MSU Presidential election debate re-cap

Bela Davidson
January 24, 2024
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

This year's MSU presidential debate covered on-campus events, McMaster's AI policies and rising food insecurity in students

On Jan. 23, all four McMaster Students Union presidential candidates engaged in the annual all-candidates debate. The debate was moderated and all questions delivered by the MSU speaker.

Candidates were provided 90 seconds to answer each question and 30 seconds for rebuttal. After delivering opening statements, the candidates were asked how they will work to improve student engagement in their role in the MSU.

Candidate Luca Bernardini discussed his MSU app initaitve, candidate Kevin Hu discussed plans for new on-campus events, candidate Muhammad Ammad Ahsan proposed holding a regular public open office to increase student awareness and engagement, and candidate and current president Jovan Popovic discussed on-campus homecoming and prioritizing MSU clubs and services.

In response to other candidate's comments about current low student engagement, Popovic stated in rebuttal that student attendance to MSU events is being underestimated. In rebuttal, Bernardini disgareed with Popovic's sentiments to increase the quantity of events offered to students and instead work on improving promotion.

Candidates were asked if they feel the current average MSU club budget of $500 is fair.

Popovic stated that he believes clubs are severely underfunded and wishes to increase the budget, while Ahsan and Hu discussed potential for clubs to gain sponsorship or fundraise on their own. Bernardini stated that he believes before discussing funding the MSU must first focus on offering support to clubs.

When asked about current McMaster AI policy, Popovic discussed his advocacy work as a generative AI taskforce member and stated that policies being proposed by the university are too restrictive and put students at risk.

Hu, Ahsan and Bernardini echoed this sentiment in varying capacities, stating that the university should accept AI in the classroom and develop a method for students and professors to work synergistically with the technology.

Candidates were next asked to highlight key components of their own platform. Ahsan discussed his initiative to bridge the university with industrial partners and industrial standards, which will provide opportunity for students to learn hands-on industry skills.

Hu discussed his on-campus food and affordability initiative, stating that hospitality services have a monopoly on on-campus food, adding that current campus food "sucks" and getting more students to come to TwelvEighty bar and grill will force hospitality services to lower prices.

Popovic discussed his own food affordability initiative which would provide free soup and bread to students on-campus in exchange for a $5 increase in student fees. Bernardini again discussed his MSU app initiative, which will consolidate all relevant MSU information and will launch Sept. 2024, if he is elected.

When asked to discuss which points of another candidate's platform they are most critical of, both Bernardini and Popovic addressed Ahsan's platform as a whole, stating that it is vague, unclear and lacks consultations with the appropriate stakeholders.

Hu stated that all platforms have been impressive to him, however he has general financial feasibility concerns for the plans of others.

Ahsan first addressed Popovic's proposed on-campus homecoming initiative, stating "it isn't enough, you got to also make it bigger and better". Ahsan then offered an idea for Bernardini's app. Bernardini thanked Ahsan during his answer period.

Candidates were asked to comment on how they will engage with the Ontario provincial government and deal with student advocacy matters. Bernardini discussed mental health advocacy and proposed creating a peer support service.

Popovic discussed the university tuition cap instated by the provincial government and promised to continue advocating for the maintenance of this policy. Hu generally discussed the high cost of living for students. Ahsan discussed taking a student-centred approach to advocacy and pushed for student voter turnout.

In rebuttal, Bernardini corrected Ahsan in his statement that 22,000 students are in the MSU, stating there are actually 27,000. Ahsan subsequently thanked Bernardini for this correction.

Topics brought up in debate not discussed in this article include the Nuisance Party Bylaw, on-campus safety, increasing additional costs to post-secondary education and Greek life.

For more information, visit the livestreamed MSU presidential debate on the MSU elections Facebook.

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