Last night’s informal debate at TwelvEighty offered a look at how the candidates stand out in a crowd, but it wasn’t the night for tough questions or head-to-heads.
Personalities and common goals emerged early in the hour-long panel talk, which allowed candidates who have fallen under the radar to share the floor with the frontrunners.
Haman Man, who has kept the lowest profile since announcing his candidacy, opened with a light-hearted joke. His demeanour was easygoing, but he was serious about his wide-ranging platform, from improved accessibility to students representing the MSU in parliament.
FYI, his posters are coming soon, and they’ll have Braille on them.
He sat next to Dan Fahey, who got riled up about campus food prices, tuition and book fees.
“We need more space in the libraries, but we also need some bloody books!” said Fahey.
Fahey’s answers weren’t as specific as other candidates. He spoke about the need for “students to take power into their own hands” and his fond impressions of McMaster’s student body as an exchange student, but didn’t elaborate much on his platform.
“I’ve got a lot of experience at my students union back home, and I wanted to bring some ideas here,” he said.
“I want to give back to McMaster and Hamilton, which I’ve really enjoyed so much.”
Rory Yendt, sitting at one end of the panel, took the most straightforward approach and focused more on explaining his platform than engaging with the audience. He was the most insistent on fiscal transparency.
“Students should have a say in all financial matters in the MSU, not leave it to the SRA,” said Yendt, who proposes that referenda be held in every case that student funds will be spent.
Yendt’s tone was less enthusiastic compared to others’ and it seemed at times as if he were ready to give up.
“Win or lose, I’m happy about it,” he said, referring to the result of the race.
The candidates seemed collegial and for the most part attentive to each other’s ideas. They each gave opening and closing statements, and responded separately to four questions.
The questions were easy to anticipate: What’s your vision for the MSU? Why did you choose your campaign slogan, colour and theme? What would you do during your first month in office? What can we expect from your campaign in the next eight days?
David Campbell had a consistently confident voice, and emphasized his experience on the MSU’s board of directors in his answers.
“I’ve heard people saying the MSU provides advocacy and services, but there’s a third element that’s left out,” he said. “It’s also about building community and campus tradition at our school.”
Jacob Brodka had an uplifting and charismatic tone. He expressed that he wants to make the MSU “fun and relevant again.”
Brodka chose to start his opening statement with “a shout-out to Huzaifa Saeed and Siobhan Stewart,” current VP (Education) and President of the MSU.
He then referenced Matthew Dillon-Leitch, President during 2011-12, and agreed with his point that “we need to invest in student ideas.”
Dowdall had a more job-interview tone when he talked about his experience as part-time manager of SWHAT and a teaching assistant. He then switched over to a more family-centred tone.
“I developed a group of friends that became my family,” he said. “My campaign is run with family here supporting me.”
More than once, Emmanuel broke out of his ‘space maroon emperor’ character, which was becoming repetitive after a few rounds of questions.
“I hope everyone’s aware that I’m running a joke campaign,” he said toward the end, getting a laugh out of the crowd.
He reassured the audience: “If I somehow get elected to office, I’ll do what needs to be done.”
The presidential pub night was a get-to-know-the-candidates event in advance of a more formal debate hosted by the MSU’s election department on Jan. 29, the same day polls open.
Here’s a line from each candidate’s closing statement, in order of speaking:
“It’s all about taking the engineering approach to the MSU.”
“Don’t vote for fancy slogans, vote for ideas. Don’t vote for change, vote for movements.”
“You are a very small minority of this institution – all of you are going to vote. You guys here, you’ve come out. Get as many people as you can to vote.”
“Regardless of who you support, you support the space maroon empire in the end.”
“We have seven fantastic candidates. We’ve come up with innovative ideas and we want to hear what you have to say. Come talk to us.”
“There’s a lot of opportunity for what we can do next year. I’m looking forward to seeing more of you next week.”
“I think what’s incredible about an election is that we’re turning students attention to it. We’re really looking forward to getting your feedback.
McMaster is more than just a school for James Dowdall; it’s a family. Dowdall, who hails from Calgary, calls his first-year roommates “brothers” and his circle of friends a “family away from home.” And it’s clear he wants McMaster students to feel the same way.
“For a lot of students, it’s intimidating to get involved in the MSU. It’s scary,” he said. “It’s about trying to make that personal connection so students can feel welcome in the MSU.”
When Dowdall sat down with the Silhouette, he spoke freely about his time at McMaster, choosing his degree and everything from his high school experiences to his passion for baking and for animals. It’s a small but vital indicator of what his interactions could be with students at large.
In his platform, Dowdall identifies a number of issues that are clearly important to students – study space, mental health issues and off-campus housing, to name a few. His platform points resonate with a broad range of people at McMaster.
But in his keenness to cater to everyone, Dowdall’s platform lacks cohesion. His campaign, run under the slogan of “I will be that president” is enthusiastic, but has no central brand that students can easily identify. His twelve distinct proposals, categorized under four main pillars, would make for a hefty presidential workload at best.
Although in his fourth year at Mac, Dowdall doesn’t have the student government experience that presidential candidates conventionally do. He began with the MSU as a poll clerk, and worked his way up to becoming the part-time manager of SWHAT. But the absence of an SRA position doesn’t strike him as a problem.
“I began to realize that experience doesn’t make a candidate; there’s a leadership aspect to being president,” he said. “I realized I [have] the skills to be president, and more than that I [have] ideas that could really help develop students.”
Facebook: Elect Jacob Brodka for MSU President
Video 1: BRODKA 2013: UP FROM HERE
Video 2: BRODKA 2013: Our Platform (see the BRODKA2013 channel for other platform videos)
Headquarters: Student Centre, on the balcony to the left of the entrance from the arts quad
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Facebook: Elect David Campbell for MSU President
Video: Vote David Campbell for MSU President
More Video: See David's channel for videos related to his platform
Headquarters: Student Centre, next to Booster Juice
[youtube id="giPTvOpvghU" width="620" height="360"]
Facebook: Elect James Dowdall for MSU President
Video: It's Time - James Dowdall, MSU President 2013
Headquarters: Student Centre, a table near the front entrance
[youtube id="cTPgcfpFkYs" width="620" height="360"]
[youtube id="NsmQhQRLZqA" width="620" height="360"]
Headquarters: Student Centre, outside of Union Market
Campaigning for MSU president officially began at noon on Sunday, but not all of the seven candidates emerged at full force.
Jacob Brodka, David Campbell and James Dowdall wasted little time in launching their online and on-campus campaigns. Each lagged in certain areas, but generally appear to be frontrunners early in the race for the students union's top job.
Rory Yendt had some information on Facebook and was working on a website for most of Sunday, and then launched in the evening. Dan Fahey was still working on a campaign launch at the time, and little had been heard from Haman Man. Adrian Emmanuel began building his joke candidacy with a Facebook page and video.
The important campaigning won't really begin until Monday morning for the candidates, so there's still time for Emmanuel, Fahey, Man and Yendt to catch up on making a good first impression.
Here's our take on who won day one.
Winner: Jacob Brodka
James Dowdall and Jacob Brodka launched live sites almost immediately, but Brodka's was stronger in design and content, except that his platform was only available in video form. Campbell's wasn't up until late sunday evening. Rory Yendt's site launched at around 8:30 p.m.
Winner: David Campbell
Campbell, with the help of his team and supporters, vaulted ahead of the pack in Facebook likes and was getting a lot of Twitter buzz. He was up over 300 likes by dinnertime on Sunday, and kept his feed interesting with photos from his video shoot.
Winner: Jacob Brodka
Dowdall and Brodka launched videos right away. Brodka's got significantly more traffic, and was generally well-produced. In addition to his main video, Brodka launched another, interactive series of videos that contained his platform points. Campbell waited until 8 p.m. to launch a video after teasing it throughout the day. Campbell's video took a similar, light-hearted tone to Brodka's original video, featuring candidate and team having fun to upbeat music.
Winner: Brodka and Campbell
Being the only two candidates to begin setting up spots in the student centre when campaigning began, Brodka and Campbell get a tie in this catergory. Campus was quiet on Sunday, but both were surrounded by their teams and colours, preparing for the week ahead. James Dowdall's team was also putting up posters, but chose not to set up a headquarters in MUSC so as not to take up space in an already congested area.
Seven candidates will compete for 2013-14 presidency of the McMaster Students Union.
Second-year Life Science
Current MSU Vice-President (Administration)
Fourth-year Math and Statistics
Fourth-year Life Science
Third-year Integrated Science
Candidates are not permitted to officially begin their campaigns until Sunday, Jan. 20 at noon, at which time they're expected to launch websites, put up posters and set up their campaign headquarters.
Voting will run from Jan. 29 to Jan. 31. The winner will take office on May 1 for a one-year, full-time post as the MSU's CEO.