Tuesday’s vice presidential debate at the Rathskeller was designed to separate the best candidates from the rest of the field, but it may have merely created more confusion.
The debate featured little arguing and much agreement and cohesion, as the six candidates chose to focus on the strengths of their own platforms rather than on the weaknesses of the other candidates.
The moderator, speech/debate coach Dave Steinberg, introduced questions throughout the 90-minute event, allowing each candidate to answer without interruption.
Peter Groverman, commuter south senator and vice presidential candidate on Peter Maki’s ticket, said the debate should have featured more arguing and less structure.
“That was not a debate out there,” Groverman said. “I wish we could have done more to separate each candidate.”
About 50 students were on hand for the debate, with most in attendance sporting t-shirts supporting individual tickets.
Ben Everard, Billy Bludgus’ running mate, said he was disappointed that more non-affiliated students did not show up.
“It would have been nice to have more independent students at the Rat tonight,” Everard said. “What this tells me is that most students already have their minds made up, and the answers we gave tonight won’t have much of an overall effect on the results.”
The debate began with the candidates introducing themselves and their platform ideas. All six agreed that students at the University need to be more involved and informed.
“We need to have more events like ‘Canefest where students can see everything that’s out there and decide what organizations they want to be involved in,” Justice Walker, current speaker pro tempore running with Carlos Echeverri, said during the debate.
Each candidate had a different angle for his or her platform.
Walker’s ticket prides itself on having a combined eight years of SG experience. Adele Bagley and Minal Ahson, the only female VP candidates, made the focus of their platforms about serving the students by communicating with them and addressing their needs.
Ahson, running with Vance Aloupis, cited her experience and diverse ticket as reasons why she would make a good vice president.
“Our ticket represents many different aspects of student life,” Ahson said. “If elected, we will make sure students are open to speak to us about any concerns they have.”
Andy Cohn, running with Don Donelson on the “Contract with U” ticket, said that a major goal of his campaign was to improve the University’s retention rate.
“We have to raise the value of a UM degree,” Cohn said. “A retention rate of 85 percent is not good enough for this school.”
When asked about underage drinking on campus and at football games, Cohn was the only candidate to focus on educating students rather than punishing them.
“I am probably going to continue underage drinking until I’m 21,” Cohn joked. “We’re not going to stop underage drinking, so we should instead focus on encouraging better decision-making to stop students from drinking and driving.”
The VP debate did not completely lack controversy, however.
When asked about minority student organizations, Groverman raised some eyebrows when he couldn’t remember the name of a Middle-Eastern student organization while answering a question regarding under-representation of minority students in SG.
After the debate, Groverman said he had not intended to be disrespectful when he made the comment.
“That comment was taken out of context,” Groverman said. “Anyone that knows me knows that I am a minority, too [Jewish], and I was simply trying to promote allocating more money for minority organizations on campus.”
Despite minor complaints about the format of the debate, the candidates left the Rat with a feeling of mutual respect for each other.
“There was no animosity out there,” Everard said. “We have all worked together, and we know that any of us would make a great vice president.”
Eric Kalis can be contacted at email@example.com.