UPUA Debate Lively, Despite Surprising Absence
At 7:50, the whispers began. At 7:55, when the crowd started to file in, it was even more stark. And when the debate began at 8:00, and there were only three campaign tickets represented on the dais, it became clear to all who came out to UPUA’s first presidential debate: David Adewumi and Sri Pisupati wouldn’t be joining them.
But despite the momentary thinning of the herd, the debate wasn’t lacking for memorable moments. What began as a showcase for the campaigns of T.J. Bard, Joe Grimes, and Travis Salters quickly devolved into a fight between the former and the latter–perhaps acknowledging their status as presumptive front-runners–with Grimes, along with Tyler Wentz, mainly staking out a middle ground between the increasingly antagonistic Bard and Salters, and their respective vice presidents, Courtney Lennartz and Maggie Quinn.
Still, the three tickets found more common ground than areas for disagreement. All admitted that UPUA needed to do a better job with outreach, that students couldn’t be asked to bear the entire brunt of the appropriations cut that puts Penn State in dire financial straits, and that the formation of PASS will help Penn State students gain better representation to the state of Pennsylvania. The devil, as they say, was in the details.
Though it was never a featured question by moderators Dustin Dove or Tim Dooley, the rallies on Old Main that Salters organized last month became a focal point of debate between him and Bard, with Salters claiming those marches as the centerpiece of a campaign that promises to not only represent students, but advocate for them “by any means necessary.”
According to Salters and Quinn, those rallies proved a commitment to populism, that they would represent all students, labeling Bard as something of an elitist due to his proposal of expanding the Presidential Roundtable to include heads of more student groups on campus, while Salters planned to institute town-hall style meetings for UPUA.
But Bard and Lennartz didn’t hold back in their criticism of the marches, either. Bard instead highlighted his commitment to working alongside the administration. “While you were outside Old Main, we were inside, talking to Graham Spanier about lowering tuition,” Bard said. Lennartz chimed in, adding that “we’re past the point of marches.”
Though Grimes and Wentz mainly stayed out of the fray, Grimes did have harsh words for Bard. One of Grimes’ chief accomplishments has been his work on developing an off-campus meal plan, which he promised would be a “done deal,” to be implemented this coming fall. Bard, who like Grimes, serves as an off-campus representative, tried to claim some credit for the achievement, before being chided by Grimes for never attending meetings.
With just over a week until election day, this first debate is only the beginning of what ought to be an eventful campaign. If tonight’s results are any indication, we may be in for a more bitter battle than UPUA has seen in years. The second debate, which will be held on March 29th, the eve of the election, promises to be even more exciting.