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Critique: Jonathon Tonietto’s lack of tuition advocacy

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If nothing else, Jonathon Tonietto has been honest throughout his campaign. The MSU presidential candidate made it clear in his conversation with The Silhouette that he has not spent time analyzing his fellow candidates’ platforms, instead choosing to focus on his own campaign.

Tonietto has also made it clear that he cannot lower tuition. His expanded platform, posted online over the weekend, has a full section on Mac Discount, the introduction to which reads: “Unleash Financial Shackles of Student life: I cannot make the promise of lower tuition but I can lower the cost of student living.” Having been a McMaster student for six years himself, Tonietto is no stranger to the wide range of costs incurred by being a university student.

While Tonietto does address these concerns, through the implementation of a “Marauder Price Cut Card” and a more cost-effective textbook rental program, no component of his platform addresses the elephant in the boardroom. While the current Board of Directors has not promised to lower tuition at McMaster or across the province, the MSU and the Ontario University Student Alliance is in the process of lobbying the provincial government for a tuition freeze.

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According to the current VP (Education) Spencer Nestico-Semianiw, the 2016-17 BoD will need to continue the advocacy initiated by this year’s MSU President and VPs. “Since there will likely be a consultation process for the new framework, it will fall to the new team during the remainder of 2016 and early 2017 to advocate for these changes in the new framework,” he said in an email.

It is concerning to see that for all his talk of maintaining communication between BoDs, Tonietto’s platform lists very few of these initiatives. While the goal of his Mac Flow initiative is to improve this communication, the tuition freeze is mentioned once at the end of his manifesto. In his interview with The Silhouette, Tonietto stated that he had met with five of the six previous MSU presidents, including current President Ehima Osazuwa, whose most buzz-worthy platform point was his commitment to discussing Ontario’s tuition framework. Despite all that research, Tonietto’s inability to conceive of future plans about tuition advocacy leaves a major gap in his platform that speaks to his priorities as a candidate.

Tonietto’s approach to the presidential campaign has been honest, but perhaps to a fault. While it is refreshing to read, and for that matter write about a politician who is not afraid to admit their lack of insight on a topic, Tonietto’s shrug of a response to the ongoing lobbying for lower tuition is one of multiple points he has maintained a neutral position on. He is the only candidate still neutral on the question of electing VPs at large, an issue he says students should be able to make themselves.

Tonietto promises to bring change to the MSU if elected its president and CEO. He claims his perspective, as someone outside the “MSU bubble,” is advantageous to the portfolio he is proposing for the upcoming year. However, it remains to be seen whether he has the expertise on current MSU initiatives to bring the change he wants to see within the Union.

 

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