Monday, January 22, 2007

Debate IV: VP External

Subtitle: Naylor vs. the World

We observed a unique phenomenon at the debate today. Matt Naylor knows a lot, and brought a lot of ideas. As punishment, he had to deal with all the other candidates shooting for him, trying to criticize him and his ideas. They clearly see him as the front-runner. This corner sees a much tighter race.

The opening statements had a theme: CFS, CFS, CFS. All the candidates stressed working with CFS schools, including UBC-O. The also mentioned various other priorities: Naylor a tuition agreement, Tom Masterson student life, Joel Koczwarski the grants program, and Chris Brush the U-Pass. It was fun. But the resounding theme was the CFS. Candidates were asked if they supported CASA takeovers of CFS schools, something Naylor's been accused of. All candidates thought it was stupid. They're right. Attacking the CFS won't work, constructive engagement and working together will. (Eventually.)

This dove-tailed nicely into a discussion of UBC-Okanagan. Chris and Tom expressed the basic "working together" rhetoric, while Naylor spoke specifically on united front lobbying. But Joel Koczwarski's answer was particularly insightful. He rightly pointed out that we have to show UBC-O that we value working with them, and that we're neither a big obnoxious brother, nor a bully, and that we don't look down on them. As a means to that end, he proposed linking student-created groups, working together. We took this to mean clubs, interest groups... this shows he gets it. There's a basic humanity and plan required to work with UBC-O, and Joel showed the depth of understanding of basic human behavior that will be necessary to make the change.

Then, the debate got wonky. When asked for their assessment of the financial aid system, all candidates miraculously agreed that absence of a grants system was its greatest weakness. Joel gets credit for answering first. Tom argued that it hurts the long-term sustainability because people will be less likely to become professors, and Chris Brush argued that tuition should be reduced by applying some funds from the construction and development. (Psst... that's the endowment.) Shortly thereafter, Ryan Corbett asked about a dedicated federal post-secondary transfer to the province. The candidates bullshitted; they had no idea what that meant.

(FYI a dedicated transfer isn't necessarily asking for more money. Right now the feds support Universities by giving $$ to the province, and it's lumped in with other transfer payments. A dedicated one would create a little more accountability, and make it harder to chop money for universities. And no, it's not a constitutional issue... that's how health care runs.)

To wrap up, the candidates were asked what they learned. To their credits, they've all learned a lot. Chris and Tom mentioned Campus 2020, Joel proposed a rent subsidy to lower the costs of student residences (?), and Tom talked about student debt loads and loans. We were left with the distinct impression that none of these candidates has ever seen a student loan before, and that ideas of financial difficulties were largely foreign. (This could be wrong - feel free to correct me, candidates.) Though they'll admit that, it's still slightly troubling for the job. Naylor had the last word, which spun off a discussion of governance at the University... the candidates agreed that BoG reform was required, that students deserved more seats, and they possibly should be elected. We'll discuss this further in another post. It's much wonkier.

Each politician left a distinct impression. Chris Brush was personable, but probably a little behind on the curve (though he's learned a lot). Tom Masterson played up the "I'm relateable and well-rounded" card, and ended on the strange theme of having more fans at football games. We see two distinct front-runners: Naylor and Koczwarski. The former knows his stuff, is a sponge for good ideas (steals them like crazy), and really cares, while the latter learns well, but his strength is relating with people and actually engaging. They're both important. It's a tough call.