College Council candidates hold debate

Current College Council Co-Presidents Will Slocum ’99 and Kate Ervin ’99 introduced the debate between the candidates running for CC Co-Presidents: Bert Leatherman ’00 and Medha Kirtane ’00, who are running against Reed Wiedower ’00 and Nora Cuddy ’00. Cuddy was not present at the debate. Each ticket made opening remarks and then took questions from the audience.

Leatherman began by noting the experience that he and Kirtane have in CC. Leatherman was proud of the fact that, “In our work on Council, Medha and I got opinions, talked one-on-one with people and got things done. We have the experience that sets us apart. We have built relationships with administrators, faculty and people on the staff.”

Leatherman then listed seven things, which either he or Kirtane had a direct role in getting accomplished. He mentioned the Eph Card, campaign reform, the basketball courts behind Mission Park, working to get phone rates down, the NESCAC post season policy, increased communication between CC and the Minority Coalition and working for changes in First Days.

After Leatherman spoke, Kirtane discussed their goals for next year. These goals included a rethinking of the way the College deals with money, strengthening the bond between MinCo and CC, maximizing the social opportunities for all people on campus, discussing the advising system, reinstating “Opinions Unplugged,” and opening up CC appointments to the student body.

Wiedower spoke next. He voiced concerns that the student body does not have a larger voice in CC. “For example,” he said, “Dean Murphy and President Payne made the decision about substance free housing, not College Council.”

Wiedower also mentioned there were “specific instances of financial mismanagement and disregard of College Council rules,” saying, “College Council is not in the business of business. It shouldn’t be making money.”

He ended his remarks by stating, “Stuff needs to get done now.”

Ervin then invited the audience to ask questions.

Carrie Ryan ’00 asked Wiedower to go into more depth about the problems he saw in CC.

Wiedower responded by relating an anecdote about a proposed coffee bar in the library, which was struck down at the CC meeting because it would take money away from Goodrich. “The amount of money Goodrich gets should not be a College Council concern. There is a very nebulous area around funding issues.”

Leatherman noted that CC does not get any money from Goodrich. He also said CC organizations keep the money they raise. He did note that some money from the bus service has been put into the shuttle service.

Kirtane briefly remarked that the substance free housing initiative came from the Committee on Undergraduate Life, not CC.

Wiedower responded, “The treasurer has to know how much money all the College Council organizations have in the bank. It says so in the bylaws.”

Max Weinstein ’00 asked the next question. Weinstein was interested to know how the candidates would work to structure campus debate.

Kirtane answered by remarking their ticket would focus on discussion, using the CC/MinCo letter about the desecration of the Matthew Shepard grave markers as an example. Their administration would also utilize Open Time during CC meetings.

Leatherman said he was pleased with the discussion on substance free housing, and noted that he help set up the fora that discussed the issue. “We bring diversity because of our backgrounds. We would use that to focus on community issues.”

Publicity was a big issue for Wiedower. “College Council should make a concerted effort to publicize discussions. And we need to back up our discussions with action. People don’t come to discussions if they don’t think anything will be done.”

Ervin herself asked the candidates how they would get the administration to enact change.

“We need to start at the top,” Wiedower said. “If we wanted to get things done, we could have sit-ins in Hopkins Hall. Demonstrations would happen. Substantive change would occur.”

Kirtane took a different approach. She stressed the good that has come from committee discussions. “The administration is very willing to work with people,” she said.

Leatherman too focused on the committee approach. “Medha and I have the experience to have the respect of the administration and we have a good dialogue with it.”

Ben Smeal ’00 wanted to know why the Student Activities Center in Goodrich was locked and if either ticket would work to change that.

“I couldn’t agree with you more,” Leatherman said. He said he fought the decision to close the room. Leatherman wanted the audience to know that Medha and he disagreed with CC on certain decisions.

Wiedower asked who was in control of Goodrich.

Brock Read ’01 felt a large portion of the student body did not feel enfranchised by CC, and he wanted to know what each ticket would do to remedy that problem.

Wiedower said, “As it stands now, no one knows who’s running for anything. We need a longer period to declare candidacies and there should be a greater effort to publicize debates. No one should win a College Council race by being the first person to respond to an email.”

Kirtane stressed people should be running because they want to run, not just to give another candidate competition. Kirtane agreed that races should start earlier than they do now.

Amish Shah ’00 asked the candidates what they would do to improve race relations on campus.

Kirtane said she and Leatherman would begin one CC meeting a month with MinCo open time. She felt this would help address concerns such as racism and homophobia. “We want to focus on issues of community during our administration. We don’t want to just focus on financing issues.”

“There is little evidence that College Council has helped race relations,” Wiedower said. “Signing a letter that the BGLTU has written is meaningless. Our community building program has done a better job.”

Nishant Nayyar ’02 specifically asked Wiedower what concrete solutions he had. Nayyar said Wiedower was focusing too much on negativity.

Wiedower focused on action such as sitting in, not pandering to the administration and having funding that is fair and equitable. He also wanted all CC laws to be taken into account. On the issue of funding, Wiedower said there should be complete transparency of CC funds. Wiedower said if all these actions were taken, there would be positive action on campus.

“We need to remain positive,” Leatherman said, although he noted CC should have a critical eye to all matters.

Kirtane added that everything is printed in the CC minutes and that all meetings are always open.

Anh Nguyen ’99, current CC treasurer asked Wiedower if he truly expected the treasurer to report how much money each CC organization had.

“It’s a requirement of the job to know those figures,” Wiedower said. “It says so in the Council Constitution.”

Chido Alozie ’01 asked, “We are only students. How much can College Council really do. What are the expectations.”

“That’s an issue that comes up a lot,” Leatherman said. “Medha and I have a good concept of that. We know the administration well and we are taken seriously by them. College Council does not have the authority to enact policy, though.”

Wiedower said, “It’s not College Council’s job to tell us what the administration thinks. College Council is supposed to do what the students want. No one has ever tried to sit in. Clearly passing a letter doesn’t work. We have to do something more drastic.”

One student asked Wiedower what types of things had been done which would require a sit in.

Wiedower responded, “If every athlete, who was bothered by the NESCAC, would have sit in Hopkins Hall there would have been change. If everyone’s happy with the way things are, that’s wrong.”

Leatherman pointed to the things he had dne on the NESCAC issue including the advocacy group formed with other campuses, working with alumni and advertising at basketball games.

John Wiedower ’00 asled how the candidate would change CC’s structure.

Leatherman said he and Kirtane did not want to reorganize CC. “We have a concept of the positive things we want to get done.”

Reed Wiedower said he wanted to form a group to publicize treasury activity.

Other candidates

Ervin then introduced other candidats to give speeches.

Ami Parekh ’01, who is running for secretary, Patrick Andersen ’00, who is running for treasurer, and Lix Lee’01, Ryan Mayhew ’01, and Erin Troy ’01,all of whom are running for at-large rep all fave speeches.