This year’s ASSU Executive candidates sparred Monday night during a debate at the CoHo co-sponsored by The Daily and The Stanford Review. Slates Zimbroff-Wagstaff, Open Source Candidates and Macgregor-Dennis & Druthi participated, while a fourth and fifth slate, Family Matters and Mwaura-Mbatia, dropped out of the presidential race fewer than 24 hours before the event.
Slates had one minute to respond to each of 12 questions.
Robbie Zimbroff ‘12 and William Wagstaff ‘12 emphasized that they did not wish to “reinvent the wheel” of the ASSU if elected. The Open Source Candidates slate, Daniel Koning ‘14 and Kian Ameli ‘13, representing the Chaparral, stressed their accessibility through their campaign wiki site, while Stewart Macgregor-Dennis ‘13, current ASSU vice president, and his running mate Druthi Ghanta ‘14 highlighted that they offer a slate with an ASSU insider and outsider.
Macgregor-Dennis’s work as ASSU vice president and his nearly $10,000 salary were the topic of much debate, but none of the slates said they would take a wage-cut or refuse payment altogether if elected.
“It’s not right to view the presidency as a leadership position in a student group, Macgregor-Dennis said. “It’s more like a job that should be compensated that way.”
Macgregor-Dennis added that he reduced his course load in order to be able to commit more time to ASSU work this year.
Wagstaff commented that as a first-generation student who would not be able to continue his work as a resident assistant (RA) or maintain another job if elected, he would not refuse monetary compensation from the ASSU.
Koning said he would not turn away the money either.
“We think there’s nothing wrong with taking the money and running,” Koning said. “It’s actually part of our agenda.”
Another recurring issue at the debate was a textbook exchange program advocated by Zimbroff and Wagstaff.
“The textbook exchange could go a long way, and the ASSU could be a conduit for that,” Zimbroff said. “It’s an example of what we would use money on, and we feel that would be an effective use of funds.”
Macgregor-Dennis countered by saying there is no need for the exchange, pointing to Book Bazaar, a student-initiated website that organizes student textbook trades without cost to the ASSU. Macgregor-Dennis noted that the program was started without any ASSU funding.
Book Bazaar is currently not being maintained, but the program’s website says it will return in winter 2012.
Macgregor-Dennis and Ghanta emphasized the value of their slate’s combined experience, both from within and outside of student government.
“I’ve been a critic of the ASSU and the ASSU not being connected with the student body, which I think will give us an advantage next year because I’ll have that perspective,” Ghanta said. She also commented that Macgregor-Dennis’s extensive past work with the ASSU would allow the pair to start work with different groups from day one instead of having to learn the inner-workings of student government.
Zimbroff and Wagstaff stressed their other student group involvement, including their work as RAs, in club sports and in various other student organizations.
“ASSU experience doesn’t prepare you better to be ASSU president,” Zimbroff said. “We know students’ day-to-day lives, so our experiences prepare us better.”
The Open Source Candidates also did not feel that their lack of experience in student government hurts their qualifications.
“I don’t have a whole lot of experience, but I know what I’m doing,” Ameli said. To which Koning added, “We may not be smart, but we’re both street smart.”
All slates were asked to describe one action item from their platform.
Macgregor-Dennis & Druthi spoke about creating an ASSU Civic Action Unit, which Ghanta described as “the leveraging platform for students to pursue nonprofit experiences next year.”
Wagstaff and Zimbroff commented on campus tutoring programs.
“There are 47 different groups that go to tutor in [East Palo Alto] EPA, and we think that’s a great thing, but we want to consolidate,” Wagstaff said. “We want to condense our service efforts and also monitor the great work there.”
During a question-and-answer session with the audience, the slates were asked how they would discern which comments and concerns from students merit serious attention and which are submitted as jokes.
“If I caught my son smoking a cigarette, I would make him smoke the whole pack,” Koning said. “If I caught my son smoking a joint, I would make him smoke an ounce blunt. If someone posted a joke to our wiki, you better believe, boy howdy, that we would implement it.”