UVUSA debate recap: what went well, what could have been better
On day two of the most heated UVUSA student elections in years, the candidate groups took center stage – literally.
Teams EXELerate, Impact and Aspire each made their case for student votes in front of a packed Centre Stage in the student center, Tuesday. The student government hopefuls responded to questions formulated before the debate as well as those issued by students in attendance.
Many of the questions touched on financial concerns as well as other issues that have come to light in the last few weeks, a result of increased attention on what had been – until this year – an anticlimactic voting process.
Under the new level of scrutiny and interest, each team made its best attempt to assert their own views, plans and ideals while occasionally discrediting those of others. Here’s a look at how they did.
Where they did well
· With EXELerate and Aspire actively trying to discredit each other before and during the debate, Impact entered Tuesday as a relative unknown. It was clear, however, that some students were impressed with Impact’s student involvement, a quality and experience the team stressed several times in the debate.
Several of the team’s members are actively involved in various activities and organizations most non-political students could identify with (dance, LDSSA, CAL, etc.), making Impact a more appealing option for those who felt EXELerate and Aspire didn’t necessarily represent the “average student.”
· Because of their mainstream student involvement, Impact had a good showing of supporters. The benefit of team members Clara LeFevre and Ryan Edward’s social connections on campus was evident, as both boasted several friends/supporters in the audience.
Where they could have done better:
· Impact did its best to stay out of the finger-pointing and accusations, with LeFevre and Chad Workman, Student Body President candidate, going as far as to actively agree with certain points from both parties while adding his own addendum in the process.
Such an approach, however, may have failed to make any lasting impression on the voters. At no moment did the team say anything that made the audience break its silence in support or dissension, something EXELerate and Aspire managed to accomplish multiple times.
In the end, Team Impact has to wonder if it made enough of an impact in their last-ditch effort to tilt votes their way.
Where they did well
· The unofficially labeled “incumbent team,” EXELerate took every opportunity to stress its in-office experience. President hopeful David Millet scored points with onlookers with a rebuttal to Aspire’s plans based on student conversations, countering with “I was in a meeting with President Holland…”
In short, it was hard to debate EXELerate’s established connections with the people who matter in terms of decision-making.
· For now, however, the focus is on the people who matter in the polls, namely the students. EXELerate appealed to several of those as well, sparking some buzz with plans for a “UV” to be engraved on Mount Timpanogos as a counter to BYU’s “Y” and University of Utah’s “U.” With so many students clamoring for similar recognition to neighboring universities, the idea was a good – and debated – attention-grabber.
· A surprise debate issue was the definition of school tradition, a topic initially directed to Chiahsuan Lin of Aspire. Lin emphasized ideals centered around “student health” that EXELerate member Madison Leavitt immediately rebutted, citing specific student activities and involvement. Students clearly favored Leavitt’s more tangible response to Lin’s.
Where they could have done better
· In light of increased attention on UVUSA rules and regulation, EXELerate had to have known questions regarding the topic were forthcoming. They weren’t disappointed, with one question asking whether an independent Elections Committee should be substituted for the current one. The current committee has at least four members with direct ties to team EXELerate, forming what many perceive as a potential conflict of interest should government checks and regulations need to be enforced.
Millett tried to stay on the fence, saying he believed the committee did need to be independent but that the current one “wasn’t biased.” The response brought not-so-subtle reactions from students who thought otherwise.
· When the subject of financial records transparency, Millett said “anyone can come into our office anytime and ask for [financial records.]” This would mark a change in practice since January, when requested financial records for Student Life were denied to the Review.
· Student relations? Nearly every cardboard sign held by student protestors appeared pointed toward EXELerate, with topics ranging from predetermined bias for the incumbent team to ethnic diversity to financial disclosure. Negativity speaks louder than anything at political debates, and the majority of audience negativity appeared pointed at EXELerate.
Where they did well
· It was clear Aspire’s calling card was student and faculty concerns. They referenced multiple conversations initiated with campus students and employees, an approach many in the audience saw as a sign that Aspire pays attention to everyday concerns and issues.
· President hopeful Brock Ward earned the biggest interruption of applause of the day in response to a panel question on earning student trust. Ward associated transparency with accountability, automatically connecting finances with student trust. He followed by touting business cards for every team member containing personal contact info, hammering home the point that any student could contact them in the event they get elected. “We need to be held accountable for what we say we’re going to do,” Ward said.
· Federal elections tend to produce a candidate that tries to win minority votes, and Aspire has quickly embraced that role here. Lin was the only international student among the 12 total candidates, and Aaron Samudio earned a lot of points for his insight on WeeCare, UVU’s daycare center for student mothers.
In other words, Aspire may have won over non-traditional students, but how many actually vote is a debate in itself.
Where they could have done better
· Samudio opted for a rebuttal to Millett’s “UV” monument proposal, which wasn’t damaging in and of itself. It was the angle he chose, however, that robbed his rebuttal of any teeth.
Samudio criticized the need for anyone to see “UV” on a mountain, essentially questioning the value of the recognition instead of potential flaws of the project’s completion. Such flaws (time of completion, source of funding, etc.) were easily addressable. Instead Samudio’s response earned little reaction from the audience, which appeared disenchanted with what could have been interpreted as a lack of school pride.
· Lin was the target of the majority of candidate-specific questions, most of which having to do with “school tradition.” As previously referenced, Lin stressed the importance of student well-being, asking “how can students enjoy activities if they’re not healthy?”
Lin’s stance was understandable given Aspire’s key platform of student success/retention, but the all-school, no-play approach earned little support and opened the door for Leavitt’s rebuttal.
By Matt Petersen