SGA Presidential Debates: Low Attendance, Lack of Issues

With a little over 15 people in attendance the SGA Presidential/Vice Presidential candidates took their seats in quiet anticipation of the debate before them. The candidates outlined their platforms and then were allowed to pose questions to the other candidates, before answering questions from the audience.

During a particularly tense moment in the cross question period Lee Souter referenced several unsubstantiated quotes from SGA President Joe Thibault and Vice President David Laman, drawing an angrily confused look from both Thibault and Laman.

When asked how he would deal with the existing conflict between UVM Police and UVM students, Laman emphasized the need to supercede the current police-student structure at UVM that ends with Gary Margolis. Laman expressed his dissatisfaction with UVM Police services and their actions in regard to on-campus UVM students, with special attention paid to the presence of police in the dorms.

Dark horse candidate Bryant Jones spoke mainly about the need to improve or completely change UVM’s current food service provider, Sodhexo. Jones ended the debates with what SGA insiders have called an “impossible task”, namely attending every recognized SGA club meeting in one semester if elected SGA President.

Both SGA Vice Presidential candidates, Emily Berlit and Tanya Tersillo, stressed the need for more institutional support for SGA clubs and organizations, both siting their current involvement and concern for UVM clubs. Both candidates stressed their qualifications for dealing with this issue.

Town-gown relations, specifically surrounding noise ordinance violations, were mentioned by several of the candidates. This election has seen relatively smear-free campaigns, although sources close to the Cynic have reported candidate Bryant Jones’ attempt to unduly influence a poll on the Vermont Cynic’s website (www.vermontcynic.com) regarding the popularity of candidates running in the current SGA election.

This last debate represents a significant change from the previous debates. With essentially no issues being hotly contested, many candidates are forced to rely on generic issues mentioned during every election season, leaving voters open to choose the next SGA President and Vice President based on their public speaking and charisma. While many UVM students have previously chosen not to vote in SGA elections, this years voters may indeed take a more active role in deciding the next Student Government President.

Next Thursday’s debate in Cook Commons may be the deciding factor for many students unable to attend last Wednesday’s debate, although the next debate’s mid-day scheduling may prove more of a hindrance than a help for many students interested in the candidates platform’s. Either way, this year’s election may be one of the most contested and scrutinized debates in the last three years. Wednesday’s debate saw far more media coverage than previous debates, with both UVM TV and the Vermont Cynic covering the debate.