The eight candidates for the top two Student Association posts debated last night in the 5th annual Student Media Debate. Five candidates for President and three for EVP discussed their platforms and qualifications in front of a crowd of supporters, student media members, current SA leaders and administrators.
Two separate debates were held in the Marvin Center Grand Ballroom starting with the Executive Vice President Debate. The three candidates on stage in the EVP debate were Abby Bergren, Austin Brewster and Ben Leighton. The three candidates spent the half-hour debate fielding questions from a panel of three student Media journalists: WRGW News Director Joseph Rabinowitz, The Hatchet's Sarah Ferris, and GWTV's Eugenia Finizio with Hatchet Editor-in-Chief Lauren French moderating. The questions ranged on issues about how the candidates would use their role as leader of the Senate to foster cohesiveness in the governing body, to how the candidates would work with administrators on student space issues and the Gelman Library renovations.
In regards to the issue of reforming the senate and improving its cohesiveness, Bergren suggested that she would hold workshops that taught senators how to propose stronger senate bills, while Brewster suggested that the senate needed to do a better job of effectively communicating with the student body as a whole. Leighton responded to the question by explaining that his first priority as EVP would be to meet one-on-one with individual Senators and understand how their goals could be fit into the overall agenda of the Senate.
When discussing the renovations to Gelman Library, Leighton discussed wanting to expand student space on the third floor and changing the furniture in the library. Brewster commented that his focus on the Gelman renovation's would be geared toward using extra space to house the tutoring initiative all in one location. Bergren said that her biggest concern was that with the renovations going on, students would not have enough space to study and collaborate. Her solution is to work with the individual schools to make sure larger areas were open to students at longer hours of the day.
Brewster was specifically questioned at one point in the debate about how he could be held accountable since his platform doesn't contain any measurable goals. Brewster responded that his solution to this is to make himself as accessible as possible.
The Presidential candidates took the stage next. All of the candidates were wearing suits and ties except for Ben Pincus, who sported a purple plaid shirt. Jeremy Iloulian immediately took a subtle dig at John Bennett by acknowledging all of his opponents except the former SA Finance Chair.
The candidates began by explaining how their backgrounds prepared them to be President of the SA. Iloulian claimed he was the only candidate on stage with the experience of running a large student organization as the chair of the International Affairs Society. Will Thompson centered his opening remarks on his three platform issues: lowering textbook expenses, student safety and the career center. John Bennett spoke about how his experience as an SA Senator the past two years, including this year as an Undergraduate at-large Senator, "gave him an edge" over his opponents and a better understanding of how the SA works.
Pincus discussed the need for more transparency in the SA, a common argument in many of his answers. Pincus said he believes the SA does not currently have an effect on the lives of everyday students and that more transparency is the only solution. He talked about the need for a list-serve which he would use to communicate with the leaders of student organizations.
Ashwin Narla also spent a large part of the evening discussing how fostering relationships with students through community outreach was the key to solving issues like student space. He said there need to be both short and long-term goals in regards to the student space issue.
Thompson, and Bennett are both focusing on the renovation of the 4th floor of the Marvin Center as the key to regaining student space. Meanwhile, Iloulian's solution to the student space issue is to lobby administrators. He proposed that a certain percentage of every new building erected should go towards student space.
When questioned about what they would want next year's finance chair to do, each of the candidates except Bennett had a chance to talk about their plan for how student organizations should be funded. Narla discussed how he wanted the finance chair to communicate more with student organizations, while Pincus discussed how he wanted the process to extend for a longer period of time in order to allow organizations to receive more detailed explanations for the funding they received. Iloulian wants more focus paid to how student organizations access funding once the SA has allocated for it rather than the finance process itself. Thompson would add more staff members to the Finance Committee in order to expedite the finance request process.
Bennett was then given an opportunity to respond. He discussed how he has met personally with over 80 student organization leaders this year.
"There has been unprecedented levels of communication this year," Bennett said, "As for the organizations who are unhappy about funding, all you had to do was ask."
The last half-hour of the debate featured questions from the audience. Former Presidential candidate Josh Benjamin asked each of the candidates to tell the audience how much they had spent on their campaigns. Thompson spent $830, Bennett spent $975, Iloulian spent $800, Narla spent $920 and Pincus says he spent $56.25, further highlighting his outsider credentials.
The candidates became a bit less cordial to each other in the closing statements. Narla mentioned that he would work to improve student financing. He claimed that the Black Student Union did not receive the funding they needed to put on one of their events, and under his watch this wouldn't happen. Bennett maintained a look of surprise and bewilderment throughout the attacks.
Thompson, whose closing statement came after Bennett's, delivered the biggest attack line of the night.
"The only thing the finance chair has prepared you to do, John, is be finance chair," Thompson said in a slightly unsteady voice, splitting his gaze between Bennett and the audience.
Bennett was then given an opportunity to respond. He said that based on Thompson's logic, John Richardson, the current SA President, would have only been prepared to be an outsider when he ran as a candidate from outside the student Association.
Voting began today and continues tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. online. Students can vote at the JEC's website.
More information about all the candidates running for SA positions can be found at http://www.chooseyourgw.com.