Debate Heats up Student Elections

By Reid Barbier

Thursday’s debate was the last chance for student candidates running for ASSOU President to prove their worth before the elections scheduled for next week, and fire up their supporters May 27 race.

The result was a courteous yet sometimes contentious contrast between Andrew Ensslin, an experienced leader of the Student Senate, and Promise Grace, Director of Gender Equality on campus. Ensslin spoke formally, laying out a clear plan of action for what he wants to accomplish as president. Grace offered less specifics but spoke more forcefully and off-the-cuff, often elaborating past the allotted time.

Ensslin highlighted communication as one of the most important functions of the student body President.

“Communication is the biggest factor in the success of the student community,” said Ensslin, emphasizing that too often the student government is isolated from public opinion and not really connected with what students want.

Esslin said he would “go into classrooms, stand in front of the SU, just talk to people…let them know what the heck their money is being spent on.” He also touted his more than two-and-a-half years in student government, most of them as Speaker of the Senate, a position that has him oversee much of the workings of student fees. He wants to parlay this experience into a good working relationship with the administration, as ASSOU continues to fight tuition increases and the effects of retrenchment.

In respect to working with the administration and the new education board to be set up next year, Ensslin said he would “pursue a firm, but genuine stance, that insures students’ voices are being heard.”

Grace had a different approach, having never been directly elected to student government, but having participated all the same. She has served as the Multi-Cultural Resource Center Organizer and Director of Gender Equality. She believes strongly in these causes, and believes her experience with marginalized students will help her connect to all SOU students whose voices are perhaps not currently being heard.

Grace says that a president “must build bridges for all students to the people in power,” both the student government and the wider community at large. She also pledges to take on the administration and the University governing body, saying she will “hold them accountable to the students, the people they are supposed to be serving.”

Grace also emphasizes her personal connection to many students, having been a Raider Ambassador.

“The humility and growth of SOU students has truly touched my heart, and I hope to serve SOU with pride,” said Grace.

The candidates’ running mates for vice-president also spoke, Nico Militello accompanying Ensslin and Drew Koch accompanying Grace.

“If Andrew and I are elected, I will bring a desk out here every day and be waiting to tell students exactly what we’re doing,” said Nico. “It will be clear.”

Nico also highlighted his work with the Residence Hall Association, saying he has met many students in the dorms and would be a good representative for them if elected.

Koch emphasized how he and Grace have directly helped students, “Promise through lobbying the state government in Salem for more money…and me through helping to bring down textbook costs and install solar panels around campus.” He cited his experience in the Senate, as well as being head of the Environmental Issues committee.

All in all, the May 22 debate served as a chance for students to get one last look at the candidates for president and get their questions answered before voting starts next week. Both candidates offer experience and personal knowledge of the campus community and ultimately the choice is up to the students.

More information on these candidates and others running for positions within student government can be found here.

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