UPUA Presidential Debate: Vision or Engagement?
The first of two debates between this year’s candidates for president of the University Park Undergraduate Association took place in the HUB last night. Though generally mild, the debate had some intense moments as Christian Ragland and Colleen Smith argued with David Adewumi about a number of issues. Adewumi’s running mate, Devin Weakland, was unable to attend the debate due to a meeting with the Schreyer Honors College Student Council, of which she is a member.
Adewumi made a number of good points regarding perceived wasteful spending by this year’s assembly, but Ragland and Smith were quick to point out that his information came almost entirely from public budget reports and Collegian articles, not from actually attending UPUA meetings or getting involved with initiatives.
When asked whether he thought the UPUA had spent its allocation responsibly, Adewumi argued that the spring festival’s $45,000 could be used in a lot of different ways since the university already has an established spring music event, Movin’ On. He brought up a trip President Gavin Keirans took to an Association of Big Ten Schools conference for which he was reimbursed thousands for travel expenses. Adewumi also mentioned the UPUA’s downtown office, which has had a troubled existence. Overall, Adewumi pressed for accountability and transparency.
But Ragland-Smith rebutted, saying the UPUA had spent the money responsibly and that the student body wanted to see fun things such as the spring festival. They cited numerous successful initiatives that went through the UPUA this year, including last weekend’s Encampment, the White-Loop extension, and the Freshman Handbook.
When talk came to Adewumi’s 10.i.10 plan, the candidate was eager to explain his three prong approach for lowering tuition to $10,000; the plan, which we wrote about, consists of increasing state appropriations, adding additional private funds, and creating a student-run auditing board. When asked how this multi-year plan would play out after Adewumi graduates, the candidate noted that his absent running mate has the vision to carry it forward after his graduation.
Ragland and Smith called the ideas “unfeasible” and countered that they represented “a proven model” of lobbying for tuition relief. They said that they already have their foot in the door, having met with soon-to-be-former Governor Rendell, and they have already developed a clear plan to lower tuition.
Another point of contention came when Adewumi’s plan to provide “free, unfettered” access to wireless internet on campus and in some areas of the borough. When Adewumi declared the spring festival money to be a possible funding source, Ragland and Smith noted that it is not possible to direct money from the Student Activity Fee towards IT projects, which are under the purvey of the IT Fee Board.
Adewumi was also questioned about his lack of UPUA experience, to which he responded by citing numerous other items on his resume, such as being the CEO of Heekya and having made numerous mission trips to foreign countries.
When asked to describe their candidacies with just one word, both of the presidential candidates had telling responses. Ragland, who has been involved with UPUA initiatives for a couple of years now, said “engaging”; Adewumi, who is a newcomer to the school’s political scene, said “vision”. To which the voters will respond come March 31 remains to be seen.
[Photo Credit – Chase Tralka]