March 2, 2009

S.A. Presidential Candidates Present Platforms for Future

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In the wake of a historic national election, Cornell University’s student government elections are making history in their own way this year. This Tuesday marks the first time that the general student body will be able to directly vote for the president and executive vice president of the student assembly. Last night, WVBR broadcasted a forum amongst the candidates as part of “Sunday Forum,” a monthly talk show hosted by Tommy Bruce, vice president for University communications and Kara Capelli ’09. The forum was followed by a debate that aired on WVBR’s website.
According to Michael McDermott ’09, director of elections for the S.A., WVBR staff contacted the S.A. when they heard about the direct elections because they wanted to the issue to receive the level of publicity that they thought it deserved.
The seven slates of candidates running for vice president and executive vice presidents are as follows: Chris Basil ’10 and Nikki Junewicz ’11; Scott Purdy ’10 and Emlyn Diakow’11; Murtza Firé Manzur ’11 and Jon Dobrin ’11; Tony Miller ’10 and Emily Cusick ’12, Andrew Brokman ’10 and Andy Gindy’11, Rammy Salem ’10 and Olamide Williams ’10 and Jeff Rehberger ’10 and Ruslan Gudnyy ’10.
“The thing we were trying to do was to learn a little bit about who the candidates are, why they tick the way they tick,” Bruce said.
In this attempt, Bruce and Capelli focused on asking the candidates about their personal lives and interests over their platforms during the forum portion of the event. Out of the seven slates of candidates running, all were there except for Salem/ Williams and Gudnyy. Bruce and Capelli asked each slate individual questions, most of which dealt with what the candidates did in their spare time and their personal values. For example, the moderators found that Cusick is a classically trained opera singer, Purdy played a lot of sports in high school, Brokman’s biggest value is justice and Miller prefers Earl Grey tea to coffee.
The candidates also hinted as to what their platforms were based on, such as Manzur who said, “What I really care about is helping people. We have horrible wireless internet, there are so many problems at Cornell that aren’t being addressed.” Manzur and Dobrin are basing their campaign on promising to have two-ply toilet paper in every stall in every bathroom on campus.
The forum was aired on WVBR and online from 6 to 7 p.m., and at 6:30 p.m. in addition to 14 live audience members, according to WVBR web director Andrew Loewer ’09 there were 12 online listeners plus the FM radio listeners who cannot be monitored. Loewer said that according to WVBR Arbitron ratings, eight online listeners usually indicates around 200 FM listeners during regular programming.
After the forum introduced the personalities of the candidates, each slate was given time to make opening statements for the debate, which were followed by questions posed by a panel of Cornell journalists and then, by members of the audience. At the end, the candidates were given the opportunity to ask questions of each other as well.
Jordan Fabian ’09, editor-at-large of the Cornell Review, asked the candidates what they thought the role of the administration should be in terms of political discourse, as the S.A. had partially funded the recent Gaza demonstrations. Answers varied from Rehberger’s “I don’t think it’s right that Cornell should fund political demonstrations” to Purdy’s “I think it’s important to promote debate but I think the administration and the S.A. should be very cautious on choosing whether or not to endorse topics that are controversial.”
One member of the audience asked the candidates what their number one issue was. In response, Rehberger said wireless internet; Dobrin said two-ply toilet paper; Basil said to make sure that student groups had the money that they needed; Miller said to keep the quality of undergraduate programming the same as it has been and cut wasteful spending and Gindy said reliable, dependable, affordable public bus transportation. Diakow also said empowering students was her slate’s number one priority, which Purdy defined as making sure that resources are there for students and groups.
The candidates’ closing statements summarized their basic platforms. For example, Miller said, “I think tonight we’ve seen what this race boils down to, and I think it’s clear that Emily and I have the experience to lead the S.A.” Similarly, Dobrin said, “We want to unite the student body so that it can become powerful, start small and build up.”
“I think it’s very encouraging to be here tonight and to see so many people turn out to this event, and so much energy,” Bruce said.
The debate streamed live on WVBR’s website. According to McDermott, sound bites from the show will be played throughout the day tomorrow by the station.