator. She said bringing back Orientation Week is essential to increasing student engagement on campus. 

“When it comes to orientation, it has had a very decreasing participation because of the incoming classes not being able to have a regular orientation as previous years [have].”

Matiss promised to use established relationships with university administration to communicate solutions for students. 

“Through my consultations with the principal and vice-provost, and a lot of different Faculty representatives and senators, I feel like I have a good idea of relationships at Queen’s,” Matiss said.

Since the position of rector has been vacant for almost one year, Bruce-Robertson was asked how he’d make up for lost time in the position. 

“In many ways, […] because it's not the AMS president or some other position with a specific portfolio, the Rector can decide what he or she wants to do,” Bruce-Robertson said. 

“I will take a new approach with social media, and—most importantly—talking face to face with people, going to events, consulting with the AMS, and with all the other governments, and also alumni to all of that is key to best representing students,” Bruce-Roberston said. 

During the open question period, a student asked about recent incidents of female students being followed around campus and sexual violence in the community.

Yang said he’d speak with stakeholders like WalkHome and look into developing emergency lights.

In responding to a question about the relationships between the City of Kingston, police, and students being strained, Gulati and Crawford-Lem agreed relationships were reparable.

“Mending the relationship between the City and Kingston community means showing how much good Queen’s University has done for the community. The amount of money donated and paid to charities should be shown,” Gulati said. 

Sankaran-Wee empathized with the concerns of non-student residents of Kingston. If elected Rector, she would focus on harm reduction. 

“Specifically, I would consult with the AMS Social Issues Commissions to see which harm reduction methods they would like to implement first and then provide resources,” Sankaran-Wee said. 

In the final question, candidates were asked by a student how failed commitments to changing campus culture, especially for equity-seeking students, should be addressed. 

“There are a lot of problems when you go in and say, ‘This behaviour is no longer acceptable.’ You will find reactions. An example is in both the Commerce and Engineering Faculties: if you prohibit a behaviour, people will rally around it and say it is a part of the culture. Some of that work is in the [Non-Academic Misconduct] subcommittee,” Matiss said. 

Voting for the rector position will take place on Mar. 20 and 21 for all SGPS and AMS members via a ranked-choice email ballot.

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