By Vincent Ottomanelli
With the next Student Presidential race next month, a number of students are calling for a debate between the Presidential candidates.
“I think it would be a great way to let students know who the candidates are and what their positions on the issues are,” said Catholic University politics major Hezekias Kassa
Many students believe that an issue-oriented debate in which the candidates can compare and contrast their ideas, could be a very effective way to mend what they view as a rift between the existing student government and student body. This would occur because in the debate candidates would discuss the differences between their ideas, which would illustrate in greater detail what those differences are.
“Debates are revealing to voters–whether they be for student government or President of the United States. They reveal the positions of candidates on relevant issues and also provide insight into their characters,” said politics professor John Kenneth White.
Most students recognize the significant changes to student government brought into effect by current president Annie St. Amant and vice president James Benedek.
One important example is the replacement of SAGA and SFAB, two separate legislative bodies that had differing responsibilities, with the single Student Government Association (SGA), however many still believe that student government at Catholic University is in need of significant reform. Those people cite the shocking lack of legislative accomplishments during the past year as well as the increased restrictions on spectator participation in senate meetings and the introduction of unnecessary formalities as part of debate decorum. A debate has been called for because of the need for candidates to propose plans to the voters with much greater detail, allowing voters an opportunity to truly consider which candidate is best based on the issues.
Students feel that the election process as it exists today does not provide a level playing field for potential presidents. A debate could be a remedy to this problem, by providing a forum through which candidates can draw distinctions from their rivals, and present themselves to voters in terms of issues rather than popularity.
“It [a debate] would be a good idea because it would place all of the candidates on an equal even table so that they can all be heard,” said Student Government Association member Matt Skros.
Because of this, a number of students believe that the introduction of a debate could prove to be very beneficial, and would allow students to better decide on a candidate based on the candidates’ positions and approaches.
Many that have suggested it as the system exists today, a candidate’s popularity is a major asset; so much so that a majority of potential candidates who may have great ideas are at a significant disadvantage, and as a result this system does not generate the best presidents.
Furthermore, in the mind of many students the election system as it exists does not encourage candidates to look into and develop good policy ideas. Rather, candidates have to claim in every cycle to be running to promote “inclusiveness,” “unity,” and other generic talking points without any or with limited detail. Some have suggested that adding a debate to the election process would force the candidates to consider more specifically what they seek to accomplish with the presidency and how they seek to do so.
A debate held a week or two before the election could be a great way to give students the opportunity to hear from each of the candidates about each of their ideas.
“I think that voters would be very interested in a debate,” politics major Kyle Jones said.
A debate is a proposed solution to the problems facing student government, and the student presidential election process because it could give students much needed insight about the candidates, and could create an environment in which campaigns would have to develop distinct and detailed plans to propose to the student body.