Both candidates vying to be the next president of the University of New Brunswick Student Union faced off in a debate on Tuesday.
The event, moderated and hosted by The Brunswickan, drew a crowd of students to the Student Union Building to hear Sydney Rankin and Craig Fernandez talk about their platforms and goals if elected.
Fernandez said in his opening statement he was asked to run for president last year by two student leaders due to his “humble, people-centred leadership.” He currently sits on the UNBSU council as a social inclusion representative.
“I’m inspired by the community, excellence and energy that has been built in the Student Union during my time working with them,” he said. “But I’m equally as motivated by the students I speak to on a daily basis who have no idea what the Student Union is or what it can do for them.”
Rankin, a third-year economics and chemistry student, said her current position as associate vice-president communications has shown her this type of work is what she loves to do.
“Every student should feel comfortable and confident in their academic institutions, so barriers to receiving a high-quality education and actively participating in student life need to be minimized,” Rankin said in her opening statement. “Through effective and transparent, two-way communication with students, increased collaboration across our campus, and with a persistent lens of determination, ambition and of course kindness, I am most positive we can see this in next year’s students.”
Looking back on her time on the executive, Rankin said she would have taken on less to allow herself to always be fully committed to the team.
Fernandez is running as part of a coalition with vice-president internal candidate Grace Mangusso. He said the two share the same values of community and bringing people together.
Rankin is running alongside two vice-presidential candidates, Mick Jeffries and Anthony Gatto.
Both candidates were asked how they would define their term as president as a success.
Rankin said she would look for an increase in voter turnout and students who would like to actively participate and engage with the union.
“We were very careful to ensure that we were not promising students things they had not brought to us, and if we did not think it was going to be something possible to follow through on,” she said.
Fernandez said he would measure success through both engagement and increasing awareness of what the Student Union does on campus.
“We have had some great responses from other student leaders about how practical and applicable our platform is, and how they think it’s things we can actually accomplish in the next year,” he said.
A question submitted by an audience member asked the candidates what they would do to address a university policy banning pub crawls and making it difficult for student groups to host “high risk” events.
Fernandez said he has frequently encountered red tape during his time working as a residence proctor. He pledged to meet with administration to craft more practical standards which address the types of events students hold.
“While I do think safety is of the utmost importance, and that administration has every right to ensure safety, a lot more focus should be on education and awareness around developing a safe event, rather than just slashing student initiative,” Fernandez said.
Rankin, who also worked a proctor, said her time working with campus events has provided her with insight on navigating the restrictions. She said she will work to make events safer by improving training for campus police, to remove issues such as unconscious bias.
“If the events themselves are safer, hopefully on the flip side it can shorten the procedure for getting them approved,” Rankin said.
Fernandez responded by saying he would like a systematic review to improve campus patrol services.
To conclude the debate, both candidates were asked how they would ensure no executive team members feel they must adapt or compromise to meet their president’s vision.
Rankin said all executive candidates share the same goal of creating the most “unreal” student experience. She said her current experience on the executive would create a smooth transition and allow her to figure out how her vision fits into everyone’s voice.
Fernandez said crafting his vision into something tangible will come through collaborative strategic planning with the whole team.