Note: This debate happened Monday night, but it’s definitely not an April Fools joke. Here it is, with a short delay.
The UPUA Presidential candidates provided a more contentious dialogue during the second and final debate of the race last night in the HUB Auditorium, just days before Wednesday’s election.
Tickets Anand Ganjam and Emily McDonald, Meeten Doshi and Kate Taylor, and Melissa McCleery and Tim Rinehart answered questions regarding both external and internal UPUA governance, in addition to defending their own platforms and questioning opponents.
Here are some highlights from the debate, moderated by Onward State editors Zach Berger and Dan McCool and Daily Collegian editor-in-chief Brittany Horn:
The first question of the night asked how the tickets plan to improve student apathy toward UPUA. It was fitting – there were no more than 45 people present at any time during the debate. As such, this question provided some of the most varied responses from the candidates. Ganjam plans to focus on roundtable student leader governance and pursuing initiatives specific to the student interest. While Doshi wants to focus on outreach, McCleery wants fundamental change to how UPUA is operated to decrease apathy.
“UPUA gets caught up in playing government, and quite frankly it’s an embarrassment and a disservice to the student body when we get caught up having petty arguments,” McCleery said.
Ganjam said he didn’t like the idea of setting up tables in the HUB for students to talk to UPUA members, because he doesn’t view any student important enough for peers to line up for them. McCleery gleaned that Ganjam was referencing her platform’s idea for “Collaboration Chats,” and defended them by saying they’d “never be us sitting at a table waiting for students to come up to us.” She also noted that UPUA has held office hours at its third floor HUB location, of which Ganjam plans to continue, for the past eight years with little engagement.
Ganjam and McCleery would again contest one another during the next question, which asked about parts of each candidate’s platform with seemingly unfeasible initiatives. The initiative in question on Ganjam’s platform was the addition of heat lamps at popular CATA stops.
“I’m interested to know what your contribution is with these bus stop heaters, since you said the work has already been laid down by the current Facilities Committee,” McCleery asked Ganjam. “It kind of seems like you’re piggybacking off of the work that’s already been done by this assembly.”
Ganjam rebutted that his ticket had collaborated with Rep. John Garfield on the initiative, saying “in no way, shape or form did we write in our platform that we sat on the Facilities Committee, did we write that we did any of the concrete work to it. We just added to it…again we did not ever, once, say we would take credit for the work they laid down.”
The Doshi ticket had to handle criticisms over a lack of experience, as Doshi is not in the Assembly and Taylor has one year of experience. As president of the Blue-White Society, Doshi said he is used to motivating people to achieve their initiatives, saying the Blue-White Society has a stronger system of accountability than UPUA.
The Ganjam ticket received one of the trickier candidate-specific questions: “Some have said that you seem to be timid or reserved at times despite your leadership experience. What is your leadership style and how do you intend to lead the assembly if elected?” In response, Ganjam said he’s heard similar criticisms, but he disagrees with them and leads by example. He said he works harder to push initiatives through, using that to motivate others.
But Rinehart was quick to rebut, arguing that having a strong presence in a room from the get-go is necessary and McCleery has proven to be adept at that. In response, Ganjam said it’s “great that you have administrative experience,” but working with students is most important, and that’s what he feels he’s excelled at.
McCleery asked McDonald, the UPUA Diversity Chair, why she hasn’t put more initiatives into place regarding diversity and what concrete things she’s accomplished in UPUA. But McDonald was prepared, saying that increasing diversity efforts at New Student Orientation would have been hard to evaluate because it happens in the summer. She also said she had reached out to international students but received an apathetic response. Taylor then pressed her for how roundtable leadership will be effective if such apathy exists from international students, to which McDonald replied that making conversations around tangible topics is the new plan.
When the dust settled, there was no clear winner of the race’s final debate. While the first debate featured little actual discourse between the tickets, it was encouraging to see the gloves come off a bit last night with tensions rising as Election Day nears. The candidates all took shots at each other’s platforms, but there were no major stumbles and most rebuttals were well-defended.
The polls open at 6 a.m. on Wednesday with voting spots around campus or online at vote.psu.edu before closing at 10 p.m. You can follow along with our election coverage this evening as the results come in.