Candidates state similar goals

With elections fast approaching, Student Body Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates gathered last week for a forum and debate. The Vice-Presidential forum, hosted by Mudge House, and the Presidential debate, hosted by WRCT, The Tartan, and cmuTV, were designed to allow candidates to answer students? questions and expound on their different platforms. However, their dialogue brought into question just how different, or even defined, a Student Body Presidential platform can be.
One of the primary issues candidates focused on was communication and information channels aimed towards students. During her opening statement in the debate on Thursday, Presidential candidate Rachel Gross remarked that ?Students are not currently being given the information they need regarding their opportunities and their rights.? Presidential candidate Franklin Williams agreed, saying, ?We don?t know and don?t understand how we can utilize the sources that are available to us on campus.?
During the sparsely attended Vice-Presidential forum on Tuesday afternoon, Vice-Presidential candidates Nicolette Louissaint and Jackie Brook narrowed the idea of communication to address relations between student organizations. Louissant said that ?a lot of the differences between organizations are older than the members themselves,? and Brook drew verbal images of larger groups overpowering and consuming smaller organizations with similar purposes. The third candidate, Benjamin Hackett, did not come, and later said he was unable to attend the forum.
Although candidates unanimously acknowledged communication as a campus problem on Thursday, each ticket offered a different solution to the problem. Whereas Gross and Hackett suggested open JFC meetings and a comprehensive Student Government website, Louissant and Presidential candidate Tom Sabram planned to revamp CMU?s web portal. Williams and Brook wished to expand the University?s first-year leadership programs to include upperclassmen as well.
The other major concern mentioned by all three candidates was diversity. Gross began her response to the question of what candidates planned to do to address diversity by stating, ?It?s a word that?s commonly used but never really defined.? All three tickets expressed a desire to ?broaden the definition of diversity,? in Sabram?s words. Sabram and Louissaint specifically plan on renovating the multicultural council and possibly creating an Office of Multicultural Affairs. The three tickets all also mentioned forming a stronger relationship with the Graduate Student Assembly (GSA).
After the debate, Williams complained that many of the questions were ?too open-ended to answer adequately in one and a half minutes.? In fact, during both the forum and the debate only pointed questions brought forth more detailed and unique answers from each candidate. After the moderator?s question-and-response period, the floor was opened to audience members. One such member, sophomore chemical and biomedical engineering major Samantha Rosenthal, prefaced her question on the controversial speakers policy with ?I?ve heard all of you mention problems and issues, and none of them have really been addressed specifically.? Narrowed queries from the audience also addressed presidential relations with the Student Dormitory Council (SDC) and how to improve attendance at CFA functions.
Some felt that the Presidential debates were more successful than in previous years. ?I would say that I was most impressed with the number of people that came out to listen to the debate,? said debate moderator Greg Battaglia. ?I think that seeing so many folks come out to listen to the views of the candidates to make a better informed decision is a great sign that people on campus are becoming more involved and caring more about student leadership in the future.?
However, a few of the candidates were aware of the similarities in their statements. ?All of our overall opinions are very similar, but the fundamental differences lie in our methods of achieving our goals. We couldn?t really adequately express that without being able to respond to our opponents, and without a rebuttal, it wasn?t possible,? said Williams.
Breanna Zwart, a first-year in H&SS who attended the debates, was also struck by the lack of unique responses.
?There weren?t really any standouts in the debate,? she said. ?Everyone kept repeating what everyone else was saying, and there wasn?t too much distinction.?

Editor?s Note: Franklin Williams and Jackie Brook are on The Tartan editorial staff. Ben Hackett is a Tartan staffwriter.