2022 SU General Election Full Supplement

Photo courtesy Joao Cruz // Unsplash

A recap of the 2021 Gauntlet Presidential Debate held online

By Sophia Lopez, March 2 2021—

The Gauntlet’s annual SU General Election Presidential Debate took place this year on Feb. 25 over Zoom. Candidates Rayane Issa and Nicole Schmidt used this debate as a way to promote their platform initiatives, but left room to ask each other some opposing questions. 

Each candidate briefly discussed their platforms before beginning with questions. Schmidt explained that she is someone who is politically active both in and out of the University of Calgary. She is committed to stopping tuition increases while providing students more opportunities for bursaries and scholarships, along with better mental health resources. Issa gave her views on having “a government and Board of Governors that is out of touch.” Issa explained that she has advocated for students through fighting against tuition increases, and has advocated for accessible infrastructure on campus all while remaining focused on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) and engaging students.

Candidates were offered a response — and a rebuttal — to each question, and they certainly made use of their rebuttals.

When asked what their definition of a diverse, equitable and inclusive campus was, Issa discussed how ensuring accessible and diverse counseling services would provide a more welcoming environment for all.

“I also want to ensure that our campus is truly accessible, not only physically when it comes to infrastructure but also ensuring that it is accessible when it comes to learning,” she added. 

Schmidt recognizes how EDI advocacy is needed more now than ever. 

“Racism and prejudice and hatred and lack of student representation for marginalized individuals on campus manifests itself in a lot of ways [sic],” she said, giving examples such as a lack of student representation in politics and how she believes that is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Schmidt intends to break down any barriers marginalized students have in order for them to be heard. 

“[Students] need to be included in the conversation, you know, we need to welcome them and welcome their voices and their opinions of what needs to be improved in both the SLC and within the university as a whole,” she said.

Issa rebuts Schmidt’s response by asking why EDI advocacy wasn’t a specific goal mentioned in her platform. Schmidt responded by ensuring the audience that equity, diversity and inclusion is an incredibly important issue she cares about. “This is definitely something that needs to be addressed going forward,” she said. “Equity and diversity and inclusion needs to be a part of every single SU position and every single SU individual needs to be aware of that.”

Both candidates express their similar opinion on the implementation of a yes/no vote for acclaimed SU candidates, and that both of them would work towards making this a reality if elected president. As for acclaimed candidates this year, Issa reassures students that she will make sure that students in acclaimed positions will follow through with the promises made on their platform. 

Schmidt quickly questions Issa on the mechanisms she would use to keep acclaimed students accountable. Issa explains how through weekly and monthly meetings, as president, she’d be able to check in and, “to ensure that they are abiding by their promises.” 

This past year, the need for EDI advocacy was at its highest. When asked what was the one thing the SU should’ve done this year, but didn’t, Issa believed that there was not enough EDI advocacy being done. She mentions that this is not the fault of one person, but rather an issue that should’ve been handled better overall. In contrast, Schmidt, for the most part, believed the SU did a great job advocating for students, but commented on the reporting of the Black Lives Matter protests and Black History Month. “The time that it took to respond to the Black Lives Matter protest, as well as the time that it took to post for Black History Month at the beginning of February was too long,” she said. 

Free speech is often a controversial topic, but both candidates make it clear that free speech is something to be grateful for — but has its limitations. Issa expressed her feelings on free speech by explaining how she is from a background where free speech could lead to death in some circumstances, and for this reason, she supports the ability to speak freely as long as it doesn’t cause harm. “Free speech is a right that we should be celebrating in Canada,” said Issa. “It is a right I do celebrate and it is a right that I do honour.” She also touches on how introducing ideas such as anti-racism training can ensure that free speech on campus is done respectfully.

When asked what needs to be fixed in regards to education quality, Schmidt discussed how, if elected president, she’d fight to ensure that the value of university education continues to stay high even as the tuition continues to increase. Schmidt touched on her belief that, “we’ve transitioned to an online learning environment with COVID-19 and they [students] feel that the educational quality has gone down while their tuition has gone up, and I don’t really see that as being fair or as being right or as being justified for students.” Issa completely agreed with her statement.

During the portion of the debate where candidates could ask each other questions, Schmidt asked if Issa was happy with the SU during her time as a Faculty of Arts representative, considering how past SU President Jessica Revington is now Issa’s campaign manager. Issa made it clear that every president learns from one another and that she has, “no problem calling people who are superior to me to have a call of action and ensuring that they are being held accountable for their promises to the student body,” she stated. “And even when I am elected, if I am elected, I have no problem having students from different diverse backgrounds calling me out on my BS when I do commit it.”

“I think not having run for SLC before and not having been an elected representative is an asset,” said Schmidt. “I’m an outsider and I clearly represent student voices and concerns who might not have previously had direct access to SLC or direct consultations with any of the faculty reps or anyone to do with SLC.”

Schmidt went on to question the believability of Issa’s claim that she has done 200 student consultations on campus, and asked how it isn’t in some way a campaign violation of the pre-campaigning bylaws for the SU elections. She states, “Can you tell me clearly how students can trust you to be a part of the Students’ Union and adequately represent them when you don’t seem to be able to follow the basic campaign bylaws?” 

Issa responded to the question by saying how she strongly feels that her student consultations do not count as campaign violations, as she did not mention to the students that she would be running for president. “When I was talking to them, I was talking to them as a student who’s wanting to hear some of the concerns that they might have. Additionally, if you do refer to the policy when it comes to the SU having one-on-one conversations with students privately, it does not contain pre-campaigning and it does not affect the way that you are campaigning.” Issa added that she’s “sorry” Schmidt cannot believe her, but is willing to provide documents and other sources in order to back up her claim. She also states that by having those conversations, she was able to bring their vision forward in her platform. 

Towards the end of the debate, an audience member asked if the candidates supported the implementation of VP Equity or equivalent in the SU. Issa believes that a position as mentioned is not something the SU thinks is essential. “Right now, I don’t think the Students’ Union is ready to have an EDI executive,” she said, while also touching on the fact that an executive role focusing on EDI would not be as beneficial as focusing on the issue as a group.

Schmidt, although similar to Issa, strongly supports a position that focuses on EDI but does, “have some concerns about the tokenization of one person doing all of the EDI work within the Students’ Union,” she said. “I feel very strongly that equity and EDI and inclusiveness needs to be a part of every position within the Students’ Union.”

To end the debate, final statements were made by each candidate. Schmidt believes that the SU has the potential to create meaningful change for students. “I strongly believe that volunteerism, civic engagement and advocacy are the driving forces for creating change and making a positive impact in the lives of university students,” she concluded.

Following Schmidt, Issa made known how she has been advocating for students throughout her whole university degree and will continue to do so. “I know that I have the passion, I know that I have the work that has been done to back me up on everything that I have worked towards,” she explains. “Voting for me is voting for someone who knows what they want, has a plan to get it, and will get it if elected,” she concluded. 

To learn more about the candidates, visit their platforms on the SU website, along with other executive positions and faculty representatives. 

Voting takes place online March 2-4 through your myUofC Student Centre.

Hiring | Staff | Advertising | Contact | PDF version | Archive | Volunteer | SU

The Gauntlet