With only half as many student body presidential debates scheduled this election season compared to years past, candidates face a challenge delivering their messages to students while under increased time restraints.
This year, Student Government (SG) presidential candidates will only engage in two debates instead of the traditional four. The first debate will be broadcast on Bulls Radio tonight at 7.
The Election Rules Commission made the decision to cut the debates because there wasn’t enough student participation last year, said James Bodden, supervisor of Senate elections.
“Last year, we saw that a lot of students would go to one debate and not all of them, so there would be a sparse amount at each debate,” he said. “Last year was three weeks of campaining, this year is two weeks. Senate, this term, changed the rules to decrease it by one week because nobody campaigned whatsoever in the first week.”
Campaigning for office ends Feb. 24.
Melissa Leddy, a presidential candidate, said those who attend debates often already know whom they will support. Nonetheless, Leddy, a junior majoring in business, said she does not believe less debate time means less publicity.
“We’re on Facebook, going and talking to different groups and different people we see around campus,” she said. “Having less debates is good and bad, because last year some of the debates had candidates fighting with each other. One of the downfalls is that very few people know about (the debates). The people who go to debates are supporters of candidates already running.”
However, Jason Funes, a senior majoring in biomedical sciences and philosophy, said he thinks only having two debates is a disadvantage.
“I think it’s a disadvantage to those who are trying to get their message known,” he said. “I feel it doesn’t give equal opportunities to represent your message and speak out to the student body.”
Despite that limitation, Funes said he will strive to inform students of his platforms.
“It’s a matter of effort, work and time that you spend throughout the campaign,” he said. “It’s more of personally talking to groups and students to get the word out.”
Jason Prado, a junior majoring in business management, said there are other ways to let students know about his platforms.
“I think that you really just have to rely to the students to get the message out. Obviously, we do chalking, we have our website, and that’s part of the way we’re getting the message out there,” he said. “I’m still going to go out and speak to students to see what they want.”
Matthew Diaz, who ran for student body vice president last year, said he still would have preferred two in-person debates.
“It’s going to make candidates go out and talk to students,” he said. “I think that there should have been two live debates, just so students can go out there. I think having live debates are much better. It allows students to see candidates in the grind, on the hot seat, and there’s something more personal when the candidates are there in front of you.”
Diaz, a senior majoring in philosophy and political science, said he’s using Facebook, Twitter and word-of-mouth to explain his platform and talk to students.
“That’s really how you find out how the issue is (by using all three),” he said.
During the debates, a different candidate will start each round of questions, which may span topics such as their platform, campus issues and what they would like to change, Bodden said. Candidates will not know any questions in advance.
Each ticket will have an introductory speech capped at two minutes, and candidates will have up to 90 seconds to answer questions.
With the polls opening later this month, current student body President Cesar Hernandez said the best advice he could offer the student body would be to pick the right person for the presidency.
“There’s so much power in this position, and you never really know someone’s soul until they’re able to give up that power,” he said. “You can reap all the rewards and meet all these prestigious people, or you can put in a lot of work and work the maximum hours and try to muster up all the resources to do great things.”
Students can listen to the debate live on Bulls Radio at the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s located in the Marshall Student Center, on the Bulls Radio website or on 88.5 AM.
Only the presidential nominees will participate in the first debate, but each ticket will be allowed to do so in the second. Bodden said vice presidential candidates will sit in Beef ‘O’ Brady’s to take questions from students during the debate. If there is time left, students can speak with presidential candidates.
Students who attend the debate will receive a 20 percent discount on appetizers, including wings, he said.
The next debate is scheduled for Wednesday in the Marshall Student Center’s Oval Theater.