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April 20, 2007

Slate candidates face off in SG Debate

[img id="80213" align="alignleft"] Candidates running for Student Government (SG) Executive Slate, Graduate Student Liaison, and Undergraduate Student Liaison discussed their platforms in the annual election debate held Wednesday in the McCormick Tribune Lounge in the Reynolds Club.

Three slates—Your-SG, Most Known Unknowns, and the Moose Party—are fielding candidates for Executive Slate, a three-person group comprising a president and two vice presidents that oversee the entire operation of SG.

Debate moderator Bruce Arthur raised a number of recently controversial issues with each slate, asking them questions about campus transportation issues, the

U-Pass referendum, campus security, and communication troubles with the administration.

“We need to talk about new ideas, new initiatives about these things. We need to make sure there is a direct link of communication and push that forward,” said Matt Kennedy of the Your-SG slate when asked about the issue of transportation on campus.

His slate maintained that referendums are the best way to make decisions on high-profile issues like the U-Pass and the movement to remove Coca-Cola products from campus.

Eric Vazquez of Most Known Unknowns said that the U-Pass could be purchased for certain University divisions and not others, so it might be in the interest of some divisions, such as the Graduate School of Business or the Law School, to obtain it for their students.

Adam Brunk of the Moose Party, the latest incarnation of a 13-year Delta Upsilon tradition of farcical slate candidacies, said that the U-Pass is a bad idea because people do not go downtown frequently enough to make the pass cost-effective.

Brunk also expressed his tongue-in-cheek concerns about campus parties that promote poor stereotypes of whites.

“I have never seen a Latin superhero or an Asian leprechaun,” he said in reference to Psi Upsilon’s Superheroes party and Alpha Delta Gamma’s St. Patrick’s Day party.

According to Brunk, the slate plans to combat this problem, whether they win or lose, with a Victory party next weekend at the fraternity house.

All three slates expressed frustration with the relations between the students and administration. R.J. Virissimo of Most Known Unknowns said that the underlying problem with relations between the students and the administration is a lack of transparency. According to Matt Kennedy, SG needs to be a voice that both the students and the administration can respect.

Kennedy, who was Chairman of SG’s New Initiatives Fund, which allotted $26,000 to have James Carville speak on campus, said that it would be ideal to have a “Big Speakers Fund” separate from the New Initiatives Fund, but that there are not enough funds to make this possible.

The Most Known Unknowns said that they will find the funds to bring expensive speakers such as Bill Clinton to campus, while The Moose Party promised to bring Larissa Oleynik, the star of the ’90s Nickelodeon show The World According to Alex Mack, to campus.

According to all three Most Known Unknown candidates, the debate was a success for their slate because it enabled them to convey their platform, although Matt Kennedy of Your-SG expressed his disappointment at the low student turnout in an interview after the debate.

The Moose Party had by far the greatest number of supporters at the debate. According to the slate, after 13 straight years of losing, this year they are ready to handle the challenge of winning and believe that change on campus will be most noticeable if they win. For example, their Victory party will be free for everyone if they win, a change that students will notice, they said.

“I know people may think of the Moose Party as a joke candidate but we’re serious now,” Moose Party slate member Neil Dalal said in the debate.

“It’s hard to support any of the other parties,” Moose supporter Matt Giles said as he pointed out the debate’s low student turnout. “The point of the Moose party is to mock the absurdity of the other slates. You couldn’t have come to this and been very excited about the state of Student Government,” he said.

Hollie Gilman and Christian Brockman debated each other as the two candidates running for the Undergraduate Liaison to the Board of Trustees position.

“I naturally believe that the University is a better place when students are engaged inside and outside of the classroom,” Gilman said.

Gilman, who is an incumbent, said that she will do anything she can to affect the school’s Darfur decision.

Brockman said he would have to know the opinion of the student body before making a decision on whether or not to advocate a change in University policy concerning Darfur to the Board of Trustees.

“I don’t think that my opinions, political, religious, or otherwise, have anything to do with my job as student liaison,” Brockman said.

According to Gilman, who said she has done independent research into tuition freeze, peer institutions such as University of Pennsylvania have better financial aid packages than the U of C and a dialogue should be started on campus about the recent 5.4 percent tuition hike.

Brockman said that although the Board of Trustees has to keep up with rising costs, they also need to keep in mind that not all students can afford these price hikes.

Three candidates, Anthony Green, Erica Simmons, and Ian Muhlhauser, are running for the position of Graduate Liaison to the Board of Trustees.

The subject of graduate student aid was a major issue for both Simmons and Muhlhauser, while Green pointed out the need for good healthcare for graduate students.

“We consider ourselves one of the best universities in the world. Why can’t we allow our students to have the best healthcare in the world?” he said.

Both Simmons and Muhlhauser said that they agreed with his point.

Simmons emphasized the importance of student activism on the Darfur divestment issue and said that she supports the fight for divestment.

“I believe that it is the right thing to do, and I would fight to the nail on the issue if that is what students want,” she said.

Muhlhauser, the current SG president, said that Students Taking Action Now: Darfur’s current strategy is not working, but if enough students still support divestment, it is not an issue he can ignore. Green said that there are more effective ways to alleviate the genocide than a university’s divestment. He said that students should push for a change in the United States government’s policy on Darfur, not the U of C’s, to really make a bigger difference.