Co-president hopefuls debate issues, platforms

College Council (CC) co-presidential candidates Brendan Docherty ’04 and Scott Grinsell ’04, Shomik Dutta ’05 and Zak Haviland ’04, Aidan Finley ’04 and Sarah Iams ’04 and Mike Henry ’04 and Chin Ho ’04 participated in two debates last week, one sponsored by the Minority Coalition (MinCo) on Tuesday evening in Baxter Lounge, and another one sponsored by MinCo, CC and the Record on Thursday evening in Goodrich Hall.

In articulating their differences, the candidates established a distinct dichotomy between those with and without CC leadership experience.

In both debates, current council members Docherty and Grinsell and Henry and Ho generally focused on CC’s accomplishments and ways for CC to reach its full potential. Dutta and Haviland and Finley and Iams stressed their disappointment with the current state of CC and the need for new blood amongst the Council leadership.

The Thursday debate, attended by only about 40 students, began with opening statements from the four pairs of candidates, which were followed by four questions from the debate’s moderators.

After the moderators’ questions, audience members had the opportunity to ask questions of their own. Throughout the evening, each pair of candidates had three one-minute rebuttals to use at their discretion.

After the opening statements, which closely mirrored candidates’ previous statements, the first question pertained to the issue of whether there was a sense of “institutional defeatism” on CC. Candidates with no previous CC experience were also asked how they would be able to lead with no knowledge of procedure and bylaws.

The question revealed stark differences between the candidates. Docherty, Grinsell, Henry and Ho focused on the positive things that CC has done in the past:

“We think that CC has done a lot of things,” Henry said. “We brought in the town manager to look into the parking issue, for example.”

Dutta, Haviland, Finley and Iams took an opposing view of CC. Focusing instead on issues where CC failed, Finley stressed the importance of new blood to revitalize CC:

“Bylaws and rules can be learned, but new ideas cannot,” he said. He added that the current CC leadership has lost perspective on what students want.

The second question asked the candidates to describe what sort of relationship the CC leadership ought to have with the administration, using the smoking ban as an example. Again, responses were consistent with the candidates’ previous statements.

Grinsell argued that how CC interacts with the administration should vary from issue to issue: “It depends on the situation, and on Dean Roseman’s mood. I think with her, the 25-foot rule is something we can work on.”

Iams, consistent with her view that CC shouldn’t speak on behalf of students, said, “CC should give students in the minority the ability to speak for themselves.”

Dutta said CC should continue to fight the smoking ban: “CC is the student group with the most legitimacy to represent the student body. It needs to be aggressive and reasonable at the same time.”

Ho pointed to Henry’s and his previous work on CC as indicative of their ability to work with the administration. “We’ve been aggressive in the past,” he said, mentioning last year’s room draw controversy. “We’re willing to be diplomatic or undiplomatic.”

The discussion of the smoking issue prompted the use of several rebuttals and the most spirited debate of the evening. Addressing Dutta and Haviland directly, Docherty said, “You suggested on the front page of the Record that CC start using its money to pay the $25 smoking fees. This shows that you don’t understand the issues at all, given how tight CC’s budget is.”

Dutta and Haviland, unsurprisingly, chose to use one of their rebuttals as well. “They’re telling you they have experience,” Dutta said. “They have experience with failure.”

The third question asked the candidates to describe how they felt about current admissions policies, with a specific eye to the practice of giving special consideration to minority students, student athletes, and legacy students. The question did not reveal any differences among the candidates, as they all enthusiastically supported current policies.

The fourth and final official question asked the candidates to describe how, if at all, their platform had changed since they began campaigning. While all candidates indicated that their fundamental message had not changed, they did mention some examples of issues that they had become of aware of recently.

Grinsell mentioned better athletic facilities, Docherty mentioned the importance of committees, and Iams mentioned the specific importance of the Committee on Diversity and Community.

One audience question asked the candidates to describe how they thought All Campus Entertainment (ACE) could be improved.

While both Haviland and Docherty suggested that hosts and peer monitors be paid, Ho said that much of the problem could be solved if CC members themselves sometimes threw parties.

Finley, on the other hand, did not feel that ACE should be of primary concern to CC: “We need to keep in mind we don’t all like parties,” he said. “Some of my science major friends go out for problem sets.”

Another question asked the candidates how willing they were to take political risks to fight on behalf of the student body.

“There are times when you need to do whatever it takes, including breaking the law,” Grinsell said. While Iams said that she could conceivably join a protest, but “it would have to be a majority issue.”

At the MinCo debate two nights previous, candidates discussed ways in which CC could better communicate with MinCo and better work on behalf of the minority community. Haviland began by explaining that CC needs to work harder to ensure that every student on campus has a forum where he or she feels comfortable speaking. He also suggested adding an additional MinCo representative to CC.

Docherty, speaking next, contended that CC needs to be more proactive with minority issues. He also said that he was concerned about situations where minority students are thrust into the role of a spokesman for the minority community as a whole.

Henry discussed the importance of CC members attending MinCo events. “We need to have a community based upon communication,” Ho added.

Iams, consistent with her focus on committees, highlighted the Committee on Diversity and Community. “Committees really have fallen by the wayside in student consciousness,” she said. “They’re the most powerful tool we have.”

Elections began yesterday at 12:01 a.m. and close tonight at 11:59 p.m., and are hosted online at http://jose.williams.edu.

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