Tuesday night’s ASSU executive debate, conceived as a civil discourse between the six executive slates, quickly spiraled downward into a moderated shouting match where substantive comments mixed with crowd-riling techniques and pointed attacks.
The debate, held in the CoHo and co-sponsored by Stanford in Government, The Stanford Daily and The Stanford Review featured all six executive slates: Katherine Heflin ’11 and Daniel Liefer ’10, juniors Thom Scher and Stephanie Werner, doctoral students in chemical engineering Ryan Peacock and Jonathan Bakke, juniors Austin Guzman and Patrick Mahoney, Angelina Cardona ’11 and Kelsei Wharton ’12, and Billy Kemper ’11 and Josh Meisel ’12. Stanford Daily president and editor in chief Kamil Dada ’11 and Stanford Review news editor Tom Corrigan ’11 moderated the debate.
The candidates answered slate-by-slate questions about issues ranging from executive-legislative relations to plans for executive cabinet before the discourse turned to rants against Stanford Housing, promises of student government transparency and discussion of grant funding for student organizations.
While the debate did cover some key topics of the campaign, including accountability and wellness, the conversation was often marred by technical difficulties with microphones and disturbances from candidates themselves. Kemper and Meisel, the Stanford Chaparral slate, began the night with humorous additions to the debate, but after a few questions and a few beers, turned to rowdy antics that elicited both cheers and boos from the crowd.
Meanwhile, the No-Rain Campaign slate, Heflin and Leifer, emphasized key points of their platform. Leifer, who called their candidacy “an opportunity to have a slate about issues,” also mentioned the slate’s plans for an executive-organized dispersal of textbook ISBNs, to which an audience member responded, “That’s a bad idea.”
Peacock and Bakke, both highlighting hopes of ASSU restructuring and improving relationships with University administration, consistently pointed to their relatively mature approach to the executive’s role. Peacock, who serves on the Graduate Student Council (GSC), described it as having a “healthier relationship” with the executive than the Undergraduate Senate.
“I’ve never seen an executive mandate work,” Peacock said. “You can’t just go to a legislative body and tell them, ‘This needs to happen.’”
In addition to discussion of the legislative process, many slates also put forward specific policy recommendations. Scher for example, mentioned potential reform of residential parking permits.
“Why can I not drive my car from Lag to Wilbur in the middle of the day?,” Scher asked.
Several slates referred to the formation of Green Alliance for Innovative Action (GAIA) as an example of the executive’s successful work as coordinator of student initiatives.
Cardona, a resident assistant in Trancos whose statements were met with loud cheers from her residents, addressed the details of the Cardona-Wharton platform, but also defended the Wellness Room, which she helped organize.
In one of his answers, Mahoney criticized the ASSU for focusing on what he considered the wrong areas, saying the organization should instead focus on preventing laptop theft and reforming the housing process.
“These are the things that we see as facing the student body in significant ways that are probably more important than whether the Wellness Room has enough plastic bubbles,” he said, to which the audience responded with some boos.
Cardona, in a later response, addressed the Wellness Room and controversy surrounding its cost and efficacy by emphasizing that the project was the result of large-scale collaboration and is still in the process of transitioning to a wellness project led by student groups.
“Everyone has a different opinion, some good, some bad,” she said. “At the end of the day, though, there’s a stronger presence of wellness on our campus, and I think that should count for a lot.”
Later, in response to Mahoney’s repeated calls for “unionization” of ASSU and critiques of campus housing, underage drinking law enforcement and laptop theft, Cardona joked, “Does anyone in this room have an extra laptop that we can donate to Mahoney?”
The debate continued with questions from the audience, including one to Scher and Werner about their decision to cancel their endorsement interview with The Daily’s editorial board. Scher reiterated the slate’s concern regarding the former affiliation of one of the editorial board members with the Students of Color Coalition (SOCC), another endorsing group.
Although Mahoney thanked the Chaparral slate earlier in the night for participating, saying, “This would be really dry and boring without them,” by the time the debate was drawing to a close, the tone on the stage was visibly tense. In response to an audience member shouting, “Can you not talk anymore?” Meisel said, “I’d like to see you get up here and make funny jokes,” prompting audience members to shout at the moderators to quiet down the pair.
By this time, Kemper and Meisel had repeatedly walked off the stage, spilled beer and called for “more petite Asian girls,” a two-person cabinet, discretionary funds to “buy better athletes” and a weeklong Admit Weekend. The slate’s final remarks were cut short when Kemper’s microphone was turned off mid-sentence as he proclaimed, “I am the tannest m———-r.”