By Alex Sousa and Natalie Sullivan
Diversity and connectivity were the buzzwords at the UVUSA election debate held Tuesday, March 5 at noon in Center Stage. About 80 students attended to event to watch the 12 candidates discuss their respective platforms.
The candidates were noticeably mild on stage, and the audience questioned the candidates’ hesitancy to get into the meat of the subjects. There was a live Twitter commentary under #UVUSA2013, with many tweets questioning the lack of actual debate.
“Where are the rebuttals?” asked Madison Leavitt via Twitter.
UVU Review Editor-in-Chief Vanessa Perkins moderated the debate, strictly holding candidates to their allotted time. Teams had 30 seconds for rebuttal for each question; none used that time.
The debate was an opportunity for the teams to stand out. Sadly, the candidate’s answers left many in attendance feeling unimpressed.
“The main thing I’m looking for is enthusiasm, because what they’re saying right now doesn’t so much matter, “ said Ryan Bush, student. “It’s more if they’re willing to be enthusiastic about the school.”
Much of the conversation focused on the rich diversity at Utah Valley University and non-traditional students, many of whom come looking for an education rather than the “college experience.”
“I feel like there’s a disconnect between student government and the diversity of the student body,” said Cleopatra Belfore, student. “Because we don’t have the dorms like [the University of Utah], for example, and there are a lot of non-traditional and multicultural students, if student government doesn’t work to bridge that gap then there is going to be a disconnect.”
Team Ignite spoke extensively on diversity, displaying Elizabeth Jarema, the executive vice presidential candidate, as their strongest example.
“This is why I’m here,” said Jerema, originally from Fiji. “I’m a nontraditional student from a minority group and I have some passion for bringing some change into this group of people.”
Team Ignite mentioned transparency once, but Jono Andrews, the presidential candidate, used most of the time to deliver audience-expected, standard answers.
Team Empower, whose most diverse member is Marin Reynolds, presidential candidate hailing from Las Vegas, couldn’t rely on diversity for their platform. They instead focused on the connectivity they want to bring and the legacy they want to create.
“We’re trying to build a connection on campus and an idea that lasts long after we leave,” Reynolds said. “We’re trying to change the format of the way things are done. And that’s by increasing student voice.”
No one mentioned that Reynolds is the only female candidate for president of the three teams. If elected, she would be the second female president in school history.
Most candidates spoke proudly about the unorthodox nature of UVU and the idea of connectivity. They discussed finding a sense of school spirit on a commuter campus, a concern for many students at the university.
Aubree Hill, candidate for vice president of student activities on team #avenue, addressed the fact that many students on campus wear clothing from other universities. This trend is something her team looks to eliminate, she said, but some students feel that the issues are deeper than apparel choice.
“The school spirit largely depends on how you involve students both traditional and non-traditional. Commuter school or not,” said Bradley Spencer via Twitter during the event.
Connectivity was an important topic, with most of the teams leaning heavily on building a strong connection between the different parts of the school, a stance that left many students with unanswered questions.
“I just wonder, for instance, with #avenue, the practicality of working with more students and clubs on campus. It’s impossible to take into account everyone’s opinion on every single decision, so I wonder how they’re going to balance that,” said Matt Perry, student.
Team #avenue, who are relying heavily on social media as a campaign tool, talked about how they also plan to use it as a means for students to voice their concerns and create a network.
“Our motivation runs off of the student’s motivation. We want our platforms and our goals to mirror what the students want,” said Zach Dearing, presidential candidate. “That’s why we have a social media trend, because we want the students to be heard.”
#avenue did not address how that networking would be any different from the already-existing means of communication that have been neglected by the student body.
With one more day of voting, candidates will campaign hard through Wednesday.