Monday, January 15, 2007

Presidential Forum

This morning marked the first public campaigning of the Elections period, with a Presidential forum in the SUB conversation pit. As per usual, the spectators were outnumbered by candidates, "media", and current execs on their lunch breaks. (Interestingly, only this media outlet and one other had any notable presence at the forum, and questions were more scarce than spectators.)

Regardless, Jeff Friedrich and Maxwell Maxwell put on a legitimate debate. In contrast to previous years, there was actually some intellectual thrust and parry, some clash, some areas where candidates disagreed, sometimes principally.

The tone was set by Maxwell's contention that the AMS is an irrelevant organization. He was shocked and appalled that he was one of only two candidates running for the top job and, had he known that he was the only opposition, he'd have actually learned a thing or two about the Society. (His ignorance was demonstrated by his constant reference to the "four hundred of your dollars" that the AMS "wastes." The bulk of that, as Friedrich points out, goes to the U-Pass and to the Health and Dental plan.)

The theme of disenchantment with the AMS was a constant thread. Friedrich's response largely accepted the premise, but a modified version thereof: the AMS could do better meeting students' needs, but some of it is also a communications issue.

The candidates' differing approaches were noted on several issues:

On UBC Okanagan
Jeff Friedrich: We have to work to get all CFS and CASA schools talking, and get them working together more effectively, as a bridge to UBC-O students.
Maxwell Maxwell: I don't think they're a real university. [At this point he collapsed into a fit of giggles. It wasn't funny.]

On Spending:
MM: Reduce the size of the AMS, reduce exec salaries, stop wasting money. Spend it on parties and cheap beer and things to help student life and have killer parties.
JF: The vast bulk of the AMS spending is on health/dental, and the U-Pass, which do meet student needs. There are ways to reduce spending, though, like streamlining portfolios and engaging more student volunteers.

On Lobbying Priorities:
MM: Stop selling out the campus, to expensive condos and destroying student space.
JF: NSSE results are far below what they should be, and the basic undergraduate experience has been quantitatively shown to be lacking.

Frustratingly, Maxwell Maxwell is clearly a passionate, intelligent, and articulate student, but has an insufficient knowledge base from which to adequately represent students. And while his specific ideas about using the AMS to throw parties might not be practical, he's quite right to suggest that the AMS ought to take a more active role in promoting student life. This corner hopes to see more of Mr. Maxwell (if that is his real name...) involved in these in the future. Dude, if you're reading... stay involved!