By Cameron Hart
Tuesday night’s Vertigo debate began as one might typically expect: in a small, hot room with not enough ventilation and too many egos. Both teams were strong in representation both on social media and in the room, despite a late appearance from Flex.
Mariela Powell-Thomas and Michael Zacharatos spoke on behalf of their team, Verge for Vertigo, while Enoch Mailangi and Aryan Golanjan represented Flex for Vertigo. The moderating panel included first-year journalism student, Lucy Tassell, and current Vertigo editor Kiên Lê Boârd who ostensibly acted as fact-checker. Lê Board, was in an obvious position of bias, though one might presume that a fact-checker is there to facilitate discussion and not defend their legacy.
Defend he did, in any case, when Tassell cited a comment by Golanjan during a lecture-bash, labelling current Vertigo as “journo wank” despite both Golanjan’s and Lê Board’s teams (Flex and Rush, respectively) holding an identical number of journalism students, as pointed out by commenter Brittany Smith, on Facebook’s live feed. Visibly incensed, Lê Board vehemently challenged Flex on this instance, and several more times throughout the debate, while members of Verge received no such challenge.
Lê Board continued on to make a few other choice interjections, including “no-one cares about what the voters think” which is categorically true, unless, of course, you are, have been, or will ever be involved in an election of any kind.
Members of Flex have since expressed a desire to see Lê Board apologise publicly for his behaviour towards Mailangi and Golanjan last night, though whether this will happen remains to be seen.
"everyday student" why does this phrase keep coming up? what does it even mean???? #utsstupol
— Kirra Jackson (@KirraJackson13) October 4, 2016
When not talking policy, the members of the panel gave various vague statements about the budget of the UTS Students’ Association, without a current member of the Association to confirm or deny these conjectures. While Tassell and Lê Board were admirable members of the panel, this debate could have benefited from input from current UTSSA President, Sammy Howes, similar to the previous debate between presidential candidates Heba Niem and Beatrice Tan.
It's a shame the current years SA President wasn't there to Moderate/Fact Check last night's debate. #UTSstupol
— That Grover Kid (@KangarooJockey) October 4, 2016
When this journalist asked a question, in regards to the current stipend for editors and if they would campaign to increase this, a lump sum of $1,250 (which pales in comparison to the $20,000 received by editors at University of Melbourne’s Farrago, and even the $4488 of University of Sydney’s Honi Soit), neither team were disconcerted. This, most of all, was disappointing, especially when “passion” was cited as sufficient reward, perpetuating the idea that student journalism is not of a high enough standard to receive financial remuneration. Nevertheless, it’s nice to see that fanciful optimism is still alive and well within the UTS student community.
Both teams did, however, mention they had “talked” with the presidential candidates with which they were aligned: Stand Up’s Heba Niem for Flex, and Connect’s Beatrice Tan for Verge. It is also worth noting that numerous members from both Stand Up and Connect tickets had initially and staunchly opposed the motion to remunerate Vertigo editors whatsoever, citing “budget constraints” which turned out to be as imaginary as they were unjust.
"Vertigo Editors should be actively talking to students" esp. non-Comms Kids says Flex #UTSStupol
— Jack Begbie (@jackbegbie) October 4, 2016
What the debate most lacked was actual dialogue between the two teams, instead vacillating between the moderators without much direct discussion. Both want a multidisciplinary, diverse, unique, innovative [insert other buzzwords here] Vertigo, but the most salient point of differentiation seems to be that Flex wants an app, but Verge doesn’t. Let’s hope that both teams perform better on the polls, continuing today and Friday.
Missed it? Watch the full debate, here.