Election platforms: How do your candidates stack up?

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Since the student body presidential debate won’t occur until the day before before the election, I’d like to offer a discussion of this year’s issues. If the student body president and vice president candidates’ Facebook groups are any indication, then we might improve on last year’s rather blasé elections.

Without a doubt, the ticket that has broadcast its message with the most strength is Sean Weinstock and Adi Jain. Their neon posters, clean website, and persistent use of Facebook messages all suggest strong and concerted leadership. The duo contends that their goal is to create “actual change,” and not focus on issues that are “out of the student body president’s hands” or “already being worked on by the staff of CMU.” Yet a quick look at their five platform issues suggests that some of the ideas are not as radical as their neon fliers would have you believe.

The first issue of their “CMU 5” deals with the improving the library. I wholeheartedly agree with Weinstock-Jain. My views were articulated in an editorial in the November 6 issue of The Tartan, which was met with a kind reply by Gloriana St. Clair, dean of University Libraries, who has been working on the problem for a while through focus groups and student advisory committees. So at least one-fifth of the platform is actually “already being worked on by the staff of CMU,” which, given the smaller scope of this ticket’s goals, is unfortunate.

The thing that is really revolutionary about the Weinstock-Jain ticket is that they were the first to come out and admit the limited role of the student body presidency and set, for the most part, attainable goals. Of the five ideas, the most helpful in the long run and the most likely to succeed in creating actual change is the ticket’s proposal to improve TartanWiki. Institutional memory is the bane of the college organization, and the TartanWiki effort is a great way to share knowledge. The ticket should be commended for its inclusion of this overlooked resource.

Turning to candidates Alan Eaton and Abiola Fasehun, I must say it appears this duo have bitten off more than they can chew. Their policy outline covers most of the issues raised in Weinstock-Jain’s CMU 5 and much more.

One of their worthwhile ideas is the enforcement of the moratorium on classes from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m, which was designed to give students a chance to break and also to give student organizations a clear window to schedule meetings. However, some colleges sought exemptions from the moratorium and have classes during that window.

Other parts of the platform are downright noxious. Perhaps the most topical change they have proposed is the installation of Homecoming King and Queen, which, distressingly, is probably the easiest change to institute. We’re not in high school and we don’t go to Pitt. At Carnegie Mellon, I fear, this proposal will cause more giggling than pride. A real change these two could enact would be to put pressure on the university to hold the Homecoming game at Carnegie Mellon instead of Cleveland.

Coming in after the elections deadline was extended, Colin Sternhell and Lauren Hudock’s position seems to be a response to both of the other tickets, which, if the case, is an encouraging show of non-apathy.

While it is clear that this ticket is antagonistic to issues on both of the two previous tickets, their statement in last week’s issue of The Tartan indicated that they take special umbrage with the limited scope of Weinstock-Jain’s platform. Some of their Facebook statements seem to be aimed specifically at Weinstock-Jain’s second initiative, which would create a cultural organization committee that will get independent cultural organizations to work together on larger, more successful projects.

The downside, as articulated by Sternell-Hudock on Facebook: “cultural clubs, and other organizations understand their needs better than any of the candidates up for election this year. Our role is to empower and enable these leaders... acting as a catalyst for success and not a roadblock.”

It is not clear how they think other tickets are acting as roadblocks, though I tend to agree with Sternhell-Hudock on this issue. Weinstock-Jain’s proposal, which is echoed with less clarity by Eaton-Fasehun, looks like a shinier and more invasive version of the Committee on Student Organizations (CoSO) directed specifically at cultural organizations.

Admittedly, the initiative could work in the same vein as TartanWiki and the CoSO to promote the passing of knowledge between expert parties and make stronger organizations. But the committee could consist of preachy organization leaders who drop in every few weeks to bother you about your parties and hassle you about your lack of collaborative spirit. The idea of a group of people with conflicting opinions coordinating events among dozens of semi-willing cultural organizations screams of bureaucratic pain and hardship.

The only reason I can criticize Weinstock-Jain, however, is because they have the most articulate and concise platform. It’s hard for me to scrutinize Sternhell-Hudock, because they plan on continuously developing and modifying their platform. Ostensibly, that is perfect, but it also means they have presented us with no issues to debate, no plan to critique, and no way to measure their progress throughout the year.

Though all of the candidates have outstanding credentials, one of the most impressive candidates on the market is also the most recent. Coming in late in the game, Serge Egelman and Joe Arasin stake their hopes on their political experience. Serge was the only Carnegie Mellon student to testify at the Port Authority hearings and meet with politicians. He has a strong experience in lobbying on issues that are pertinent to our students: not nebulous issues like pride and collaboration, but issues like federal financial aid and student tax burdens.

Unfortunately, Egelman and Arasin are both graduate students, which makes one wonder what their commitment is regarding undergraduate concerns. Their platform is also nowhere near as streamlined and accessible as Weinstock-Jain’s, or even Eaton-Fasehun’s. I see a few hints of substance — a committee for Pittsburgh involvement, driving people to the polls, etc. — but they present no clear plan, which is a serious detriment when facing candidates who do.

A few things to take away from this election are that clear platforms, whether they have five, 10, or 100 planks, are the only way that we are going to be able to have any sort of discussion on the issues. Considering that only half of the candidates have websites, few have a made a strong appearance on campus, and the debates are the day before we vote, this election has occurred almost exclusively over Facebook. This means that support will be measured not by general agreement on the issues, but by how many Facebook friends you can coerce — which makes this election more like an election for Homecoming King and Queen than student body leaders.