With the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) general election on seemingly one of their tightest schedules in years, the debates came and went on March 16 and 17— and if the attendance is any indication, not many people knew about or prioritized it.
The amount of students who weren’t associated with a candidate, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), or the media never cracked more than 25. That’s about one-thousandth of the undergraduate student body who are eligible to vote in the upcoming election.
There were only two debates this year, as opposed to the usual three. The reason that the debate on Vancouver campus wasn’t conducted was based off a review of the past IEC Vanna Lodders, who said the cost of the debate wasn’t worth it for the campus with the consistently lowest turnout rate.
The debates took place on back-to-back days for the first time in recent memory, as in the past they have occurred in separate weeks. The final debate wrapped up 10 days before voting is set to open.
With several of the positions — including five of the six executive positions — running unopposed, there was limited debating. Instead, a lot of it felt like a Q&A period, which hopefully informed voters to the choices they’ll be making soon. The majority of those questions came straight from the IEC, as without a large audience there weren’t many questions the candidates had to field from the crowd.
The biggest debate with the at-large representatives was over the Highland Pub, as candidate Robert Hanson is running primarily on the platform of saving the pub. While this isn’t traditionally the role of the at-large representative, it became the biggest issue the at-large candidates who did show up the debate had to face.
Education representative Jamie Zhu — who is running unopposed for the spot on the Board of Directors — did not show up to either debate.
Speaking of attendance, only two of the nine non-executive positions had all their candidates show up to both debates. Those two were business representative (with candidates Gini Kuo and Braeden Peterson) and health sciences representative (with candidates Natalia Gretskaia and Aarushi Sharma).
The only executive position that did not have all candidates show up to both debates was vice-president (VP) finance, as candidate Tawanda Masawi missed the Burnaby debate. Both of his opponents — Baljinder Bains and Archit Bansal — and every other executive candidate made an appearance.
Alam Khehra, — candidate for VP student life — when asked about making sure all SFSS events would be physically accessible, said that the pub had an elevator. He then shifted to accessibility needs for Surrey and Vancouver students getting to Burnaby instead of addressing the questions asked over Twitter about the physically disabled.
Once again, there were questions about SFSS Chief Executive Officer Martin Wyant and the rest of the SFSS staff, including questioning about having a yearly governance audit. Presidential candidate Hangue Kim said an external auditor of the SFSS has just been hired, and they are still waiting for results.
For more in-depth coverage of the debates, please check twitter.com/peaksfu. A reminder that voting is open to students from March 27–30, and the results will be announced March 31.