The theme surrounding this year’s Temple Student Government elections is change, and the first round of candidate debates were no exception.
Around 7:30 p.m. March 25, the candidates, followed by supporters and a few mostly neutral audience members, met in room 200A of the Student Center for their first debate.
Contrary to previous years’ debates, some noted that the debate structure this time was more relaxed and informal.
However, while the debate itself may have been less formal, three members of Temple’s Parliamentary Debate Team were present to score the tickets and select a winner — a new concept in comparison to the past debates.
The debate consisted of general questions and position-specific questions presented by moderator and Elections Commissioner LaCole Foots, as well as a few audience member questions, all of which were given time limits.
While many of the questions asked of the tickets had similar answers — all candidates spoke extensively on their hopes to involve and engage the general student body — some questions revealed main points and proposals in the individual platforms.
Based on experience, the tickets were first asked what they would change about TSG.
Owls United presidential candidate Malcolm Kenyatta said he would like TSG to no longer be so “introspective,” and vice president for services candidate Maggie Thompson said she would like students to believe in the organization again.
When questioned on their perception of Temple’s relationship with its surrounding community, TU360 presidential candidate Jamira Burley said, “A lot of community members and community leaders feel resentment toward Temple students.”
Burley noted rising property taxes and loss of homes as contributing factors to this feeling, and proposed meet-and-greets to educate students on the community and culture.
Running-mate vice president of external affairs candidate Jessica Reed discussed the process in which Temple students are placed into the unfamiliar territory without proper preparation.
On the same question, BreakThru TU presidential candidate Natalie Ramos-Castillo said that the community members think that students are drunks who don’t care about the community and litter.
Her ticket members went on to offer student participation in soup kitchens, preparation of Thanksgiving dinners for those in need and create nutrition workshops that would extend to local schools.
Kenyatta, who was raised in the area, explained that he plans to bring community leaders in to work with students.
“This is my community,” he said. “Whenever everyone goes home for Spring Break, I go around the corner.”
When Foots asked the tickets how they would “navigate constraints” when dealing with the administration, TU360 vice president of services candidate Mark Fabbi said his ticket would work to get what the students wanted, even if meant going above the administration to the Board of Trustees.
Ramos-Castillo cited the resources her team and TSG have established throughout the campus when answering.
“I believe we have no constraints,” Ramos-Castillo said. “We know a guy.”
When asked a candidate-specific question of why students should care about TSG, Burley explained that TSG can help students by connecting them with the right people.
“We don’t need to know the guy, you [the students] need to,” Burley said.
At the conclusion of the commission-prepared questions, the audience was given an opportunity to ask questions, many of which came from current TSG representatives.
Senate President Colin Saltry asked if the tickets would continue to support and push for the green fee, a proposed $5 increase in tuition per semester to make the university environmentally-friendly, the responses were mixed.
Burley said because the current senators who voted for the fee were not elected, she would not support it yet.
“I speak for my constituents,” Burley said. “I will support it if the new [elected] senators support it.”
Both Owls United and BreakThru TU agreed that the green fee was vital to the university and its current students.
Senator for the College of Liberal Arts Eva Alkasov stood to ask the tickets of their accomplishments and use of resources in their current positions.
Ramos-Castillo referenced her position of allocations chair and the fact that the allocations are nearly gone, which she believes to be an accomplishment.
“Not that many people are happy with me because many people believe that it is my fault that allocations have run out. This is untrue,” Ramos-Castillo said.
Ramos-Castillo explained that her committee made it easier for students to have access to the allocations money, resulting in more events and preventing a future cut in the budget.
“If we do not spend the money like the money wasn’t spent last year, it would be reduced again. This year it was reduced $30,000,” she explained.
After a few audience questions, Foots ended the debate, leaving the judges to pick a winner.
Tickets were given one to two points for every question they answered completely, zero points, or a negative point for answers that were incorrect or unrelated. The three judges calculated their points and each produced a winner.
Gaining two of the judges’ votes, BreakThru TU was declared the winner of the debate followed by TU360, leaving Owls United with no votes.
The responses to the results were mixed, some clapping and some expressing opposition.
However, after the debates ended, the judges seemed to agree that the process was not flawless.
“People had a problem with being vague, but when they were specific they were really good … when you get to someone who is really good, it’s going to overrule it,” Judge Grace Osa-edoh, a freshman political science major, said.
Mark Quien, senator for the Fox School of Business, said, “I don’t think there should have been judges because people in the audience were here for specific tickets … not everyone came with a fan base.”
The senator said when audience members targeted one ticket, it consequently gave that ticket more opportunities to earn points.
“I don’t think it should be scored in the future,” Quien said. “It was an uneasy burden for us and an uneasy feeling for them.”
Angelo Fichera can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.