Meet the presidential candidates

Having turned in their election petitions last week, Student Body Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates are well underway in campaigning for the elections on April 4 and 5.
Launching websites and Facebook groups dedicated to their campaigns, three teams of candidates are running on the ticket for the student body government positions. Rachel Gross, a junior majoring in business and technical writing and communications, is running for President with Ben Hackett, a junior majoring in social and decision sciences, as her Vice-Presidential candidate. Also running for President is Tom Sabram, a junior chemical engineering major; his running mate is Nicolette Louissaint, a junior in chemical engineering and biology. The third pair consists of Franklin Williams, a junior in social and decision sciences, running for President, with Jackie Brook, a junior majoring in professional and creative writing, as his running mate.
In interviews with The Tartan, the candidates articulated the issues and ideas central in their campaigns.

Rachel Gross and Ben Hackett

Gross and Hackett emphasize the need for communication among campus organizations in order to confront larger campus issues, such as dining and housing. The pair stresses the need for organizations to better promote their positive activities, and they offer ideas to promote University athletics and cultural events on campus.

Tartan: What are some of the issues and concerns on campus?
Gross: Of course everyone is going to say dining, parking and housing ? the same issues and concerns that we?ve had as long as the campus has been around. But what I?ve been able to identify by talking to different student organizations and other students is that at the heart of the problem is communications.... Everyone talks to the same people and has their ideas of what the problems are, but there?s no cross communication.... I feel that before we?re able to tackle the problems like dining, housing, and controversial speakers, we need to open up the airwaves so that we can all communicate together because, from what I?ve been hearing, we?re all fighting for the same thing.

Tartan: How do you plan to close the gaps between organizations?

Gross: One thing that I?ve been talking about a lot with different organizations is the need for those organizations to really promote the positive things that they do.... I also think that student government can work toward promoting non-academic events on campus.... I?ve heard a lot of talk about the lack of support for athletics, and one of our ideas is to create an athletics awards ceremony, where we recognize exceptional student athletes in the greater CMU community, not just within the athletic community....
The other thing is the College of Fine Arts that is often really separated, and what I?ve labeled as the ?campus divide?... We need to publicize those more and to make students aware of the opportunities of the fine arts events on campus.

Tartan: How would you tackle the diversity and tolerance issues we?ve been having?

Gross: What we need to do is work on the communication aspect, work on having students? input on what speakers come to campus, and make sure that students are aware that they have someone to talk to. If they have a problem or concern, the administration is there to talk to them. By opening the communication waves, it?s my hope that people will be able to learn about other cultures and other people, and through that education, make a good judgment about the way students and organizations should conduct themselves on campus.

Hackett: I?ve served this year on the diversity committee on Student Senate ... I?m constantly thinking on the point of the dangers of diversity without diversity of thought....
It?s one thing to protect the rights of students to bring a controversial speaker or to say anything they want on campus.... However, I think that when the very concept of diversity is used over and over, sometimes the diversity of thought gets left to the side.... It?s really about people?s right to think and act in a manner they see fit.

Tom Sabram and Nicolette Louissaint

Sabram and Louissaint?s platform extends from addressing upperclassmen meal plans to creating ad hoc committees for non-government-affiliated students to voice their opinions. The pair, who wants to change the location of the President?s office hours to a more prominent location, intend to work closely with the Student Senate?s multicultural council.

Tartan: How do you think your being in a fraternity will influence your decisions and policies in office?

Sabram: Personally I feel that since about 16 percent of campus is Greek, you need to remember that 16 percent and look out for them as well, but you also need to make decisions that are wise for the whole student body. I feel that the general feeling of the Greek community has taken a hit this year with all of the recent events, and those need to be addressed to the Greek community and try to combine the presidents of the chapters and the administration and make sure they?re on the same page.

Tartan: What do you think are the issues on campus that you think are important?

Sabram: I would say diversity is one of the biggest issues. With the ?Natrat? incident a year ago and Shabazz this year, we saw how there are these underlying issues that haven?t really been addressed. They?re still there, and we?d like to change that.
We?d also like to work on dining. We know that the Parkhurst contract expires at the end of the 2006 academic year, and we?d like to ... get some new ideas and new vendors in there ... and lay the groundwork so that something new can be brought in....
Also we oppose any mandatory meal plan for upper-class students in University housing unless there?s a drastic improvement in the quality of food.
Tartan: What are some new ideas you?d bring to the office?

Sabram: We?d like to work closer with the city of Pittsburgh and the City Council, specifically councilman Bill Peduto. This year, with the near cuts of a drastic portion of transit funding, we realized that a better working relationship needs to happen with the council so that we can be abreast of what?s happening on council and how that may affect CMU students. We want to make it a two-way street, where we?re also a part of the city of Pittsburgh, and they realize it as well.

Tartan: What are some of your ideas to bridge campus groups?

Loussaint: I would like to incorporate more than just cultural awareness organizations. It?s about using that opportunity to get a lot of the influential campus leaders in one room at the same time and say, ?You have the responsibility and you now have the opportunity to plan events together, to network with each other and to get to know each other.?... It would be fabulous to see organizations coming together and linking up. I think the multi-cultural advisory council is a way for that to happen... [We can] put the wheels in motion by having ad hoc committees that have, instead of broadly ranging goals and objectives, they have realistic goals.

Franklin Williams and Jackie Brook

Williams and Brook assert that they are campaigning for issues other candidates are not addressing. Rather than addressing housing and dining specifically, Williams and Brook want to hold events during which the leaders of campus organizations are required to speak their minds, and the pair wants to implement leadership programs, particularly the heads of campus organizations.

Tartan: What are the issues you would like to address?

Williams: There?s been a lot of talk with certain buzz words such as ?the campus divide,? and I feel that the best way to start approaching ideas like this are to literally open doors to people who can actually deal with them. Rather than waiting for people to come approach us, [we would] actually hold events where people can come and speak their minds and get things on the table...the groups that are really suffering right now are the ones that should be required to come and discuss things with each other... We?ve seen with the ?Natrat? and Shabazz that these issues exist but they?re being ignored. They?re put on the table, and then they?re pushed aside and forgotten about. I think the best way to fix that is to get knowledge circulating, whether through forums or making knowledge accessible.

Tartan: What are some of the ideas you?d like to implement?

Williams: First there?s the first-year leadership program, which is a great program for first-year students, but the problem is that once you leave that first-year program, you?re suddenly put in a situation where there?s no real inter-group community. There?s no real way to actually sit down and discuss the issues... A lot of people have addressed dining, and housing and parking and whatnot, but I think right now those aren?t the largest issues. They are being dealt by the people who are supposed to be dealing with them. There are boards, chairs and committees set up for that. I think that the largest issue is getting people together to learn to work together as opposed to working separately.

Tartan: There has been some concern that you will run on a ?Tartan ticket,? as you are both in editorial positions on The Tartan. Do you have a response for these concerns?

Brook: While I understand the concern of a ?Tartan ticket,? I don?t believe the fears to be founded. Frankie and I have not, and will not, push a Tartan agenda. Personally, I think we have an advantage as Tartan staff members; we?re always in the know about news on campus and have had success working as a team in a professional arena. However, The Tartan has remained non-partisan in this election, as it declines throwing its support towards any candidate, Frankie and myself included.

For more detailed information about the candidates? platforms and positions on campus issues, students should attend open debates next week. On Tuesday, a Vice-Presidential debate will be held in the Mudge lounge at 7:30 pm; The Tartan along with WRCT and cmuTV will host a Presidential debate next Thursday at 5 pm in McConomy.

Editor?s Note: Franklin Williams is the Managing Editor of The Tartan. Jackie Brook is the Forum Editor of The Tartan. Ben Hackett is also a staffwriter for The Tartan. None of the candidates have had input into the editing or added content of this article, and precautions have been taken to eliminate all feasible bias.