NEWS

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April 22, 2008

Executive slate and liaison candidates debate

[img id="80521" align="alignleft"] Candidates for the executive slate and liaison to the Board of Trustees debated their platforms in the McCormick Tribune Lounge last night, on the eve of campus-wide Student Government (SG) elections that will also elect representatives to the SG College Council.

The discussion was largely marred, as in previous years, by the spontaneous and persistent outbursts and antics of Moose Party supporters, who for the fourteenth straight year have turned out to support the farcical candidacy of three members of the Delta Upsilon fraternity. The remaining candidates and debate organizers displayed visible signs of fluster and frustration as the debate descended into disorder.

The disruptions made any substantive discussion of candidates’ platforms difficult, but among the issues discernible amid the raucousness, administrative transparency appeared to be the overriding theme of the evening.

Most candidates emphasized the importance of enhancing student communication with elected representatives and upper administrators in an attempt to more efficiently incorporate student voices into University decision-making.

“The pattern I see is that people complain about the decisions being made, but underlying that is that people don’t know that a decision is being made,” said Brian Cody, the unopposed candidate for graduate student liaison to the Board of Trustees. “We don’t have students sitting on all the trustee committees. Big problem.”

His sentiments were echoed by Aliza Levine, third-year candidate for the undergraduate liaison position.

“My goal is not only to represent students…but when grad students are talking about their funding, grad students should be at the table.…students who have made policies, and when things affect them…that should be really a priority. And so I want to talk to you; I want to find out what your priority is,” Levine said.

Increasing awareness of the liaison position was also stressed by many candidates.

“Two questions continually reoccur,” said Joseph Dozier, a second-year liaison candidate. “What is the undergraduate liaison to the Board of Trustees, and who is it?”

Louis Potok, a first-year candidate whose campaign slogan, “I am not Hollie Gilman,” makes light of the incumbent liaison and Potok’s belief that her two terms did little to take advantage of the post’s capacity to serve as a conduit for student–board communication, drew on his practical approach to the position.

“[P]eople on this campus couldn’t answer this question…they said, wait, I didn’t realize we had this,” Potok said. Among his proposed solutions was greater publicity of the Board’s discussions and of the debate among Board members trying to reach administrative decisions.

“I agree that the quickest thing any of us can do is to publicize what they [the Board] are going to do....Even the Supreme Court publishes dissenting opinions. The Board of Trustees, we just have no idea,” he said.

Minor contention arose between three of the undergraduate candidates as Potok questioned both Levine’s and Dozier’s involvement with campus activism and their general praise of Gilman as potential barriers to their effectiveness in the position.

Levine vocally protested the Board of Trustees after its decision last year not to divest University holdings from companies conducting business in the war-torn region of Darfur, Sudan. The group she co-chairs, Students Taking Action Now: Darfur (STAND) attempted to interrupt a Board of Trustees meeting being held in downtown Chicago. Dozier has been active with the campus Republicans and was a vocal opponent of the Kick Coke Off Campus movement.

“I actually think that my political experience on campus has given me some of the tools that I need to be effective in this position…. I’ve experienced the major frustrations and I have the insight on how to solve that.… As a student with political opinions, I know what it’s like to go to the Board,” Levine said.

“I can’t apologize for being heavily involved,” Dozier said. “My activism is not partisan, is not ideologically driven.”

Both candidates described how their approaches would differ from the current liaison’s. The points made by the fourth undergraduate liaison candidate, second-year Nick Zhao, were scattered and only marginally responded to most of the questions posed, although Zhao did receive flak from Dozier for anti-Semitic content that appeared on Zhao’s Facebook profile page.

Executive Slates

Discussion among the executive slates was similarly focused on increased student communication with the University administration.

“We need to make sure that students are listened to before decisions are made,” said Matthew Kennedy, presidential candidate from the One Campus slate.

Amanda Steele, candidate for vice president for student affairs for the Connect Four slate, sought to increase the relevance of RSO leaders in administrative processes.

“We need to recognize this idea that there are a lot of RSO leaders that don’t have their voices heard….In reaching out to student leaders, we’ll have a better voice,” she said.

Anthony Green, Connect Four’s presidential candidate, outlined his plan to “bring the University administrators to the student body at the beginning of the school year so you guys know what they do.” He, Steele, and vice presidential candidate for administration, Kati Proctor, have outlined as a main component of their platform the establishment of office hours during which students can express their concerns over campus issues.

One Campus, composed of third-year and current vice president for student affairs Kennedy, first-year College Council representative Julian Quintanilla, and graduate student Toussaint Losier, emphasized its record of significant campus involvement in student issues.

Losier, the candidate for vice president for student affairs also expounded on the importance of graduate student funding—with which he has significant experience—campus diversity, and the role of SG in fostering positive University involvement in surrounding communities.

His comments elicited positive reactions from Connect Four’s Steele, who praised Losier for his interest in expanding the purview of student government activities.

Steele added that “we need to also increase women to become more active in RSO leadership and student government.”

Steele seemed to take particular issue with the relative inexperience of the YEP slate, made up of Yeonjean Gahng, Petros Visser, and Ellie Elgamal. The first-years struggled throughout the debate to provide concrete details in support of some of their proposed initiatives and to match achievements with their more experienced opponents.

The debate lasted nearly two and a half hours. Voting begins today online at sg.uchicago.edu.

Correction:

The April 22 News article “Executive Slate and Liaison Candidates Debate” incorrectly stated that undergraduate liaison candidate Joseph Dozieris a third-year in the College. He is a second-year student. The article incorrectly listed Amanda Steele’s and Kati Proctor’s candidacies. They ran for VPSA and VPA, respectively. Toussaint Losier of the One Campus slate also ran for VPSA, not VPA.