Value of experience focus of final debate

Michelle Ma

The Associated Student Government Presidential debates turned into a shouting match during the open discussion near the end of the two-hour event.

Held in the Gathering Place on the Ground Floor of Norris University Center, the debates included three candidates with ASG experience and three newcomers. Mediated by ASG Election Commissioner Gabe Matlin, a fifth-year McCormick senior, the candidates argued about whether the president should be an “insider” or an “outsider,” and who is best able to lead.

Candidate Vishal Patel attacked Academic Vice President Prajwal Ciryam for not helping change ASG during his two years serving in the student government.

“You have been Academic Vice President for two years,” said Patel, a Weinberg sophomore, who is running as an outsider. “And if you haven’t done anything in two years, you are taking the fall also.”

Ciryam, a Weinberg junior, responded adamantly that he has done “everything within (his) power” to make ASG more transparent.

Rahul Kalita, another outside candidate, pressed for more student involvement in ASG practices.

“We hate ASG because we don’t know what’s going on,” said Ketica Guter, a Weinberg junior., another candidate.

Both insider and outsider status didn’t save candidate Patrick Keenan-Devlin from ridicule. Patel accused Keenan-Devlin, an off-campus senator, of “flip-flopping,” leading more candidates and audience members to leap from their seats in protest.

Each candidate presented his or her main platform, which included issues such as making Searle Student Health Service more accessible, connecting students through community-building events and building positive relations between the university and the Evanston community.

A popular point of emphasis among candidates was their desire to reform certain practices of ASG.

“My top priority would be ASG reform,” said Keenan-Devlin, a Music junior. “Presently, the concerns of the general student body are being held back by red tape and bureaucracy.”

Vishal echoed this goal, saying he wants to open all ASG committee meetings.

“A new and reformed ASG would be completely open to the public,” Patel said.

Candidate Brandon Conrad, a Weinberg junior, also proposed to make ASG more student-friendly by limiting senators’ speeches to keep the weekly meetings to about two hours long.

“The problem with ASG is, no one wants to go to the meetings,” said Conrad, a Weinberg junior.

Candidates also differed on issues of safety. Guter said universal Marlock security keys would offer safe entry into any campus building for students. Keenan-Devlin was concerned with Guter’s idea, saying the best thing ASG can do is get better lighting, blue lights and more security monitors.

Conrad, who was in ASG and dropped out because he said he didn’t like it, stood out among candidates as a last-minute entry. He focused on campus pride events and was against a “laundry list” of issues.

“I started my campaign kind of on a whim,” Conrad said.

The presidential debates followed a surprising withdrawal speech by ASG Executive Vice President Howard W. Buffett, a Communication junior, who was running for re-election. EVP Candidate Jay Schumacher, a Communication sophomore and member of the board of Students Publishing Company, which oversees The Daily, spoke to an audience still stunned from Buffett’s remarks.

Jordan Weissmann contributed to this article.

Reach Michelle Ma at [email protected]