KSA Hopefuls Debate Major Issues in Anticipation of Election

Candidates argued over space and student engagement, hoping to win over voters

Geoffrey Nilson / The Runner

While the American public continues to be inundated by a legion of politicians duking it out on television amidst the RNC and DNC primaries, Kwantlen Polytechnic University students got their own taste of political warfare in the form of the Kwantlen Student Association All-Candidates Debate.

The event, which was hosted by The Runner and moderated by our Staff Writer and Coordinating Editor, took place on Feb. 11, exactly one week before the general election polling which will determine which of the candidates are elected. Roughly half of the candidates filtered into the Surrey campus conference centre throughout the day to engage their constituencies in the hopes of gaining a seat on council.

Though styled as a debate, the event took the format of a town hall discussion, where candidates were allotted a set amount of time to introduce themselves to the audience and share their ideas on how to improve the KSA. Questions were fielded from those in attendance as well as via Twitter. A live stream was available for students who could not make it out the the debate but still wanted to inform themselves prior to voting.

As with last year’s debate, a major topic of discussion was the need for student space on campus. Several students, as well as the Kwantlen Public Interest Research Group, tweeted at the candidates inquiring about the creation of a safe space, defined through conversation as an area on campus that’s wholly inclusive and free from stigma for marginalized groups.

Other student organizations, such as the Kwantlen Gaming Guild, used the discussion of space to reintroduce the idea of a long-desired clubs room, asking the candidates if they would “advocate for [a] dedicated clubs space on campus.”

John Shkurtaj, who is running for a spot on council as a School of Business representative, made reference to the administration’s recent attempt to mitigate the problem of available space on campus by arguing that Kwantlen “needs to be more transparent with their information on the allocation of space.”

Shkurtaj himself is an executive of the Gaming Guild, along with Surrey campus representative hopeful Tanvir Singh. During his portion of the debate, Singh was asked about the KGG receiving complaints for appropriating the social justice space in Surrey for club events. Singh used the opportunity to announce his resignation from the Guild, though as of press time he is still listed on the KGG website as the group’s Vice President.

This line of questioning was seen by some on Twitter as an attack on the KGG. Shortly after the debate had concluded, KPU student Connolly Twaites tweeted, “Really sad/scared to see the KGG, which makes me feel safe, get attack during the [debate].”

Another subject raised during the event was the need for increased student engagement. Some cited a lack of effort on the part of previous KSA councillors to raise awareness of the association’s ability to offer services for students. Others, like Shkurtaj, argued that the nature of Kwantlen’s on campus culture needed to be improved to allow for a more invested and engaged student body.

Every position on council that is currently being sought in the election was represented by at least one candidate in the debate, with the sole exception of the Women’s representative. Students will be able to vote for their preferred candidate on February 18 and 19 at any of KPU’s four campuses, and the nominees will be announced shortly thereafter.