Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Presidential Platforms: Alex Monegro

After a bit of a delay, Alex Monegro's platform is up and running, and actually looks quite good. The platform outlines some interesting and important points. Below is some analysis of his plans for next year.

The first thing I like about Alex's platform is his approach to issues that are of importance to students- things like hiring/tenure practices, text book prices, and tuition. In some ways, he seems to have realistic expectations of what needs to be done- he doesn't talk about lowering tuition, for instance, but rather about curbing the yearly increases, which I appreciate. He also lays out concrete points that he wishes to pursue in order to achieve his goals, and I feel that his goals are both realistic and achievable. For instance, here's what he has to say about textbook costs:
1. Work with student groups such as IBook Union to create more student driven book exchanges that will decrease book prices to a significantly lower level.

2. Document for students sources of cheaper, used books and learning material in order to decrease the Bookstore’s monopoly on the book market on campus.

3. Demand that the university explain how the high book prices contribute to the student experience on campus.

I quite like the first point- I don't know if it's something that has been looked into previously, but I feel like it's a new idea. The second point and third points I'm not so sure on, however. While I like the idea of providing students with alternatives on where to get their books, I feel like most students already know. Furthermore, there are some things that he seems to lack knowledge of when it comes to the Bookstore- that their general book costs are driven up by classes in which required textbooks are not mass produced, and are therefore expensive. I'm also not sure about the monopoly on the book market- the Village bookstore, while technically not on campus, still provides books and is an alternative. As for the third point, most professors and members of the administration that I've spoken to on the issue are concerned about book costs. I don't want to analyze every point to death, but I think the gist of it is that there are some good ideas and plans that Alex raises in his platform, but I feel that he does lack some knowledge about how things (like the Bookstore) operate. His point on hiring and tenure, for instance, would be a salient one if the university were already not looking at ways to change hiring practices- and they are changing, albeit slowly.

There are some things that, while well-intentioned, I felt were funny (even if they were true). Well, only one thing actually, and it was "Currently many students have to wait ten minutes or more at a bus stop to get on a packed bus." Transit is definitely an important issue, and I am glad that it is addressed in his platform, but I feel like the plan he outlines neglects the problems that Translink is having with its system. When I last talked to a Translink employee, I was told that the problem with people having to wait/not having buses come often enough was caused simply by a lack of buses- that due to the UPass in part, demand exceeded supply. Another idea I liked: mixed-market housing, an approach that I haven't seen mentioned by either of the other candidates.

There are a couple of things I wished I'd see more of, however. I was hoping to see a greater breadth of issues covered- particularly about what happens next year with the Olympics, or what happens if the TAs go on strike when their contracts expire next year. I realize the latter issue hasn't really been talked about at all, but I feel it's one of significant importance. I also would like to see a better understanding of how the AMS works. While some points lay out concrete ideas, other are much more vague or idealistic.

So in overview, my take on platforms is that Blake>Alex>Paul. Blake's platform covers a breadth of issues, and he knows how the AMS works and uses that to his advantage. Alex's also addresses some important issues, but the sense I get from that one is that he lacks the knowledge base, and while he can point out issues concerning students and offer some interesting ideas about ways to address them, he doesn't have the depth of knowledge of the AMS and how it works in order to be able to work to get them achieved. And Paul's is too idealistic for me, and doesn't really lay out concrete plans for how to achieve his goals.