Campaigns face off in Outlook’s annual USFC elections debate

Nader Durgham
Senior Staff Writer

Contributions from
Christina Cavalcanti, Web Editor
Juliette Jabra, Editor-in-Chief
                                 

Candidates from Students For Change, Campus Choice and Leaders of Tomorrow, the three major student campaigns, took part in Outlook’s annual elections debate on Wednesday. The campaigns were presented with questions prepared by Outlook, and anonymous questions from the audience.

The debate is considered one of the most important events of the elections week, and provides voters with the opportunity to learn more on the campaigns and their platforms, in order to make an educated decision on voting day.

Voters are not the only ones that benefit from this event. Campaigns take this as an opportunity to maintain transparency and accountability with the student body.

The event started with a welcoming word from Outlook’s Editor-in-Chief, Juliette Jabra, who provided the audience with an idea about the flow of the debate. She also briefed the speakers and the audience on the rules that must be respected for the event to go smoothly. She then provided the chosen candidates with a few minutes to tell the audience about their respective campaigns and platforms.

Leaders of Tomorrow were the first to speak. The candidates briefly discussed their new alliance, change of campaign name and new ideas in the platform. Candidates added that their choice of having different campaigns for each faculty is for better representation by the respective USFCs.

Students For Change followed. They highlighted their continuous work over the past four years with help of their previous USFCs. They then reminded the audience that they had the biggest number of passed proposals last year, a total of six out of ten proposals. They emphasized the consistency in their work, as well as their focus on academic enhancements.

The section ended with Campus Choice, who emphasized their independence from Lebanese political parties. They declared their set of values, including secularism, democracy, social justice and pluralism. The candidates also emphasized the importance of transparency and accountability in their campaign. Finally, they touched on their views of a better academic life along with more student facilities.

Associate Editor of Outlook and moderator of the debate, Lynn Cheikh Moussa, then took over and made clear the rules and regulations, emphasizing that disruptions by audience members of any campaign would result in the revoking of the right to reply of said campaign. She then proceeded to ask the questions, prepared by Outlook, to the representative candidates.

 

The questions and answers came as follows:

Campaign-specific questions:

You’ve changed the name of your campaign these past two years from “Students at Work” to “Lead the Change” and consequently to “Leaders of Tomorrow.” What yielded this change in the name, and ultimately identity, of the campaign? What does this change signify?

Leaders of Tomorrow responded to this question by explaining that they welcome any and all members into their respective clubs (Freedom, Youth and Social clubs), and are therefore open-minded when it comes to the framework of their campaign.

Students For Change, your platform states that you would like to support student-led BDS efforts on campus. Please explain how.

“Anything that the students would like to propose or strike out, we would like to support with strikes.”

Campus Choice then exercised their right to reply.

“One of our values in Campus Choice and the Secular Club is anti-zionism. What we can do as the USFC is take stances regarding this issue. Like what used to happen in the 1970s, we can release political statements through the USFC.”

Leaders of Tomorrow, you discussed changing psychology and economics from BA degrees to BS degrees. How do you plan on achieving this, and how would you work in coordination with other USFC members, the departments, & the admin?

“This has been spoken of for over 2 years. This is something that [we] have spoken of with Dean Nizameddin. In other universities, these degrees are bachelor of science but here they are bachelor of arts. In economics, we take courses that include MATH 201, 202, 218 as well as CMPS 209. We think economics should become a BS as it is in most universities around the world.”

Campus Choice replied: “If you want to change a degree from a BA to a BS it needs to be a research-based major and you need accreditation. It takes time.”

Campus Choice, in your FM and HSON platforms, you mention implementing non-discriminatory environments and including LGBT targeted healthcare in students’ curricula. Could you elaborate more on how you plan to do this and do you think such a proposal should be carried out within and across the university?

“The AUB Secular Club supports all communities as well as the LGBTQ+ community. Yes it should be incorporated throughout the entire university; in this university you can still find discrimination.”

Students For Change, your platform states that you want to ensure the representation of students in Board of Trustees & Senate meetings. How would you ensure that students are represented in these entities and what would this representation yield?

“By saying that we mean we want the students represented in the Board of Trustees. Anything that the students need they can come to us. We want complete transparency between us, the faculty, and the members. By fixing the communication between us and the students, we can bring issues to the Board of Trustees and help them with their wants and needs.”

Campus Choice, you mentioned in your platform that you would like to work on the issue of the GA stipends with the administration. Does this indicate that you are willing to work alongside the Boldly G AUB campaign? And how would you approach and address the issue if elected to the USFC?

“We have had a clear stance since the issue began. This means we are willing to work with them and all USFC members by implementing the demands of the graduate students and including their participation in decision-making.”

Leaders of Tomorrow, you stated that you would like to “freeze tuition fees increase” in FAFS and FHS. How do you intend on doing so? And on what basis, considering that President Fadlo Khuri addressed this topic stating that the increase is inevitable?

“First of all, there are many people who think that the increase in tuition is something that cannot be tackled. But, it is inevitable for us to put it in the campaigns and try and defend it because it is something very important. Everything we put on the platform is something we will work hard for, but we are not saying that everything is going to happen 100%. We will work, with all our heart, to achieve them.”

Students For Change replied to this statement.

“We agree with Dr. Fadlo’s statement that the tuition fee increase is inevitable. We cannot stop the tuition fee increase, but we can attempt to decrease the increases that are unjustifiable.”

Campus Choice then replied.

“When it comes to tuition fee increases, it is not true that it is always inevitable. Sometimes tuition fees may increase, sometimes it may decrease. It should all be indexed. It is important that we set a contract between students and administration in order to set terms that will state the basis by which tuition fees can increase.”

Students For Change, you’ve stated in your platform that you want to follow up on possible cases of financial aid fraud, manipulation or biases in addition to encouraging students to report such cases. How would you ensure collaboration with the Financial Aid Office and how would you tackle cases of fraud if elected to the USFC?

Students For Change answered by explaining the investigation they started regarding the tuition fees, financial transparency, and their plans to encourage alumni to donate a small amount of money for other students’ financial aid. They mentioned AUB’s and briefly described AUB’s master plan to minimize tuition fee increases when possible, and inject finances into other projects.

“Students are not being vocal enough, we cannot help them if they do not express themselves.”

Campus Choice, you mention reversing the privatization of AUB facilities, such as Nestle Toll House. How will you work with the administration on achieving this, given that the contract does not cease before the end of your term?  

Campus Choice elaborated on their anti-zionist stance. They explained that although they may not be able to reverse the privatization of Nestle Toll House before their term expires, they are adamant on implementing effective methods that will help do so.

 

General questions:

You have all discussed the need to increase study spaces for students in different faculties. Please share your thoughts on the matter.

Campus Choice: “We want to start with West Hall and keep it open, if not till midnight, then later than 9:00 pm. Nicely has a number of classes that stay 24/7 during the reading period only. We want to propose to keep all of Nicely open during the reading period.”

Leaders of Tomorrow: “What we can do is use the facilities that we have. In Jafet for example, underground, we can open it to everyone instead of it being only for Masters students. This is instead of using more money on things like this.”

Students For Change: “With the funds from the master plan, we can perhaps use them to build new libraries or buildings that will act as study spaces for students.”

Leaders of Tomorrow replied to this.

“Building new facilities requires more funds, which AUB will receive from tuition fees. How else can they provide these new libraries?”

Students For Change: “Read about the master plan.”

What is your stance on having faculty members in the USFC? Do you think these faculty members should continue to occupy a decision-making role, or should they act solely as advisors?

Campus Choice said that they highly value their input but agree they should remain advisors, but not as a fully integrated part of the USFC.

They emphasized that although faculty members are highly important, the USFC should remain a student-based organization.

Students For Change explained that they see faculty presence presence as important, but  explained that although faculty provide input and knowledge, they [the students] are more aware of the needs and wants of the rest of the student body.

Leaders of Tomorrow found that faculty should be advisors and remain a core component of the USFC. They explained that they believe that faculty know better than students, and that they have been a part of AUB for years, which is why they can help in ways out of students’ jurisdiction.

Leaders of Tomorrow and Students For Change exercised their rights to reply. Leaders of Tomorrow questioned Students For Change, and asked, “how can you say we know better than faculty members?”

Students For Change responded, clarifying that they do not know better, but are perhaps more in touch with the students.

 

Anonymous questions from students:

Students For Change, do you know what BDS stands for, since supporting Palestine stands at the core of your platform?

Students For Change did not respond to this question.

Why are the dysfunctional water fountains not addressed?

Students For Change: “It is something we will work on this year hopefully. It is a very important issue and we will update you.”

Campus Choice: “The water fountains on campus are not being addressed as an issue by the USFC because it has been made clear that the water pipes are very rusted. It was proposed that we have water coolers, but that was deemed impractical.”

Leaders of Tomorrow: “Of course this is something very important, but it is not something worth mentioning in our main campaign. We will be tackling this problem in the future.”

What are your views on feminism? Do you think feminism and gender equality are relevant to your campaign(s)?

Campus Choice: “In our political statement it is made clear that it is very relevant for us as a political club in our campaign at AUB.” They added that they value social justice and added that several of their members are active in the Feminist Club.

Students For Change: “We want to say that of course we support feminism and we are against harassment.”

Leaders of Tomorrow: “For sure, we believe in equality between males and females.”

Seeing as LGBTQ rights are a pressing matter on campus, what do you plan to do this year for members of this community?

Students For Change: “We acknowledge the problem of LGBT rights. We are accepting and tolerant of all ethnic minorities and sexual orientations. Anyone on campus, we will listen to what they want and what they need. We would like to add that we have the Title IX office who are doing a good job on this matter.”

Leaders of Tomorrow: “Of course we are with the LGBTQ+ community and we are against any kind of sexual harassment because we know that here in AUB everybody is free to choose and think what they want, so we will support it till the end whenever we can of course. And for sure we are going to support them and if anyone proposes something that is against them, we will be against this for sure.”

Campus Choice: “Firstly, it is true that there are already policies in place with Title IX but we strongly believe that there needs to be better reinforcement and crash courses to raise awareness like what happened last year with the Safer Campus Initiative. There should be free access to STI testing for students. This is something that happens to every student on campus. One more thing; whenever an incident happens on campus, the USFC has the duty to put out a statement. We are fully supportive of all communities inside AUB. We are against all kinds of discrimination, it being related to sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, and more.”

Leaders of Tomorrow replied, emphasizing that more attention should be given to issues like religious discrimination.

“Secular Club, if only you speak about what happened with Maryam Dajani so passionately. If only we saw you at the protest.”

Campus Choice replied by saying that, as previously emphasized, they do not tolerate harassment or discrimination of any kind. They added that they were at the protest, and that social justice and equality are of the utmost importance to them.

Leaders of Tomorrow, why does your platform contain 20 items to be addressed, when each year, however, only 3 items are proposed?

“In the platform, for each faculty, we made sure that many problems are tackled and we mentioned all the ideas that we are thinking of doing. In theory, these are things we’d like to achieve. For future purposes, what we aim for is more important than what we achieve.”

Students For Change, do you think using AUB Courses/Teachers Guru is an efficient way to inform students of USFC activities?

“Yes of course it is a very efficient way since nearly every AUB student is on that group.”

Campus Choice replied.

“Meeting minutes should go on the USFC page rather than on Guru.”

Campus Choice, what makes your platform different than those of the other 2 campaigns?

“We have a unified vision about what we want to do. We are not just saying that there are problems here and there, we are going further than that; we want to go further. We want this campus to encompass all the values that we represent. It is known, everywhere, that change starts in universities; this change is going to be reflected on a wider scale – in Lebanon and maybe the Middle East as a whole.”

Leaders of Tomorrow replied.

“Campus Choice, the question was about what makes you different from us. You did not answer. You just repeated what we have been saying.”

Why are there missing minutes from the USFC? What do you plan on doing to change this?

Leaders of Tomorrow: “Hi, I’m Karim Kabbani, and I’m running for this year’s USFC, not last year. I cannot explain why they did not upload all the minutes, but this year we will.”

Campus Choice explained that transparency and clarity are core values of their campaign and of the USFC, and said that they will make sure these core values are implemented.

Students For Change reiterated Campus Choice’s words, explaining that there should be full transparency between the USFC and the student body and that they will work towards achieving this through minutes and other mechanisms.

Overall, the debate was a way for the students to witness the tension that exists between the different campaigns, whether related to proposals, ideas, or views on the university in general.

The crowd was also difficult to control, but Outlook managed to keep this event a peaceful one focused on dialogue and expression of each group’s point of view on different matters.

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