Spicing Up USC Debates

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

February 5, 2009 Ed Cartoon

The University Students’ Council presidential race is officially in its second week of campaigning and to this point has seen several candidate debates. Last Wednesday, the first debate took place at the USC general council meeting; Friday, a media-moderated debate was held at The Spoke Lounge and yesterday, an open debate took place in the UCC atrium.

The three major debates to the halfway mark of the campaign raise some important questions, particularly since attendance at the Elections Committee sponsored debates has been poor, they have been excessively long in duration and have been characterized by repetitive questions and evasive answers by some of the candidates.

Considering the objective of the debate series is to inform the student population of the candidate’s positions and ultimately, their suitability to lead, the poor student attendance is troubling.

A possible solution would be to heavily publicize one particular debate and hold it at a prominent location capable of accommodating a large audience. Students could be made more aware of this one large debate than the numerous smaller events, which seem to have been attended mostly by persons involved in the USC already or by members of campaign teams.

Of particular note in this year’s debates is a lack of actual exchange among the participants. Thus far, candidates have avoided confrontation, even when opportunities arise to criticize or question an opponent’s platform promises.

Having a moderator who holds the candidates accountable to direct answers would be an asset. In particular, the debates held at the general council meeting and in the UCC atrium have been fraught with long-winded questions from the audience and answers which often avoid the questions and route back to a candidate’s platform. While cordial treatment of one another is always desirable, the fact remains this is a presidential race and bringing to light inadequacies in another persons platform should be encouraged for the purposes of debate.

An easy method to avoid repetitive questions would be to take student queries in advance so irrelevant points could be filtered out and the ones selected could be asked in a clear and concise manner, something that would be beneficial for both the candidates and the attendee’s.

Additionally, the media " in particular The Gazette " should be held accountable for getting the word out to students in an effort to increase awareness and involvement among the campus community. Adding additional debate coverage to the web would be a good start.

Finally, even a short period of exposure to a debate can teach the average student a great deal about the candidates. Students should make an effort to catch at least a portion of a debate involving the future leader of our large and influential student government.

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