Research, platform and experience. Those were the central themes the three Student Government vice presidential candidates discussed during Tuesday evening’s debate.
This year’s event took place in the University Center lower lounge instead of the traditional location, the Rathskeller. The Elections Commission, which organized the event, said the change was aimed to increase turnout and improve accessibility.
Claudia Medina, the head of the Commission, read pre-screened questions from the audience to the trio, who sat behind a table on the stage.
Most of the 60 students in attendance came supporting one of the tickets, apparent in some cases by their campaign T-shirts.
Each candidate discussed why the vice president position is important, why they want to be vice president and why they felt they were the most qualified.
One question from the audience specifically asked about the candidates’ experience in Student Government leadership.
Of the three candidates, only Molly Jones (“One Passion. One Goal. The U.”) had no experience in SG. She currently is a co-chair of Greeks Advocating the Mature Management of Alcohol (GAMMA), the philanthropy chair of Delta Delta Delta sorority and a chair on the executive board for Greek Week.
Kyle Sheehan (“Do It For You”) first got involved with the SG Senate in his sophomore year, serving for a year. He is also the chapter president for the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.
Dan Kalvig (“Unity For A Better Community”) served two years as the trial adviser general for the Senate. He has also been involved in political activism such as “Get Out The Vote,” a campaign encouraging students to vote in the upcoming City of Coral Gables elections.
Though many of the responses varied, there was a degree of general consensus on a variety questions: all agreed there is no single most pressing issue facing the university.
There were also questions such as whether or not the election process has become shallow, with the prominence of “cool” meant ideas to sway voters. Kalvig said he hopes to dispel the “cool” misconception, while both Jones and Sheehan said that their ideas are feasible.
An audience question read by Medina asked the candidates their opinion of the SG referendum on the ballot this election. Kalvig asked that she state what the referendum is, for the audience, with Jones agreeing.
“Shouldn’t you know?” Medina said, with some chuckles from the audience.
After briefly conferring, Kalvig responded that the three of them all abstain and the crowd applauded.
As the event concluded, current SG president Annette Ponnock challenged the audience to name what the referendum dealt with. Johweyeh Lowenthal, a presidential candidate, answered incorrectly. The second respondent, a supporter of Danny Carvajal’s ticket, did so correctly: raising the student activity fee $1 to go to SG.
Following the debate, Medina told The Hurricane the highlight of the event was that people came out to support their candidates.
She also said that opening up the debates to a format where the candidates could address each other is definite possibility in the future.
“In the past, we’ve always had it where the students ask the questions because they’re the ones directly affected by the candidate they choose,” Medina said. “I would definitely like to see, in the future, a more debate-style setting.
Both Sheehan and Kalvig, in separate post-debate interviews with The Hurricane, said that they would also like to see the event as more of a debate, rather then how Sheehan characterized it-a town hall.
“A debate would be [where] we’d be able to kind of go after each other, not that we’d want to say anything bad about each other,” he said.
Jones, in a phone interview after the debate, said she thinks that if the event were to be more akin to an actual debate, then the ideas would get lost in translation.
Kalvig said that attendance needs to be a focus in order to help students understand SG and disseminate the platform ideas. He added that the people attending already had their opinions.
Similarly, Ponnock told The Hurricane that she was pleased with the turnout, but wished there were more people who were not affiliated with a ticket.
“I was not pleased with some of the responses,” she said. “I don’t feel like they were very well researched. They were speaking things with a lot of certainty that were not entirely true.”
She added, “I feel like the answers were a bit too political. I don’t feel like the candidates really addressed the heart of the questions, I feel like they skirted them a bit.”
The Hurricane spoke with a few unaffiliated audience members after the debate:
“I think overall it was well coordinated and all the candidates spoke well about their topics and answered the questions,” Ashley Rojas, a sophomore, said. She added that the debate was candid and it impacted her decision.
“I like Molly Jones. She was the most realistic,” Kate Maron, a freshman, said. “Dan was hinting at the others’ platforms not being feasible. Kyle wasn’t very charismatic.”
Hillery Platt, a senior, supported Sheehan. “I think he did excellent. He was really respectful,” Platt said. “I would tell him to go with his gut feeling and be more outgoing.”
Walyce Almeida contributed to this report.
Greg Linch may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the time of publication, the Student Government presidential debate on Thursday night had not yet taken place.
Also, at the time of publication, Claudia Medina, the head of the Elections Commission, said that there were no campaign violations.
Please check TheMiamiHurricane.com for campaign updates.