MCSG candidates bring varied platforms to debate

At Tuesday night’s debate, about 40 students gathered to hear MCSG candidates discuss big on-campus issues. This year’s election is unusual, with five presidential candidates, three of whom are currently abroad. Of the 11 presidential and vice presidential candidates competing in this weekend’s election, only six were present Tuesday.

Candidates spoke candidly about the disconnect between MCSG and the student body. They all voiced a common interest in increasing student interest and involvement in the government.

For candidates who could not attend, proxy candidates read prepared statements for each question. For audience questions, only candidates present at the event could answer.

The presidential debate demonstrated the wide variety of platforms and beliefs of each of the five candidates. For the two candidates present, Sam Doten ’16 and Rothin Datta ’16, the debate gave the opportunity for discussion and disagreement.

“The debate was a great way to compare the candidates side by side,” said Henry Kellison ’17. “The format of the discussion gave the candidates the opportunity to directly agree or disagree with things their opponents said.”

In their opening statement, Doten, Datta, and Rick Beckel ’15 listed specific issues from their platform they hoped to address. Sarah Vandelist ’15 and Richard Raya ’15 gave more generalized statements.

Raya pledged to make MCSG accessible to students: “I want to make this as much your government as possible.”

Vandelist spoke about her experience in MCSG, as well as her aspirations to bring female leadership to student government.

“Let’s not make MCSG an old boy’s club,” she wrote.

Candidates were asked to describe their vision of the presidential role. They each voiced a different interpretation.

Beckel views the role as organizational and believes the presidential candidate should focus on MCSG’s efficiency.

“[The president] needs to find out what parts are working, and what parts are not,” Beckel wrote.

After carefully reading MCSG’s bylaws, Doten said that he does not believe that the president has much official power. Therefore, he believes the president should be a “symbolic leader.”

“[The president should] support an example of excellence in MCSG,” Doten said. “Their biggest role is responsibility for the success of the student government.”

Datta disagreed with Doten. He sees the vagueness of the bylaws as flexibility, not weakness.

Because Vandelist and Raya were not in attendance, they could not respond directly to this issue, but they issued statements of what they would look like as president.

“[The president should] represent MCSG to the broader student body as well as those outside of Mac,” Vandelist wrote. “They should not be afraid to take a strong stance [on issues.]”

“A leader is only as strong as the team behind them,” wrote Raya.

The presidential candidates were asked to respond to the recent controversial removals of MCSG student representatives and to provide their opinion on MCSG eligibility requirements.

Beckel believes academic probation should result in removal of representatives, but removals from strict disciplinary probation should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Vandelist said that the possibility of removal should be made clear for representatives at the start of their term.

Both Datta and Doten discussed MCSG’s sovereignty and decided that it would be ideal but impossible to implement. They agreed that MCSG needs the support of the college, but that does not mean agreeing with the administration on every issue.

“We should always be willing to challenge admins, [and] push up against institutional policy,” said Doten.

Only Abaki Beck ’15 was present for the Vice Presidential debate. Beck has no MCSG experience, and her opening statement reflected her outsider perspective.

“I strive to make sure that voices aren’t silenced in or because of MCSG,” Beck said. “We need accountability and transparency. I’d like to see less separation between student activism and student government.”

In his statement Konnor Fleming ’15 wrote, “As your VP I will never back down from a challenge. Let’s collaborate and strive to make the right thing happen.”

When asked about how to improve the Community Chest, both Fleming and Beck said they would focus on raising awareness of the fund.

During the Student Organization Committee (SOC) debate, both candidates James Lindgren ’15 and Cole Ware ’17 participated. The two answered questions about their plans to help campus organizations work smoothly.

“[The SOC’s priority] should be advocacy as well as being a resource point for students and organizations,” said Lindgren. “We should assist orgs and never get in the way.”

Both pledged to help campus organizations to help work through issues. Lindgren spoke about communication and preemptive problem solving. Ware talked about trust, foresight, and organization. Both pledge to foster dialogue, not conflict.

At the Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) debate, only one candidate, Ari Hymoff ’17, was present. Megan Renslow’15 submitted a statement from abroad.

The two candidates have differing agendas; Renslow hopes to bridge the gap between student, faculty and alumni relations. Hymoff plans to improve the study abroad process, publicize the benefits of ACTC and create a senior-first year mentorship program.

Though MCSG said that they quadrupled student attendance from last year’s debate, many candidates believe the debate won’t make an impact on the election results.

“Even though a lot of people came, it’s still so few people out of who are going to be voting,” Beck said.

“People have to feel more invested in MCSG over time for them to feel like they should come to that debate,” Datta said.

If this improves, Datta encourages students to watch the debate.

“[Going to the debate] is the difference between it being a policy driven election and a popularity vote,” he said.

The candidates hoped that students will look at their platforms online and email them if they have questions or concerns. Kellison also encourages students to think carefully about their votes.

“If you do a little bit of research into the subjects and the candidates themselves, a little bit can go a long way,” Kellison. said. “It’s always good to be as informed as you can be but when the ballots do come out it’s important to vote, and to cast your ballot as an informed citizen of our community.”