Besides re-emphasizing their party platforms, the Michigan Student Assembly executive officer candidates had a chance to challenge each other’s opinions and create a conflict of political interest at yesterday’s MSA debate.
During the debate, which was televised on WOLV-TV, each presidential candidate was asked about MSA’s effectiveness in terms of addressing student concerns. Three of the candidates stressed the need for MSA reforms.
“Students on MSA think MSA is a joke, and they think it’s a joke because candidates run on joke platforms,” said Agnes Aleobua, the Defend Affirmative Action Party presidential candidate. “I do think students would take MSA more seriously if we give them real issues to debate on.”
Students First presidential candidate Sarah Boot said because Students First candidates are involved in many student groups, they will be able to relate more to students.
“I know what it’s like to be a student on this campus, involved in different things,” Boot said.
Independent presidential candidate Matt Stone said “the problem I see with MSA is that the same people have been involved in MSA since I got here.
“I’m sick of student government running things behind closed doors. I want to get out on the Diag,” he said.
While most of the candidates agreed that students have become apathetic toward MSA, Blue Party presidential candidate John Carter said his party took over an assembly that was a wreck and has revamped interest in MSA by working on projects for University students.
“This past year, we have implemented a fall break. We have extended Central Campus Recreational Building hours,” Carter said. “The Blue Party is going to remain committed to student programs.” Carter added that most candidates address MSA’s problems so they do not have to talk about concrete issues.
Each presidential candidate was also asked about his or her stance on affirmative action in light of the anticipated rulings in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Aleobua said none of the other parties has come out and stated how they plan to handle the issue, but DAAP unequivocally defends affirmative action. “There’s no difference between affirmative action and ice machines in the dorms,” she said. “We have to have a student government that is willing to deal with both.”
When asked if DAAP would continue to support affirmative action if a majority of University students voiced their opposition to the policy, DAAP vice-presidential candidate Ben Royal said, “Our position on affirmative action is a principled position, and one we’ll stand by.”
Boot said although she supports affirmative action personally, Students First feels MSA should hear all students’ opinions on the issue. “I have my opinions and I plan to listen to students on campus and not make any decision for them,” Students First vice-presidential candidate Dana Glassel said.
When asked about his position on affirmative action, Matt Stone emphasized his neutrality. “All I can do is provide a forum (for student debate),” he said. “I don’t want to make that decision.”
Carter said Blue Party candidates have a variety of opinions on affirmative action, but he did not directly state his opinion on the issue.
In his closing speech, Carter directly addressed problems of the other parties, including an intense focus on affirmative action, a lack of experience and a lack of taking firm stances on student issues.
Aleobua said she can not tell the difference between the Blue Party and Students First because, unlike DAAP’s support of affirmative action, neither party takes unequivocal positions on political issues.
Stone said his platform promotes extra-curricular involvement and student debate. Independent vice-presidential candidate Megan Stohner added that although inexperience is a challenge, serving on MSA is a learning experience, and she and Stone are going to “learn very quickly how to take their issues to the administration.”
Because Students First is a union of former members of the Blue, Michigan and University Democrats parties, Boot said she feels that her party’s candidates are more experienced leaders than those running for the Blue Party.