Thursday, March 15, 2012

ASPLU candidates vie for votes

By Jack Sorensen, Focus Editor

ASPLU executive candidates had their last chance to campaign Tuesday during a public debate in the lower level of the University Center.

The organization’s bylaws mandated candidates cease active campaigning March 7, the day before ASPLU primaries. Even though primaries were cancelled because of there being only two tickets, candidates’ campaigning was still limited to Tuesday’s debate and signs posted before March 7.

At its busiest point, 30 people attended Tuesday’s public debate. Many of the attendees were involved in either ASPLU or Residence Hall Association.

The debate pitted juniors Ian Metz and Taylor Astel against juniors Matt Peters and Jessica Lavigne, running for president and vice president respectively. Current ASPLU President Alexis Ballinger moderated the event, which featured a candidate cross-examination and a question-and-answer session with the audience.

All four candidates rode the reform wagon, unanimously agreeing that ASPLU needed internal reform to remain relevant to the student body. But Peters, current RHA president, was particularly critical of the way ASPLU is currently run.

“Every student is a member of ASPLU,” Peters said, arguing the organization does not currently do enough to garner student opinion. He stressed the importance of “being an organization based in inclusion,” creating a more accessible presence in the UC and on the Internet. Chief among Peters’ contentions with the organization was what he described as the exclusivity of the senate and board of directors.

ASPLU must focus on “seeking out people who aren’t just our friends” for directorial positions, Peters said.

Though a two-year senator and current ASPLU incumbent, Metz also argued for significant change in the composition of the organization.

“The model is flawed,” Metz said. He called upon his experience as a lobbying intern at the capital in Olympia, proposing ASPLU implement a model of professional, “real-world politics.” Specifically, Metz said he would redistrict senators’ representation, giving senators specific areas of campus they would represent. As an example, Metz suggested senators represent individual residence halls or separate senators represented upper and lower campus.

ASPLU should create “additional responsibilities for individuals niches—districts, if you will,” Metz said.

Both presidential candidates agreed ASPLU has been ineffective at reaching students, as well as representing students’ voices to the administration. Throughout the debate, the candidates cited the approaching administrative tobacco ban as an example of ASPLU ineffectiveness.

“The smoking ban was behind the scenes,” Metz said. While Metz argued “the forums were just for talk,” he said ASPLU could have done more to respond to this “top-down” initiative.

ASPLU could have passed “legislation to combat this sneakiness,” Metz said.

On the other ticket, Peters questioned how the ban got as far as it did without ASPLU responding.

“ASPLU has struggled to fulfill its purpose,” Peters said. “The organization has become lost in itself and is desperately in need for new leaders that will be dedicated to helping student government rediscover its roots on our campus.”

Several students asked critical questions during the audience-involvement segment. One student said critics of ASPLU were questioning whether both pairs of candidates were only interested in ASPLU executive positions to boost their resumes.

But Metz and Astel, who said they wanted to pursue careers in the medical and education fields respectively, argued an ASPLU executive position would do nothing to further their professional aspirations. They are solely running out of their passion for student government, both said.

“I work in real world politics,” Metz responded. “I don’t need a resume builder.”

Lavigne said her passion comes from her work as the current RHA activities director and that she just wants to “make tangible things” from students’ voices.

While audience members were critical of the candidates’ future resumes, the candidates were critical of each other’s resumes thus far. In particular, Metz and Astel questioned Peters’ and Lavigne’s candidacy as neither Peters nor Lavigne have worked in ASPLU. Astel argued that, with such large changes proposed, students should vote for ASPLU incumbents.

“It’s a vote for an understanding of how change works,” Astel said.

Likewise, Metz called upon his professional experience to support his candidacy.

“I bring the experience from being in state-level politics,” Metz said. “Or would you like to vote for somebody who is coming from the outside and does not have the experience?”

Lavigne used Metz and Astel’s arguments to support her ticket, contending that non-ASPLU incumbents would be the best choice for the organization.

“Matt and I have unique experience being outsiders,” she said.

The experience argument caused equal division in the audience and was commonly cited by voters on both sides. Sophomore Dallas Gordon said she was, and has been, a Metz-Astel supporter because of both candidates’ time with ASPLU.

“They have great experience with ASPLU already and they know what they want for the school,” Gordon said. “A vote for Taylor and Ian is a vote in the right direction.”

Junior Anna Pfohl said she was voting Peters-Lavigne because of their experience in RHA, coupled with their outsider standing.

“I’ve known since they announced their candidacy that I was going to be voting for them,” Pfohl said. “I am on RHA with them for this year, so I have seen what they did in just one single semester for all of the changes to South.”

Voting opened 8 a.m. Thursday and will close Friday at 5 p.m. Watch The Mooring Mast’s Facebook page for the announcement of ASPLU’s 2012-2013 president and vice president.