Presidential candidates compare experience in first debate

In the first presidential debate, the four candidates discussed issues around dealing with student criticism, divestment and flaunted their relevant experience.

During last night's debate, Brandyn Marx and Christian ‘CK’ Kyle spoke about their respective relevant roles in constituencies and the AMS, while outsiders Alexandra Smith and Shaun “The Bulldozer” You argued their experience outside the AMS is a valuable asset.

When asked how they would fix the AMS’s relationship with resource groups, CK who was the Engineering Undergraduate Society president in 2022/23, said he was “the only one on stage with experience actually mending broken relationships.”

Marx, however, retaliated and said “that there is more than one candidate with experience in mending relationships” and said they have gained experience by being on the working group for the revisions of the AMS’s respectful workplace and sexualized violence (PC1 & PC2) policies.

Smith pointed to her experience as a residence advisor and said working with students gave her a “unique perspective.”

“I'll be using my experience as a legislator and as a leader to make sure that those initiatives are actually being executed,” Smith said.

The Bulldozer said “I don't have a lot of relevant experience regarding the AMS.” But added they are “uniquely qualified to bring in fresh, new perspectives” and believe what makes a good AMS president is to listen to the “diverse opinions” of all communities on campus.

An audience question asked candidates about their position on UBC divesting from companies complicit in Palestinian human rights violations.

The Bulldozer said divestment is “vital” for the future of UBC if the university wants to stand for justice and equality.

Smith agreed that the AMS has an ethical responsibility, but also noted the $738,766 deficit the AMS projected this year and the “fiduciary responsibility” of the AMS to decrease financial stress on students.

CK said the AMS needs to reassess their advocacy on how it will get UBC to divest, as a previous Council attempt was unsuccessful.

Candidates also discussed how they would deal with student criticism if they become the face of the AMS.

“Luckily, I have been the face of an organization,” said CK, adding that the “chronic failure” of the AMS is the lack of explanations given to the student body on what the AMS is doing.

To remedy that, he wants to ensure he would be more transparent in the AMS’s functioning.

Marx said they are a believer in the “freedom to criticize” and would welcome criticism as it means there is space for improvement. They also mentioned wanting to have an anonymous feedback channel for students and staff to submit criticism without the fear of repercussions — something the rest of the candidates also agreed on.

Smith said she wants to create a space for civil discourse and constructive criticism.

The Bulldozer agreed with this sentiment and said “critique is a very important part of any democracy.”

The candidates will debate again on February 29 at 7 p.m. in the Michael Kingsmill Forum.

This article is part of our 2024 AMS Elections coverage. Follow us at @UbysseyNews on X (formerly Twitter) and follow our election coverage starting February 27.