ASG vice presidential debate focuses on ticket relationships, campus issues

SESP junior Jo Lee, McCormick junior Alex Van Atta and Weinberg junior Danny Kim discussed relationships with their presidential candidates and campus issues, along with Weinberg junior Henry Brooke (not pictured). The vice presidential candidate debate was the third of the Associated Student Government sponsored debates.

Hillary Back/The Daily Northwestern

SESP junior Jo Lee, McCormick junior Alex Van Atta and Weinberg junior Danny Kim discussed relationships with their presidential candidates and campus issues, along with Weinberg junior Henry Brooke (not pictured). The vice presidential candidate debate was the third of the Associated Student Government sponsored debates.

Stephanie Haines, Best of Evanston Editor

“Compliment the person to your left” and “Who would you vote for if you were not running?” were prompts from about 50 students who rattled the Associated Student Government executive vice president candidates during the debate Monday evening.

In response to the second question, Alex Van Atta, an executive vice presidential candidate and McCormick junior running alongside Weinberg junior Ani Ajith, said he would vote for SESP juniors David Harris and Jo Lee after working with them as peer candidates this election season.

Ajith, a former Daily staffer, and Van Atta received two votes from other candidates, and SESP junior Benison Choi and Weinberg junior Danny Kim also received one. Weinberg juniors Henry Brooke and Aaron Zelikovich did not get votes from the other candidates. Many of the students who attended the debate were ASG committee members or supporters for a specific campaign.

Some of the questions were directed toward the relationship between the running mates and how they work together. The candidates were asked to assess the weakness of their partner and how they balanced each other’s faults.

“Benison’s weakness is his passion,” said Kim, Choi’s executive vice president running mate. “He has a lot of vision and a lot of great ideas, and it kind of consumes him sometimes. I step in and say, ‘What time do we have? What can we do with this time frame?’”

The candidates were also how they maintained friendships with their running mates when they disagreed.

Brooke said his experience on the men’s varsity baseball team has taught him to keep a “cool head” during arguments, which helps counterbalance Zelikovich’s ASG passion.

“Aaron and I are pretty different people,” Brooke said. “I met Aaron in Senate, and I saw him getting really into debate at the first Senate meeting I came to and I thought, ‘Wow, this person is getting really aggressive and out of control.’ And that’s how I kind of see how our relationship has formed.  Aaron is so passionate, and that’s why I say, ‘Dude, you gotta chill.’”

Van Atta said he and Ajith have found disagreements to be productive.

“Throughout this campaign, we haven’t been able to see eye to eye on certain things, but we’ve been able to work through it,” Van Atta said. “We know what each other is thinking, but we are not afraid to butt heads.”

Meatier questions included how the ASG executive vice president would increase focus on improving ASG culture. Lee emphasized the executive vice president’s role in developing strong leadership within ASG.

“We need to recruit people who are unapologetically idealistic,” Lee said. “We need to recruit people who can build the ideas that we have. We struggle to get things out the doors and get our ideas out there.”

Instead of focusing on leadership development, Kim spoke about increasing transparency within ASG and increasing Senate-student body communication. Kim said ASG representatives do not properly inform their constituents or their fellow senators.

In terms of relationships with administration, the candidates voiced different approaches for incorporating NU officials into their agendas. Brooke emphasized taking “realistic steps for realistic change” and not relying solely on the administrative permission to achieve his goals.

“We will focus on real things that we can actually affect,” Brooke said. “We will push the administration for more psychologists absolutely.”

Again, Kim stressed the importance of communication, this time regarding clear expression of what the students want from the administration. Lee mentioned Harris’s experience with working alongside the administration, and Van Atta cited his work with the Norris University Center executive director in opening the student center for 24 hours during Winter Quarter Reading Period.

Miranda Zhao, outgoing president of Residential College Board, said she attended the debate to see what the candidates had to offer for residential life issues — and to make her decision objectively in Friday’s election.

“I was very impressed by Jo’s approach to questions,” the Weinberg junior said. “She was a very eloquent speaker, and I didn’t know her well before, so it was great for me to see her.”

However, Zhao said the debate was not enough to sway her from her original support for Ajith and Van Atta.

“Alex stood out well even thought it may appear he was not as emotional as Jo, but he has experience and shows it through his work,” Zhao said.

Medill sophomore Tosten Burks said although he was there to support Brooke, he was genuinely interested in how idealistic the other candidates appeared.

“His rhetoric is much more practical and grounded,” Burks said. “When you say you want someone who’s ‘unapologetically idealistic,’ that needs to be counter balanced.”