Election Watch 2014: Chris and Bem grade the candidates’ platforms
*Disclaimer: The thoughts and opinions of Chris Walker and Bem Debebe do not reflect the opinions of The Cord’s editor-in-chief, staff and publisher. Simply said — this is not The Cord’s endorsement. *
Andres Melendez – 2
Melendez’ platform was not only difficult to read, but also looked like a continuous rant that did not seem to have a proper ending. It was tough to try and decipher what were actionable goals and vision statements. There were three pillars, which vaguely outlined what the paragraphs were about however; they did not seem to corral the ideas into those specific ideas. Overall the score of two seemed fair to us since there was an attempt organize. However, it was poorly executed.
Justin Tabakian – 3
It seems Tabakian and his team tried to make this platform readable but it does not exactly ‘wow’ when it comes to layout. It’s awkwardly short and packed and doesn’t flow at all. He packs on the text and explanations behind why he wants to change things but not to the degree of Lambert and Melendez. However, it really takes away from what you want to do. Platforms need to be clear, to the point and concise and this platform does not follow that mode. Although there were drawbacks, the clearly labeled headings and ideas made the platform at the very least readable. Tabakian was given a three since he showed an ability to discern what he actually wants to do with why he wants to do it.
Chandler Joliffe – 5
The Joliffe team took the prize in this category scoring a five. The five was justified due to an effective and clear platform layout online, which is organized not only by issue but also by campus, advocacy, and operations. He didn’t dabble in reasons as to why, he just got down to brass tacks and made sure that the voter knew what he wanted to get down for them.
Sam Lambert – 2
Sam Lambert’s platform, I must say this was a difficult one. This platform is visually pleasing on some degrees. The font choice is nice and obviously there are some talented people working on it. However, in the aesthetic department it needs to be said that red and white are very abrasive colors and can be difficult to read.
The layout was interesting since it was written in a style that platforms are not usually written in. Typically, the reason behind an act that is a platform is self-evident and is unnecessary filler. It adds a background that detracts from what the actual act is. This layout really hurt Lambert and took away from other ideas and seems to have been implemented to beef up a platform that content-wise, is lacking. The rating of two was given because let’s be real, you can put lipstick on a pig, but at the end of the day it’s still a pig and this platform definitely didn’t impress.
– Bem Debebe
Research & Awareness – This category measures the platforms on how well they demonstrate their knowledge of the role of president & CEO and if they have talked to the right people to back up their platform. We also spoke to the current Students’ Union management team to find out who has reached out to them, which in result helped to influence our ranking.
There is little to no evidence of any research in his platform. Melendez at one point references a mental health related grant that Laurier received regarding, but this is largely public knowledge. Melendez does not demonstrate that he talked to anyone either currently involved in the Students’ Union or the university to help him develop his platform.
Tabakian shows impressive knowledge about the ideas he has put forward by referencing many of the people he has talked to and the ongoing projects that relate to his platform. This includes the Integrated Laurier App and Bikeshare where he speaks to the ongoing progress on these initiatives and his plans to support them as president.
With the largest platform of all the candidates, Joliffe covers a lot of ground and demonstrates his knowledge of the scope of the office of president & CEO. While he does not explicitly reference much research, many of his ideas are consistent with ongoing initiatives of the Students’ Union such as reforming the budgeting process to make it more transparent, instituting full-year breaker positions, or establishing faculty associations instead of costly program associations on the Brantford Campus. However, it should be noted that Joliffe referenced the cost of the Student Lifeline to be $75,000 when in actuality the cost to the Students’ Union is $19,614 as referenced in the November 22 report to the Board of Directors found here https://www.dropbox.com/s/50zly1cvq05rvj9/November%2022nd%20Agenda.pdf.
Lambert’s platform lacks significant research on the current status of the Students’ Union’s current financial situation as it pertains to his point “Financial Situation” and to the Brantford Campus. Additionally, his promise to create a “Comprehensive Student Success Task Force” is in many ways a direct duplication of many other committees that already exist at Laurier such as the First Year Experience Task Force, the Senate Committee on University Teaching, the Teaching and Learning Council and countless others. Furthermore, his ideas lack depth as he focuses a lot on relationships without demonstrating a clear understanding of the goals they are designed to achieve.
– Chris Walker
Responsiveness to major issues facing students – Candidates must display a knowledge of what big ticket items students are dealing with in a day-to-day basis. These issues encompass many different areas and require numerous policy and advocacy objectives.
Andres Melendez – 3
Melendez received a three in this category. Although he looked at fringe groups at Laurier, he didn’t talk about anything pertaining to the average student here. It is admirable to bring others who are not typically represented at Laurier, especially marginalized groups. However, there needs to be something for everyone in these platforms and in that regard Melendez did not deliver.
Tabakian brings up a fair amount of issues, however he only slightly touches on issues that students face to day-to-day. He also did not actually come up with ideas that were his own. He cites many different points in his platform that are being implemented by the Students’ Union and by the university in the coming years. He does bring up great supplementary issues that are great for embellishing a platform. But I don’t want a bunch of apps for dinner. I want a four-course meal and Tabakian didn’t serve it up on the big student issues
Chandler really gave it his all when it came to looking at students and what they are facing. He addresses a ton of issues for the Students’ Union however, he did not receive a five since he looked at his platform looked at the operational side of the union and improving its internal performance and not so much your day to day, run of the mill student. Chandler received a four for his efforts and leads the pack in this section.
Lambert scored a three due to his mentioning of student budgeting plans. The initiative is a great way to engage the students who are dealing with financial issues (who isn’t these days). On the financial front, Lambert is king. However, pertaining to mental health and other important big-ticket items, there seemed to be a lack of information.
– Bem Debebe
Feasibility & Quality – This category measures the how achievable the platforms are and an assessment of how good they really are for the Students’ Union or students at large based on past attempts of similar ideas.
Because there are very few items actually in his platform, it is difficult to assess how feasible Melendez’s ideas really are. However, he does speak quite a bit about reaching out to minority groups which is both feasible and generally a good idea to increase engagement which has not been a strong priority of many recent administrations.
Many of the ideas in Tabakian’s platform can be easily implemented such as the “Terrace Patio and Green Space” or “Bikeshare.” Additionally, these are good ideas that could increase study space and access to transportation during the fall, spring, and summer months. However, the “Weekly On-Campus Availability” idea has not been successful in the past for presidents and directors on the board who have tried this. In most cases, students have not utilized the availability of student leaders to address their concerns and therefore it proved that the time of the president and directors was better spent doing work on behalf of students. There are simply more effective ways of hearing student concerns.
A major concern for Joliffe’s platform is that because it is so big, it is unlikely that he will be able to accomplish it all in one year. It is also difficult to transition projects or priorities to future presidents because they come in with their own ideas and priorities which may not align. Although many of the ideas in Joliffe’s “Advocacy” section will be popular to many students, many of them have been pursued already with minimal success such as the “rollover of all OneCard money from year to year” or “24-hour access to the Library during the entire Fall/Winter Semester.” These ideas have been pursued by the Students’ Union for three years in a row with a few concessions such as longer hours in the library during peak times. However, it is advisable to focus on other advocacy priorities which have a greater chance of success. Strength of Joliffe’s platform in this category is his focus on the Students’ Union services to better engage and provide more value for students. Because the services are completely controlled by the Students’ Union, these ideas are well within the president’s control.
Although many of Lambert’s ideas are feasible, they are not always the best way to address the problem he is focussing on. In “Communication,” Lambert proposes the idea of weekly VLOGs from the Students’ Union Management Team to inform students about ongoing operations. While this idea has good intentions, it does not capitalize on the success of this year’s social media to engage students on specific issues of interest. VLOGs are potentially time consuming and only promote one-way communication which is already serviced by many other mediums such as the Students’ Union, the LCD TVs, and existing social media channels. Furthermore, Lambert’s idea to return to interviews for Students’ Union hiring is no longer feasible due to the sheer volume of applications and positions to be filled. Gradual improvements to current Students’ Union systems and processes should always be a priority of any candidate, but reversion to past practices can cause the Union to encounter past problems. Lambert’s strength in this area however, is his focus on enhancing the training of volunteers to provide peer support in appropriate situations.
– Chris Walker
Scope – the reach and resonance an reach of a platform with voters. Platforms must possess policies that affect not just the voters but the student body at large.
Justin Tabakian – 3
Tabakian was given a three due to the variety of ideas he wished to implement. Although these issues are not common nor are they original, a large reach of students would be affected by them and could see benefits if he implemented them. His platform adequately looks at a number of different initiatives that are used by a number of different students.
Chandler Joliffe – 5
Chandler received a five in this category due to his effective reach and understanding of student issues. He went about it by putting forward ideas that improve the current system structures and processes and using what the Students’ Union already has in its possession to make itself better. He leads the group in this section as well.
Sam Lambert – 2
Lambert received a two in scope since although he covered some ground, it was done in a way that was superficial and didn’t delve into the deeper issues surrounding what he touches on. He did not receive a higher mark since most of his platform is centered on issues that either students will not use or issues that are not geared to the average student at Laurier. The mention of financial advice is great for students, however there are so many other issues pertaining to students that were not acknowledged.
– Bem Debebe
Innovative and Original Ideas – This category measures how innovate or creative the platforms are according to what has been done in the past, what is currently being done, and what is an area of focus that is relevant but different from other candidates. It should be noted that just because an idea may not be new does not necessarily mean that it isn’t a good idea.
With diversity being a focus of his platform, Melendez brings up an issue that is not addressed by any other candidate. However, he lacks the specificity to strongly gauge what new ideas he will bring to the role of president & CEO.
Many of Tabakian’s ideas have either been tried by past presidents or are already underway. His support of many of the ongoing projects is appreciated, but he offers few new ideas that are distinctly his own. Ongoing projects such as Bikeshare and the Laurier App are currently underway, his plan to have office hours in common areas which has already been tried unsuccessfully make his platform almost void of originality. Although perhaps not a major pressing student issue, his general focus on environmentally friendly projects are a change of pace from many platforms.
Being the largest of the platforms, Joliffe talks about many issues that are not covered by his fellow candidates or that are current priorities. Although ongoing improvement to programming and services has happened under successive Vice Presidents who manage that portfolio, there has rarely been this level of attention or dedication from the presidential candidates to enhance value for students. Additionally, Joliffe’s focus on faculty associations including the implementation of elected presidents (although potentially controversial) is different from this and past Students’ Union elections. Conversely, even though Joliffe’s advocacy goals of “access to classrooms in central academic buildings” and “allowing for book lists and exam schedules” to be available earlier in the year are not without merit, they have been covered and discussed at great length before.
Lambert offers a small platform that offers few tangible new ideas, but his areas of focus on student success and student financial distress are admirable. No other candidate talks explicitly about financial services for students which is one of the major causes of stress according to the winter 2013 survey completed by the Students’ Union. Additionally, no other candidate explicitly talks about student success as it pertains to academics. However, Lambert’s idea for student success lacks enough specificity and could conceivably create a redundant committee. Lambert’s focus on Residence Life is not a new idea to presidential platforms. In recent years, Residence Life and the Students’ Union have diversified their mandates to the point that a partnership is no longer necessary or desired. The Students’ Union is committed to advocacy, services and programming while Residence Life has become focused on academics and student wellness.
– Chris Walker
|Research & Awareness||15||4||4||2||1|
|Feasibility & Quality||20||3||4||2||2|
|Innovative & Original Ideas||15||4||2||3||1|