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Five SBP candidates debate

The five candidates for student body president met on Monday to debate and explain their platforms. (credit: Jonathan Carreon/Photo Editor) The five candidates for student body president met on Monday to debate and explain their platforms. (credit: Jonathan Carreon/Photo Editor)

The five student body presidential candidates debated and discussed their campaign and positions last Monday in McConomy Auditorium. The debate was held by the Elections Board and The Tartan; WRCT and cmuTV sponsored and broadcast the debates.

Most of the debate questions focused on individual tickets and their platforms. For example, Amy Quispe, a junior computer science and math double major, was asked to explain her open data position.

“I promised that we would have APIs for the school data. That means that we want to have data sets open in a way such that it’s easy for people to interface with that data and to use it,” Quispe said. “I’ve worked on this problem from a tech perspective, but I’ve realized that it’s not just a technical problem; it’s a policy problem. I hope that from the talk we can start to influence administrators to open up data sets so that developers, but also other people, can use these data sets to create new things and to solve the problems in their surroundings.”

Neither junior information systems and human-computer interaction double major Brian Groudan nor his running mate, junior decision science and psychology double major Amanda Ho Sang, has held any student government position. They were asked how they would compensate for their lack of experience, and how their roles in other organizations helped them.

“We do have experience through other organizations. I don’t think that’s the biggest drawback,” Groudan said. “Through my leadership in my fraternity, I ran a huge PR game that re-branded us.... Amanda and I have had a number of leadership positions ... and so I think that we have the leadership experience that it takes to be in this position. And when you think about what the purpose of the student government is, it’s to be the voice of the people.... We’ll be strategically picking our cabinet and the people that we work with to make sure that they complement our strengths and our weaknesses.”

Senior materials science and engineering and biomedical engineering double major Matthew Biegler said that he was not in the election to win, but rather to send a message. Biegler thinks the university should incentivize the student body president to ensure that he or she accomplishes goals and initiatives.

“[Getting elected is] my worst nightmare,” Biegler said. “Honestly, I think I’ve heard a lot of compelling arguments from people saying yes and no. At this point, I’m hoping I’m not elected. But if I am, I’m not sure what I’ll do — I’ll have to cross that bridge when I get there.”

Junior information systems major Seth Vargo mentioned that the university is currently employing new fees and cuts on alumni donations, specifically mentioning the central administration fee which was introduced last year. The fee began, Vargo said, at about 4 percent, and will peak at 9.6 percent.

“I think it’s time that we start asking the university to give back,” Vargo said. “If they’re going to start levying 10 percent taxes, I feel like we have another Boston Tea Party on our hands. And I think that, as students, it’s our responsibility to be civil, not hostile, like the Boston Tea Party, and start asking the university to give back to us.”

Vargo said that a way the university could give back was to pay for the security cost of Carnival, such as paying for the police officers. This, Vargo said, would severely cut the costs students have to pay.

As the chair of Undergraduate Student Senate, junior economics and statistics and decision science double major Will Weiner has been highly involved with transportation.

“This depends on what happens with Port Authority. My biggest thing is reaction area,” Weiner said, speaking on how he would stay involved in the issue. “My involvement here has been making sure that what I feel are the vital services to the university stay here.... I have established the connections to make sure that stuff like the buses stay intact.... That being said, if everything goes fine, the busses are safe, then it’s up to us to go to our feedback collection to see what the people want.”

The audience also had the chance to ask questions. One audience member asked for each ticket to name three organizations neither of them had been in, and one that currently didn’t exist but that they wished to see made.

“None of them mentioned media organizations. That was something that was interesting to me,” said Matthew Baron, a sophomore electrical and computer engineering and Hispanic studies double major.

“I think that [the debate is] the same kind of thing every year, with varying experience amongst candidates,” said Turi Alcoser, a senior materials science and engineering major. “If experience will be the deciding factor, then that’s not enough. But I still think they did well and I don’t have anything against them.”

Voting opened on Saturday and will close on Tuesday.