While this year's University Students' Council election season began on a stagnant note, the campaign hasn't been without surprises or passion.
The 2018 presidential election failed to draw broad participation or diverse candidates. Compared to five presidential slates in 2016, the two slates this year are made up of male, insider candidates.
However, the campaign has also been unprecedented. After Team Ocean's vice-presidential candidate dropped out, presidential contender Ocean Enbar became the first solo candidate in the two-person slate system's history. His endurance has moved the race into uncharted territory.
Regardless, this year's candidates brought passion to the campaign trail. The debate has been fierce, highlighting issues truly affecting students. Mental health, free speech and campus safety are at the top of many students' minds.
The last two weeks have illustrated Team PrattChang's strong background in the USC, with their expertise and clarity during discussions. Team Ocean has demonstrated determination and a refreshing genuineness.
But only one slate will take on the USC's top office next year, and one stood out to us as best positioned for the role: Team PrattChang.
The Gazette editorial board voted to endorse Team PrattChang for USC president and vice-president in a 10–4 vote with no abstentions.
One of the key differences between the slates is their priorities. Team PrattChang has been adamant about their number one goal: improving mental health and wellness support on campus. On the other hand, during the Gazette's question period, Enbar pointed to his plan for intercity shuttles as his most important tangible platform point. While some students may appreciate this service, many Western students don't live in the GTA, and his choice fails to acknowledge larger, more pressing student issues on campus.
Electing Enbar also means students may have no direct say over who will represent them as vice-president. If Enbar is elected, council will determine how the VP is selected. We feel election by students-at-large is critical for both the president and vice-president — this gives both executives weight when they advocate on behalf of students to the administration and other bodies.
PrattChang would also advance the presidential and vice-presidential roles.
Both candidates are presidents of Western’s two largest faculties: social science and science. Throughout the debates and while talking to the Gazette, they've been articulate and able to go in-depth when discussing topics like open-educational resources and collaborative programming. Vice-presidential candidate Danny Chang's prior policy and advocacy experience at the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance makes him particularly well-suited for the vice-president position.
In their question period with the Gazette, PrattChang were also balanced, answering questions interchangeably and with mutual respect. The slate’s approaches to student issues are in sync, and they present a strong foundation to build the rest of the 2018–19 executive team.
Of course, PrattChang are not a perfect slate. Both candidates have been criticized for coming across as too polished, rehearsed and, at times, disingenuous. We hope PrattChang, if elected, will not shy away from polarizing issues and take firm stances on behalf of students — especially to the administration.
PrattChang likely won't drastically transform the USC, but they offer a well-researched platform and experience that shows they can put students first, govern effectively and build upon what the USC currently offers.
We believe Team PrattChang will lead the USC forward and change the organization for the better. Presidential candidate Mitchell Pratt and vice-presidential candidate Danny Chang are well positioned to lead the USC.
— The Gazette Editorial Board
THE ENDORSEMENT PROCESS
Newspaper editorial boards regularly endorse candidates in elections and the Gazette is no different in that regard.
The Gazette's endorsement process for this year’s USC elections was as follows. Each slate was given a 45-minute question-and-answer period with 14 members of the Gazette editorial board on Friday, Feb. 2 from 12 to 3 p.m. Each slate answered eight predetermined questions, followed by an open question-and-answer period with the editors. Candidates were not informed of the questions beforehand.
Following the slate presentations, the editorial board discussed the important issues of the campaign and how the candidates stacked up in terms of their platforms, debate performances and their presentations to the editorial board.
Following that, a vote was held by secret ballot. The minimum threshold to endorse a candidate was 60 per cent, which was agreed upon before the editorial board's discussion began. The votes were counted in front of the editorial board and the 60 per cent threshold was met with 10 votes (71.4 per cent) for Team PrattChang. There were no abstentions.
As editor-in-chief, I wrote the endorsement and it was edited by the managing editors and copy editor to ensure it accurately reflected the opinion of the editorial board.