C/O MSU Elections
The two candidates in the MSU presidential election clash over different approaches to advocacy
On Jan. 21, McMaster Students Union presidential candidates Simranjeet Singh and Denver Della-Vedova engaged in a two-hour long debate, in which they each responded to several questions pertaining to their platforms and the biggest issues on campus right now.
In his opening statements, Della-Vedova expressed that he wants students to experience a better transition to in-person learning than the one they experienced this year. Additionally, he introduced the three main pillars of his platform: amplifying voices, student stability and keeping momentum.
In Singh’s opening statements, he emphasized that his campaign is inspired by research and he introduced the five themes of his platform: building a more supportive student wellness institution, stronger Hamilton community, environmental sustainability, equitable education and career development.
The candidates then went on to discuss several issues that are important to McMaster students right now. They were asked directly about how their platforms tackled issues such as environmental sustainability, student mental health and student expenses. The candidates were also asked several more general questions about how their platforms and styles of advocacy would benefit the student body.
Regarding environmental sustainability, both Della-Vedova and Singh expressed that McMaster could be doing more for sustainability.
Della-Vedova suggested offering more eco-friendly food packaging on campus and collaborating with student-driven environmental initiatives, stressing the feasibility of these targets.
Singh also supported a reusable container program; however, Singh’s approach to environmental sustainability focused more on implementing auditing initiatives regarding McMaster’s waste management and educating students about sustainable waste management.
Singh and Della-Vedova clashed over the need for waste management audits. Singh stated that, due to COVID-19, much has likely changed since the last audit in 2019 and that a key role of the MSU is to fill gaps in the university’s knowledge. Della-Vedova, on the other hand, argued that data from 2019 is still quite recent and because of temporary changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new audit may yield less reliable data.
Regarding student mental health, Singh and Della-Vedova were in agreement about the seriousness of this issue and the importance of collaborating with the Student Wellness Centre.
Singh stressed his plan to advocate for further expansion of the SWC, expand and effectively market Thrive Week and advocate to expand McMaster’s student health and dental plan.
Della-Vedova proposed introducing telehealth and online booking options to the SWC in order to expand the use of preexisting resources. Della-Vedova also stressed the importance of student security and a positive campus environment for student mental health.
Regarding student expenses, Della-Vedova emphasized his aim to partner with the Food Collective Centre and with local businesses to assist food insecure students. Regarding rent expenses specifically, Della-Vedova discussed the possibility of revitalizing an MSU role dedicated to connecting students with reasonable housing.
Singh, on the other hand, proposed a large-scale audit of student housing and expanding usage of Open Educational Resources to decrease textbook costs.
Della-Vedova and Singh clashed over OER. Della-Vedova argued that financial changes due to OER would likely occur over many years and that more immediate expense issues should take priority. To this, Singh responded that the structures necessary to support OER already exist and that even a small decrease in average textbook costs would impact students significantly.
Overall, it seemed that Singh and Della-Vedova clashed on two major issues: the importance of data collection and the scope of their platform points.
Regarding data collection, Singh repeatedly stressed the research basis of his platform, proposing two major audits regarding environmental sustainability and a study about student housing. When asked whether he was more invested in student advocacy or in enhancing student life, Singh explained that his platform’s research focus will enable him to enhance student life through advocacy.
According to Singh, he aims to collect information that’s lacking so that it can be used as the basis for more focused and effective advocacy.
Della-Vedova disagreed with Singh on the role of data collection. He responded by stating that the MSU often collects a lot of data that goes unused because new leaders enter the MSU with new ideas every year. Della-Vedova emphasized action over data collection, saying that preexisting and online data are sufficient bases for advocacy.
The second major point of clash in this debate was regarding the scope of the ideas put forward and the role of feasibility. When asked which point on Singh’s platform he was most critical of, Della-Vedova stated that although he liked many of Singh’s ideas, he believed many of them to be unfeasible within a year. Della-Vedova was particularly critical of Singh’s plan to transition to more OERs, emphasizing that there are limits on what the MSU can achieve within a year.
Singh, on the other hand, criticized Della-Vedova’s platform points for simply focusing on increasing supports already in place. For example, as Singh explained, Della-Vedova was advocating for expansion of the compostable container program, whereas Singh was advocating for a widespread reusable container program.
Further, regarding OER, Singh explained that while he did not expect to see this transition completed within a year, he believed that progress towards more OER would still be worth pursuing.