Jacob Garber: The real winners of the Student Association debate

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo
Jacob Garber

I turned around in my seat at the Student Association debate last night and saw about half a dozen people wearing blank buff-colored t-shirts. I thought it could have been a discount item from the bookstore, but then one student turned around, revealing the words “Nick For GW” across the back.

Students clad in campaign shirts, as well as campus reporters, were mostly the ones filling about a quarter of the seats in the Marvin Center Grand Ballroom. It didn’t matter what was on the banners, the shirts or the buttons, as it seemed that everyone knew who they were there to support. No one else bothered to show up.

It is the great irony of the SA debate: It seems that those who care enough to go have already made up their minds. And it is difficult to sway the student body’s opinion in a near-empty auditorium just a day before the election. It seems that SA debate exists in a vacuum, and this could explain why we saw a string of flawed platforms, buzzwords and name-drops that have grown tiresome after only a week of campaigning.

Regarding platforms and goals, nothing notably new surfaced. However, we had the opportunity to see each of the candidates in the public eye, showing glimpses of their personalities and possible administrations in a way far more candid than a political poster. And these traits surfaced best when the candidates’ ideas were challenged.

Nick Gumas wasn’t afraid to adjust his goals when warranted, which is something we didn’t see from other candidates. Instead of eliminating the for-credit internship fee, he said he would likely have more success decreasing costs.

He even had a specific plan to go along with it, pitching an idea to model internship credits after University Writing, where students who take the four-credit course do not have to pay overage fees. We should expect specific plans like this from all of our candidates, not just one.

The greatest threat to Daniel Egel-Weiss wasn’t the questions from student reporters, but rather the ones from his opponent. The debate gained steam when Gumas pressed him on his top priority of eliminating the cost student organizations pay to rent GWorld swipe machines. Although Egel-Weiss was able to recover, we never saw a comparable challenge come from his side.

When it came to candidates for executive vice president, Avra Bossov had a tendency to stray towards vague language when pushed for specifics, talking about “student opinion” as a way of coming to the right answer. She may be well-connected and charismatic, but her goals – her main one being to transform the SA Senate into a community forum – are greatly flawed. As SA’s potential second-in-command, taking a hard stand and adapting from one’s faults would be more important.

Paul Lisbon, another EVP candidate, was blunt, almost refreshingly realistic, although caught with his hand in the cookie jar of political maneuvers. When challenged on his initiative to streamline a website for student organizations, he said that it would be a continuation of already existing work, not some enormous overhaul. It is a simple initiative with a shiny new name, and although he is unprecedentedly open about this, the EVP role isn’t about aesthetics, it’s about action.

The third EVP candidate, Chris Stillwell, stood his ground when asked for specifics on how we will cut housing costs. Pushed into a corner, he clung to his idea for allowing students to opt out of cable. However, he told me at The Hatchet’s endorsement hearings last week that he didn’t know how cable was paid for at the University. So unless he’s done his research since then, he may have been clinging to something unfeasible.

So who won the debate? Given the fact that the only people in the audience were those who had their minds made up, it doesn’t really matter. Now, at least, we have some smirks and eye-rolls – a bit of unfiltered personality – to attach to these candidates’ platforms before we cast our votes.

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