Before the debate begun, Natalie had managed to rack up a bunch of endorsements from media outlets. Yet Bijan has had the larger facebook group, the smoother campaign, and hadn’t been attacked for his perceived weaknesses on tuition\UBC relations. Would there be clash? Would one candidate stick out? The esteemed Alex Lougheed and I were trading thoughts as the debate went on, and here how I saw it, round-by-round.
First Round (Introduction): 10–9 Natalie. Bijan gave a rote introduction, highlighting his experience on campus. Natalie attacked Bijan for not defending the needs of students more in his platform, and emphasized that trust is more important than experience, putting Bijan on the defensive.
Second Round (Athletics\Olympics): 10–9 Bijan. Natalie didn’t know anything about the NCAA issue at all, while Bijan did. Neither one had really satisfying answers, but at least Bijan knew about the issue, and emphasized the need to consult with students more before such a large decision take place. In addition, on the issue of the Olympics, Natalie failed to clash on the AMS\VANOC relationship despite differences between her and Bijan.
Third Round (Governance): 9–9 Draw. Natalie didn’t have a concrete answer for what she wanted to see for future governance of UBC, except that students should be involved. Bijan awkwardly dealt with whether UNA or students should have more influence on the process, his weakest moment of the debate…but Natalie failed to give a vision of how students should fight for greater rights.
Fourth Round (Engagement\Equity): 10–9 Bijan. On Engagement, Bijan smartly brought up his experience, but in her statement, Natalie hit on the overarching issues (commuter issues, apathy) of why it’s difficult. Neither did anything to convince people that they were the better candidate. On Equity, Bijan and Natalie said the same thing, but Bijan brought up Natalie abstaining on the motion, and parried it well to his “a leader needs to stand up for what they believe in” stance.
Fifth Round (UBC Relations): 10–9 Bijan. On the direct question on being too close to the university, he went on the attack effectively, defended his close stance to the university, and pointed out how he advocated a change on the location of the hospice. He also brought up the fact that despite being a BoG member he talked (and still talks) to the Ubyssey all the time. Natalie let his biggest weak spot pass by without taking a swing. To the outsider with no opinion on the answer, Bijan would have looked very strong on the question.
Sixth Round (Tuition): 10–9 Bijan. He gave a fuller answer on tuition, giving examples on specific action he would take if the university raised tuition on professional fees (ie: he would make sure that financial assistance also increased). Natalie deferred to the current AMS policy\will of council, without giving her own take. Bijan then spoke about Policy 72 in great depth, and how it should benefit students, while Natalie…spoke in platitudes.
Seventh Round (Campus Development): 10–9 Bijan. Both candidates gave vague, generic answers on what they wanted for the centre of campus, and how it should benefit students. Bijan gave an impressive answer on student housing, while Natalie meandered about how green space was important too. Bijan then spoke about how the vision for South Campus needs to be communicated better, while Natalie admitted she didn’t know enough about development in that area to effectively comment.
Eighth Round (Accountability to Council): 10–9 Bijan. Everyone bashed on Blake and Tim and UN-Gate, which is easy to do. Bijan showed once again why he’s a great debater, turning from the easy answer (“I will listen to council”) to the specifics of his platform (“experience working with people to bring positive change”). Geoff asked if Bijan could bring council together, at which point Bijan brought up an Insiders survey that showed split support between him and Natalie on council. Natalie chooses to defend her abstentions on key issues, rather than a) attack Bijan for being divisive, or b) point out her support from past executives. Also, her admitting “I get stuck and can’t make up my mind” when it comes to abstentions is noble, but won’t get her votes.
Ninth Round (New SUB): 10–9 Bijan. Natalie said she would work to bring people together. And said so, in various ways, for another 45 seconds. Bijan blamed the current and past executives for “playing hardball”, and blamed them for the standstill. Natalie asked Bijan one of her few questions of the night (What have you done to move this forward?), and said “I tried, but the current Executive wouldn’t let me.” Which is a good answer considering most people think the current exec. sucked.
Tenth Round (International Fees\Conclustion): 9–9 Draw. The international students question was worded weirdly, with some strange follow-ups by Geoff Costeloe, and general answers from the candidates. Neither one really seemed like the champion of international students. Conclusion statements were nothing to write home about.
Final Tally: 97–91 Bijan.
Final thoughts: Natalie needed to hit Bijan, and failed to do so. On tuition, council accountability, and UBC Relations, Natalie let Bijan frame the issue around his terms. Worse than that, Natalie failed to give specifics on what she would do as President, deepening the impression of her as being wishy-washy.
Bijan, aside from having a wealth of experience and plenty of opinions, is a very, very skilled debater, and he showed it tonight. Despite some effective followup questions from Geoff Costeloe (who moderated the debate very effectively), Bijan brought every question back to issue he has advocated for students in the past, his general policies, and
ultimately why we should vote for him. Natalie didn’t.