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14 February 2013

One of U, Power of U partake in interactive debate

After a 15-minute delay, the Power of U and One of U tickets eagerly watched Student Government Election’s Commissioner Joseph Barletto flip a chocolate coin to see who would begin Wednesday night’s debate in the University Center’s Ballroom A.

The debate was moderated by UMTV’s station manager Julian Glover. It began after introductions and an overview of each ticket’s platform, and was composed of three formal sections – university life, academic services, university services – and a section in which candidates responded to questions from Twitter followers. The format of each topic was two-one-one; two minutes for initial presentation of ideas, one minute for a rebuttal from the opposing team, and a final defense or statement from the first group.

After Power of U, the party composed of Bhumi Patel, Justin Borroto and Robert Chiste, won the coin toss, they deferred the opening statements to One of U, the ticket composed of Philip Fitzpatrick, Blake Yagman and Sofie Sitterson. 

University Life

Yagman began by stressing One of U’s desire to keep students safe and on campus. They plan to allocate more of SG’s budget to host more speakers and concerts on the weekends for students. Fitzpatrick introduced the notion of a once-a-month Black Friday discount at the Bookstore for UM students. The reality of financial backers of these measures was questioned by Glover, to which One of U responded they had not spoken with the bookstore nor Vice-President for Student Affairs Dr. Pat Whitely.

Power of U presented their green initiatives, including a sustainable dance floor and an ECO Bowl, as their top priority. Similar additions to campus involved the creation of a “Caneslist” website, the addition of a Greek merchandise section to the Bookstore, and the expansion of the Canes Care for Canes network. After One of U questioned the cost-benefit analysis of the dance floor, Patel responded that the $30,000 self-sustaining dance floor would be an investment that could be used for multiple events as well as rented out.

Academic Services

In promoting financial aid to upperclassman, Sitterson presented One of U’s platform of revamping the review system of merit-based rewards to upperclassmen. According to an article published in The Miami Hurricane on Feb. 19, 2009, the university is in the middle of implementing a 10-year plan to gradually reduce merit-based aid for students. The team also promoted ideas including an upperclassmen-mentor system, an anonymous mentor system and a rental system through the bookstore. Glover questioned the effectiveness of the anonymous Q & A source, and challenged whether it would evolve into a social media nightmare; however, Fitzpatrick ensured these anonymous mentors would be trained professionals.

In a similar tone, Patel proposed an alumni-student mentorship, which would allow current Canes to gain advice and internship opportunities, and the availability of practicum to all students, regardless of major. Chiste spoke of the party’s plans to implement a metro pass system for students in order to offset the costs of daily transportation. In their efforts to keep students on campus, One of U pointed out the legal liability that students using the metro would bring.

University Services

Alumni Fest, one of One of U’s primary platforms, would serve to connect students with alumni in their respective fields. Both Power of U and Glover wondered whether alumni would be willing to come back for two major events – Homecoming, and now Alumni Fest. Speaking on behalf of one of the “underrepresented groups on campus,” Yagman said he wants to increase symposiums and fundings for Residential Assistants. Sitterson also expressed their desire to make SG more transparent and allow students to sit in their meetings. However, according to an SG News Release from February 2012, “SG welcomes any student who is interested in the goings-on of Senate to attend weekly … ”

Speaking on behalf of residents and commuters, Patel proposed the restructuring of dining plans and options, noting she had spoken with dining services to change available plan options. Sitterson countered that her sophomore year in Senate, a bill was proposed to do just that, and it failed. The team also plans to implement a UV Express Route along with a weekly shuttle to Dadeland mall, which they said, “Dr. Whitely is very passionate about.”

Twitter Questions

The first question inquired how Fitzpatrick planned to be an effective leader without any experience in student government. He responded, “It’s not so much what I lack, but it’s more so what I’ve been able to achieve as someone who hasn’t been involved.”

The next tweet, directed at Chiste, questioned how he planned to balance a budget, while also preserving UM traditions. “We will do the very best that we can with the dollars that we have … and [cutting traditions from the budget] might have to happen in the interest of the rest of the student body … we’ll definitely take a look at it on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

The final question asked how both tickets planned to benefit commuters, transfers and international students. One of U said they hoped to add on campus resources for commuters like a car care station and I-lounge mixers for various multicultural groups. Power of U stated that none of their platforms excluded any specific group within the student body, and they were determined to ensure students in ACS, COISO or those who have just transferred have their needs addressed.

Closing Remarks

As both teams delivered their closing remarks, they acknowledged three things: their priority is to include all aspects of the students body, they plan to initiate and continue both short- and long-term goals, and there is a burning passion within each candidate to give back to the university.

After an hour and a half, in commemoration of Bob Schieffer, Glover told the audience, “Go vote. It makes you feel big and strong.”

Students like junior Kate Maier and senior Sarah Barenberg were glad they had the opportunity to hear both sides and get a feel for the future of the university.

“I wanted to hear from both sides … both teams had good points because they’re both trying to better the school as a whole,” said Maier, a motion pictures major.

“As a senior, I’m curious to see in what direction UM’s going,” added Barenburg, an electronic media major.