February 23, 2010

Candidates for President, V.P. of Student Assembly Debate Plans

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Yesterday’s Student Assembly and University Assembly debate forum, which focused primarily on the races for S.A. president and executive vice president, presented an animated discussion despite the absence of many of the candidates. At-Large Rep. Andrew Brokman ’11 and VP of Public Relations Vincent Andrews ’11 are vying for the presidential spot, while Ray Mensah ’11 and Chauncey Jenkins ’11 compete for vice president.

Candidates first introduced themselves, their qualifications and their platforms. Andrews began by explaining his platform, including plans to renovate the SAFC funding process, which according to Andrews is a “major issue that the S.A. deals with every year.”

Andrews, who was a member of the Reimagining Cornell Student Enrollment Task Force, said that the S.A. has a responsibility to “push for student representation on administration-level committees.” He plans to create committees that will address minority community issues such as the removal of Ujaama housing director Ken Glover and the lack of funding for the Asian American Activities Center.

Brokman countered by focusing on his previous legislative successes and his direction for the assembly.

“I have a vision for the S.A. as a place where students come together and where no one gets left behind,” he said. “I think that’s important because when you think about it, the S.A. is all we’ve got — it’s our way of voicing our opinion and our only legitimate voice on campus.”

Brokman outlined the various resolutions he sponsored both last year as an S.A. Transfer Representative and this year on both the U.A. and the S.A. As a transfer representative, he passed a resolution creating the S.A. Committee on Transfer Affairs and another calling for the removal of median grades from transfer student transcripts, among other resolutions related to the concerns of transfer students.

Brokman hopes to pass more effective legislative action and minimize the number of weak resolutions.

“These are serious issues that demand a strong voice, that demand a strong Student Assembly, an over-reaching Student Assembly,” he said.

After being asked what differentiated him from his opponent, Andrews said that his “belief that the S.A. has huge potential is what differentiates [him from his opponent].”

Brokman promptly refuted Andrews’ statement.

“I don’t think that it is really the place and presence of the president to present resolutions every week,” he said. “I think it’s the place and presence of the president to inspire other members of the S.A. to get curious about issues.”

At the conclusion of discussion, each candidate was given the opportunity to ask his opponent one question. Andrews questioned Brokman’s campaign slogan “the S.A. is all we’ve got.”

“I love that [the S.A.] has the ability to get a response from the administration and it’s truly unique in that way,” Brokman responded. “It’s the student voice and I’d like to as president invite as many students as possible into the process — I think that’s our job.”

Switching the focus to past performance, Brokman asked Andrews why, as vice president of public relations, the number of candidates running for office dropped by about 20 percent. This decrease guarantees both candidates seats next year.

Andrews said that not many students are running for at-large seats, though some elections are still highly contested.

“A lot of the college seats are pretty contested,” Andrews said. He also emphasized that he was not in charge of advertising for elections. Rep. Nikki Junewicz ‘10, elections chair, defended Andrews by noting that pre-election publicity was her responsibility.

Later, the candidates for vice president also defended their qualifications.

“I am determined, have knowledge of the situation, have knowledge of the role of the executive vice president, have knowledge of the S.A. and what works for it and what would work much better,” Ray Mensah ’11 said. “I think my record speaks for itself.”

Mensah’s opponent, Chauncey Jenkins ’11, spent much of his speaking time defending his lack of experience. Mensah pointed out that Jenkins had not attended any S.A. meetings this academic year.

“The reason I’m running for the S.A. this year and haven’t run before is that I feel like that’s something you need to know that you’re passionate about,” Jenkins said. “I may not have knowledge of how the S.A. works, but I know that we need to see change and I’m willing to do that.”

Elections begin online Tuesday, March 2nd.

Original Author: Keri Blakinger