MSU Presidential Candidate Platform Critique: Jialiang (Kevin) Hu
Hu proposes many different ideas to enhance student life around campus but he falls short on the specific details relevant to carrying out his ideas
McMaster Students Union presidential candidate Jialiang (Kevin) Hu's campaign proposes ways to enhance student life and engagement. However, Hu did not account for the financial feasibility of these ideas and he did not consult with the services he directly referenced in his campaign about their ability to participate in his initiatives.
Hosting events before, during and after McMaster sports games
One of Hu's primary platforms proposes hosting events leading up to, during and after McMaster University sports games. Hu mentioned serving alcoholic beverages on-campus before the games and hosting a beer garden.
When asked about the feasibility and if this was permissible by current university standards, Hu shared that he consulted with McMaster Hospitality Services and he was informed that with proper staff training, alcohol could be served to students.
The Silhouette reached out to Chris Roberts, director of hospitality services, who shared that although Hu's idea for serving alcohol was discussed, the specific mention of the beer garden as stated on his campaign website was not.
Improvements to MSU food services
In his written platform, Hu discusses improvements to MSU food services. His goal is to amend menus to be more accommodating to dietary restrictions and for menus to serve more authentic cultural food. He also emphasized the importance of low price food options to be accessible to students.
However, Hu does not mention how he will lower food prices while still ensuring adequate pay for MSU food and beverage staff. Hu also does not discuss in his platform whether staff training for his cultural food menu implementation will be paid or unpaid.
In an interview with the Silhouette, Hu explained lowering menu prices would result in greater sales, which should maintain profit for the service. He did not present any research corroborating the likelihood of this outcome nor did he provide a contingency plan if sales do not increase.
Hu noted in his written platform that he plans to host a cultural fair, which would involve cultural performances and food. Hu shared that La Piazza and Centro would serve cultural dishes and host some of the fair. Hu explained that this idea was suggested on the basis that La Piazza and Centro currently have a number of cultural dishes, with specific restaurants designed to serve them on a rotating basis.
Ultimately, there is a question of feasibility as the space cannot be rented by any other group on campus, including the MSU. This aspect of the event would only be feasible through collaboration with Hospitality Services. Additionally, despite Hu's focus elsewhere in his platform on promoting MSU owned food services, he doesn't seem interested in utilizing these spaces for the cultural fair.
Reorganizing university departments
In the advocacy section of his platform, he proposed moving both McMaster Hospitality Services and Housing and Conferences Services under the department of Student Affairs. Hu explained the reason for this change is in an attempt to save money for his food affordability initiative.
"That is quite a big issue because now [Hospitality Services] are treated by the university as a profit-generating unit. Meaning that the priority is no longer to serve good, healthy, and affordable food to our students. It's more to generate profits for the university," said Hu.
However, in his interview with the Silhouette, Hu shared that he was unsure if the university would indeed be willing to relocate entire departments, rather specific sections. It is also worth nothing that the MSU is a separately incorporated entity from McMaster University and as such, an MSU President doesn't have the power to restructure the university. The President's portfolio does include lobbying the university to make changes; however, they cannot make the change themselves.
Further, in an email to the Silhouette, Roberts also reaffirmedae45 that such a large department transition is not in the hands of the MSU president.
“We discussed that Hospitality previously reported to student affairs and then shifted to financial affairs back in 2014. There is no plan for the university to move it back to student affairs. This would not be a decision for an MSU President to make. Kevin can raise the question with the university administration, but it is a decision that would not be made easily or one that would ever be done quickly,” said Roberts, in his email to the Silhouette.
When discussing how he plans to finance his proposed initiatives, including a gaming station with expensive equipment, Hu shared in his interview with the Silhouette that whatever does not fall within the MSU or university budget will be funded by sponsorships. Hu explained that other universities are sponsored by companies such as Dell or Apple to make these initiatives feasible. However, Hu fails to offer contingency plans for what would happen if such sponsorships were not secured. It is also worth noting that in 2021, the student representative assembly passed a motion that included the MSU continuing to refrain purchasing from Dell, among other companies, as part of equitable purchasing initiative.
Overall, Kevin Hu’s platform attempts to enrich student life through creative community events. Many of these ideas though have been proven infeasible and his platform would have benefited from further research, discussion with current MSU and McMaster staff as well as discussion of a more secure means of funding.
Voting for the MSU presidential election takes place from Jan. 23 to Jan. 25 using the Simply Voting platform. More information about the election can be found on the MSU Elections website.