Student Government [SG] election candidates were informed earlier this week that the yearly presidential and vice-presidential debates will not take place this year.
“The main point of a debate is if there is confusion on who to vote for if a large number of people compete,” Martin Cruz-Mesa, Elections Commission chair, said.
SG presidential candidate Pete Maki feels that since there were eight candidates in last year’s election, there was more hype.
“But elections never differ in their seriousness,” Maki said. “I would hope that this year’s elections would carry as much weight as last year’s.”
According to Cruz-Mesa, the fact that there would be no debates has been public since last year.
“We submitted an election calendar to the Senate last year, and it didn’t have a debate scheduled,” Cruz-Mesa said. “They voted to approve it. In the past, debates have not been well attended, and the people who do go usually already support one candidate or another”
However, Pamela Schiess, SG presidential candidate, feels that the debate serves a necessary purpose.
“A debate is what really defines the candidate,” Schiess said. “This takes away from students being able to discuss ideas and talk to candidates in an open forum.”
Maki said that he was disappointed there would be no debates because the few people who do attend spread the word of the election. Minal Ahson, current SG vice president, said that debate watchers last Spring took away what shocked or impressed them and were able to start conversations regarding candidates.
“A debate is what really defines the candidate.
“I don’t know how much the debates changed people’s minds last year, but issues were raised and spread afterward by word of mouth or the newspaper,” Ahson said.
The Elections Commission did arrange Meet the Candidates, held yesterday, an opportunity for students to speak to candidates.
“Meet the Candidates acts as a platform between the students and candidates-the same purpose as a debate is served there,” Cruz-Mesa said.
Schiess said that she thought the Meet the Candidates session would be more similar to tabling than debating. Maki concurred, saying that the candidates have already had two days of tabling and could use more media in which to clarify their platforms.
“I’ve noticed both candidates have a few similar-looking points on the palm cards,” Maki said. “A debate is a great way for students to compare candidates on something other than what they see on the cards.”
Cruz-Mesa said that students could distinguish from candidate to candidate based on palm cards.
“If you actually read the palm cards and don’t just glance at them and throw them away, you will see the difference between the candidates,” Cruz-Mesa said.
Many students are aware that elections are imminent, and some feel that the presence of a debate might be helpful.
“Since I’ve had information shoved in my face every time I walk back and forth from the UC, I learned about the candidates,” Rosh Ranasinghe, junior, said. “I didn’t even know that debates were held, but if I had, I would want to see them because they might give me insights into the candidates.”
Reeva Oza can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.