September 17, 2008

Student and University Assembly Candidates Debate Campus Issues

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New candidates for the Student and University Assemblies presented their platforms and debated policy issues in a two-hour forum yesterday evening, in the Robert Purcell Community Center.
There are 25 freshmen running for three seats on the S.A. and two seats on the U.A.
Online polls will be open next Tuesday through Thursday. All undergraduates will receive an e-mail next week with online voting information and a link to the ballot.
S.A. Director of Elections Mike McDermott ’09 led the forum. Besides the candidates and current S.A. representatives, the auditorium was nearly empty.
The Amethyst Initiative, problems with PeopleSoft, gorge safety and access, sustainability and academic integrity were the five docket issues for debate. These topics were chosen because they will be discussed at the first S.A. meeting after the new representatives are elected.[img_assist|nid=31781|title=Speak your mind|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
The evening’s format consisted of one-minute candidate introductions, 30-second responses to two policy questions, a 30-second cross-examination and rebuttal period, and brief closing statements.
When the floor was opened up for cross-examination, Andrew Brokman ’11 challenged Mike Linhorst’s ’12 earlier statement regarding the Amethyst Initiative.
“I believe in lowering the drinking age, but my gripe is you spoke before of manageable goals. Do you think our [student] government changing the national law is a manageable goal?” said Brokman.
“Being in the S.A. is about learning,” said Linhorst. “Having a forum where we can speak directly with the President [of Cornell] and discuss such important issues will leave us with invaluable lessons.”
On the topic of gorge safety, Brockman said, “I believe the most important venue for the issue is through education. If a fence didn’t work in Mexico, it’s not going to work on our gorges.”
In past S.A. elections, publicity has posed a problem. Students were either apathetic or uninformed. This year, at least in the freshman arena, candidates are trying to increase student involvement.
“Really it’s up to all of the candidates to get out the vote. All of them are allowed to participate in this forum, chalk, put up posters, and place Facebook ads and start Facebook groups. The candidates really have a lot of power here,” said McDermott.
Zachary Lorsch ’12, one of the candidates for freshman representative, is optimistic about the coming year.
“I think this is going to be a big year in terms of trying to change opinion and efficiency and involvement,” he said.
Many are already on the campaign trail. Despite low turnout at yesterday’s event, some candidates remain undeterred.
“We’re making quarter cards, chalking outside the dorms, using Facebook, word of mouth—basically just everything we can,” said John Haywood ’12.
With the incredible number of candidates running for so few spots, the S.A. wants to assure that those not elected will stay involved.
“In the past, too many people have just dropped off after losing the election,” said Chris Basil ’10, executive vice president of the S.A. “All the elected representatives will be entering a very new assembly. With them, about three-quarters of the assembly will consist of new members.”
In addition to the three freshman representatives and two U.A. seats, three students are competing for one S.A. transfer representative position. The open seat for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Questioning representative, which was vacant in the spring elections, will be filled by Eric Shannon ’09. Candidates are also running unopposed for the Architecture, Art and Planning and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences seats.
“I’m excited to see a new day in the S.A. in terms of efficiency,” Shannon said.
In their platforms, a large number of freshman candidates proposed converting unused weekly meals into Big Red Bucks.
Emily Cusick ’12 said, “I’m big on making Cornell accountable for every cent that it spends … more of that money should go back to the students.”
The day winning candidates are announced is the first day they serve as representatives.