USC Presidential Debate 2020
Media Credit: Photography and Authoring Contributions by Estella Ren

Presidential Candidates Discuss the Issues that Matter to Students Most

USC Presidential Debate 2020

Shloak Srivastava

Student engagement, environmental sustainability, mental health, and self-reported absences were just a few of the topics addressed at the 2020 Presidential Debate last evening in the UCC Atrium. 

USC Presidential Candidates Matt Reesor, Aleesha Rehill, Victoria Barroso, and Keenen Qin met at the Atrium to highlight each of their platform’s key points, while also debating how they would approach some of the current issues on campus.

Matt Reesor began by addressing the crowd about the power and responsibility the position brings, and how he plans to bring significant change. His vision for the upcoming term has a strong emphasis on addressing housing policies, and adopting new survivor-centric policies to address sexual assault and gender-based violence on campus. 

“Debates like these are an incredible platform to voice our opinion," commented Reesor following the debate. "Some ideas are difficult to write down but can be expressed much better here.” 

Aleesha Rehill answered questions in a very pragmatic manner. She explained how her platform puts emphasis on increasing student engagement, and training Western’s academic staff in a variety of new ways. She talked about anti-oppression training for counsellors and professors, since a lot of negative experiences have been reported by students over the past semester. 

Commenting on how she wishes to inspire future candidates for the upcoming years, she said, “Keep working for it, keep getting involved. But I want to say you should live the experience, learn some more about the campus, find what students are going through, and bridge it all together.”

Victoria Barroso focused on enhancing student engagement, which is one of her key platform pillars, and explained how she will empower students on Western's campus to become a more closely-knit community.

"If there are no students, the USC doesn't exist," remarked Barroso. 

Barroso also raised an interesting point about Purple Fest, a concert held in September to provide a safer alternative to the unsanctioned street parties during Western's 'Fake Homecoming.' She stated that the USC should include performers that appeal to a more diverse audience, and that the USC should look into the artists' backgrounds to ensure their values align with those of the student body, and the University as a whole. 

The candidates applauded Keenen Qin for his determination to recognize and empower the voices of Western's Indigenous community. Although Qin admitted he was never a soph or a councillor, he has been involved in numerous clubs and initiatives around campus that have prepared him to take on the position of USC President.

Qin believes the USC must prioritize Indigenous needs and experiences, and adopt them into Western's larger strategic plan. The candidate also stated that there is a mental health crisis on campus, and improving the mental wellness of students would be one of his first priorities if elected. 

"I'm not a soph, I'm not a councillor, but I definitely feel like I've represented the voice of the people," said Qin after the debate. 

Throughout the debate, all four candidates emphasized the need to increase student engagement, improve safety measures on campus regarding gender-based assault, and advance the current mental health resources available to students.

All candidates had tremendous support from audience members who filled the UCC Atrium last evening, some cheering and applauding after hearing the ideas proposed by each candidate. As the polls open in just over a week, the debate was a great opportunity to meet the candidates and learn more about their platforms. 

 

The annual USC Media Debate, hosted by The Gazette and Radio Western, is next Tuesday at 7:00pm - 9:00pm in the UCC Atrium. 

Polling begins on Feb. 3 at 8:00am, and closes on Feb. 4 at 8:00pm for USC President, Faculty Presidents, and Faculty Councillors. For more information, check out westernvotes.com.