Only two tickets were able to make it to the second student body presidential debate of this year’s election season.
At Friday evening’s debate in the WBUL station in the basement of the Phyllis P. Marshall Center, presidential candidate Bens Sens with running mate Ernest “E.J.” Joe and presidential candidate Frank Harrison with running mate Faran Abbasi debated over the airwaves and in front of a small crowd.
Presidential candidate Jeremy Bills and his running mate Joy Gamble-George were not present due to prior obligations, and presidential candidate Kyle Myers and running mate Aadil Modi are both out of the state, as they were during Thursday’s debate.
This was the first debate in which the candidates were able to ask the opposing ticket a limited amount of questions. Candidates also fielded pre-screened questions from the audience. Some of the most heavily debated topics included a proposed mandatory health insurance program for students as well as funding to provide longer hours for facilities on campus, namely a 24-hour computer lab.
“As a student leader on campus, I believe that it is very important that we have facilities open more on campus,” Sens said. “A 24-hour computer lab, keeping facilities open longer, creating a 24-hour study area on campus, increasing the hours of the library as well as the rec center. To keep students on campus, you need proper facilities with proper hours.”
While the Harrison ticket agreed that a 24-hour computer lab would benefit the student body, Harrison and Abbasi questioned the ways in which the Sens ticket would find the financing, explaining that there aren’t enough funds to sustain such a project.
Toward the end of the debate, this topic spurred Abbasi to challenge the Sens ticket on where they would find the funds to keep a facility of this nature open 24 hours. Joe then jabbed back with a comment alluding to the $30,000 the senate recently approved for an upcoming concert in Greek Village.
“Well, there’s a lot of misuse of funds within the Student Government, (money) is allocated to a lot of places and organizations that they shouldn’t be allocated to,” Joe said. “We need to be a little more wise about how and who we allocate our funds to. So if that’s giving more hours to someone to work at a computer lab, I’m sure the salary won’t go over $30,000.”
Sens added that if SG is going to spend $30,000, it should spend the money on an event that all students will feel welcome at.
After the debate, both parties had comments on this subject.
“Student Government computer services, for example: To keep it open 24/7, you would have to keep the entire building open because the elevator has to be open to meet ADA requirements. In order to keep the entire building open, you would have to have additional security guards to be both in the area of the building and also outside. It’s just not that simple. Besides, (there is also) the fact that no one is willing to work from 3 a.m. until 7 a.m.,” Harrison said.
After the debate, the Sens ticket explained that they agreed that $30,000 wouldn’t fund a computer lab, but that it would help pay the bills.
“No, $30,000 wouldn’t fully fund (an all-night lab), but actually putting $30,000 toward computer labs would be a great or better use of funds than I’ve heard about $30,000 going to other places,” Joe said.
The tickets were also asked their views on the proposed mandatory health insurance initiative. The two pairs found that while they took the same financial stance, the methods for arriving at a solution were much different.
“My stance is that the mandatory health insurance is a great idea but would really hinder our students financially,” Joe said. “It should still be left optional because it would really be a burden on students to bear.”
Harrison argued that while mandatory fees aren’t something he agrees with, he feels as though in this case mandatory health insurance on campus is inevitable and it would be a waste of man-hours to fight it.
He did suggest a way of dealing with the mandatory health insurance if it becomes a reality.
“Basically our goal is if this is going to inevitable we want to make sure that it does not prevent students from coming to this institution by making sure that it is covered in the cost of financial aid,” Harrison said.
The curve ball of the night came when a question was asked to both tickets on how they feel about the administration’s handling of the Sami Al-Arian controversy. Neither ticket had much to say aside from that they don’t agree with the decisions that the University made.
Students will be able to vote on Feb. 28 and March 1.