The second floor cafeteria was mostly empty — a few tables here and there were full, but even those were occupied by only a smattering of students. It was a desolate atmosphere, and the air carried the stale smells of bad food and student body odour. Many of those present were more interested in their homework or the hockey game on the TVs than the hopeful executive candidates vying for their attention, and seemed surprised by the appearance of the politicians.
And those focused on the debates — if they can be called that, considering the lack of competition in most of the races — were clearly the friends and collaborators of the candidates. Despite this being in my sixth year here at the University of Alberta, I'd never attended one of the SU's candidate forums for the executive elections before last night. The Lister forum was thus my initiation into the wonderful world of student political debate. At the end of the experience, I can conclude that I hadn't been missing much — except the opportunity to hide my face in shame while wishing desperately that I could be anywhere on campus other than the Lister cafeteria.
Now, maybe I'm just not drinking the kool-aid, or maybe I just wasn't liquored up enough — but after sitting through nearly two hours of awkward candidates stumbling through their campaign points, I can't say I'm surprised by the lack of interest in the electoral process. To be honest, some of the candidates didn't seem all that interested, either. Raphael Lepage Fortin, or "Raph" as he apparently prefers to be called, couldn't be bothered to stay for the entirety of the forum.
The most interesting part of the forum was probably when presidental candidate Rory Tighe asked his joke candidate competitor, Dr. Horrible, what the most horrible thing about the University of Alberta was.
"You," Dr. Horrible dead-panned. Tighe, on the other hand, struggled to come up with an answer when asked about his arch-nemesis, eventually settling half-heartedly on fees.
Which isn't to say that Dr. Horrible is a great joke candidate — in fact, if you wanted to make an obnoxious pun, you could even say he's horrible. While his platforms — abolishing the VP positions in order to sit on a throne and rule the university with an iron fist — are at least somewhat amusing, his lack of singing skill could actually be considered a weapon of mass destruction. In any case, it had me wishing I had a pair of pencils I could jam in my ears to stop the agony.
Colten Yamagishi and David McBean, the two candidates for Vice President (Student Life), the only contested race, were so busy agreeing with each other that it was difficult to tell which platform was which. It seemed that it wasn't really all that contested after all, as they congratulated each other on asking good questions or raising relevant points. The collegial, encouraging atmosphere is great and all, but it makes the two candidates look remarkable similar.
If anything, after attending the Lister candidate forum, I have actually lost interest in voting. The Students' Union might want to consider a new approach to candidate forums — perhaps the dance-off that some mild-mannered hecklers suggested might be a better tactic. Either that, or punch spiked with LSD.