ASG held first debate of 2016 presidential race

    If you didn’t get the chance to vote in your state’s primary, fear not, the Associated Student Government election season is here!

    On Monday night, the Election Commission moderated the first of a series of ASG presidential and vice presidential debates that will occur this week leading up to the campus-wide vote on Thursday.

    SESP junior Christina Cilento and McCormick junior Macs Vinson, and Weinberg junior Joji Syed and Weinberg sophomore Archie Baskaran are on this year’s ballot. The vice presidential candidates, Macs and Archie, debated first and were immediately followed by Christina and Joji.

    The candidates sat on the floor of the stage in front of a group of about 50 people. Topics, which were submitted by students through a Google survey that circulated Facebook, ranged from leadership styles to predictions for the NCAA Tournament Championship games.

    Both debates held insight to the platforms of each ticket, and though the article does not include a full transcript of the debates, it includes highlights from each. Quotes have been edited for length and clarity.

    Vice presidential debate highlights

    Is it ASG’s role to speak on behalf of marginalized voices in the community?

    Archie: "Our role is not to hijack the voice of the community. We need to take [marginalized] voices and become advocates. We should be serving as a peer to every community we are trying to reach, and ASG hasn’t been enough of a peer advocate."

    Macs: "The ASG shouldn’t speak on behalf of students, because the ASG right now is not universal. Students should have their voice heard on campus, and be able to speak for themselves - not have us do it for them. That is a disservice to students."

    How do you perceive your working relationship with your running mate?

    Archie: "I wasn’t planning to run. I was compelled to do so because of my relationship with Joji, because she is so passionate and inspirational. I would add an underclassman voice; I want to be in a position where age isn’t a limiting factor in what I want to get done."

    Macs: "Christina is a good example of an ally because she validates and understands my position. [Our campaign] wants to be revolutionary ... it’s something this campus hasn’t seen before."

    What was the process for creating your platform?

    Archie: "We looked at issues important to us, and especially how they have to do with the marginalized population: such as mental health and alcohol policy. We want to provide assistance that is level and accessible to all students. Some of the issues today are the same issues we tackled 10 years ago, and we want to attack them at their core."

    Macs: "The ASG has failed students on this campus, and marginalized students are disproportionately affected. We are doing work to rectify what ASG has failed on. Our platform is by no means finished, and you can edit it, change it and add to it."

    Sports are an integral part of the Northwestern community. What are your predictions for the men's and women's championships occurring tonight [and tomorrow]?

    Archie: "I know a lot about cricket. I have no idea what to say."

    Macs: "Go ‘Cats! We will win!"

    (Note: for those who aren’t sports buffs, Northwestern was not in either of the basketball games. Nor was a cricket team).

    Presidential debate highlights

    What is the biggest deficit in the ASG?

    Joji: "ASG isn’t helping students putting hours of effort into issues they are passionate about. There are so many students pursuing support and the ASG has not been there for students. The student government is the only body on campus that has access to every student on campus [and to] the administration."

    Christina: "We consider ourselves a governing body, not a unionizing one. Though we are qualified, there is not one person with the capacity to govern 8,000 undergraduates on campus. ASG has been working to serve the average student, [and does not] look at students who are underserved."

    Both of you argue that you will change ASG. But this is a talking point every year during elections. What are the actual mechanisms and how will we hold you accountable?

    Joji: "When you make a promise and you put it on your platform, you can’t just believe in it, you have to think about how you’ll actually pragmatically get it done. If we are elected on Friday, come Monday, you would see things getting done. With the student judicial council we propose, if we aren’t doing a good job, you can impeach us!"

    Christina: "We’re not going for pragmatism; many issues will take years to accomplish. The things on our platform aren’t easy. Instead of a judicial council, the other way is being transparent with students and admitting failures and opening the opportunity for feedback."

    In the past it has sometimes been difficult to differentiate between presidents and VPs running for ASG. What do you see as the biggest distinction between your platforms?

    Joji: "I think our biggest difference is that we don’t just settle for one issue. What I want to emphasize is that the role of student government is to make sure every student has the best possible NU experience. That does include marginalized students. I think we’re being painted as the group that doesn’t care about marginalized students, and that honestly pisses me off."

    Christina: "We’re promising to get to the core of why students are unhappy at Northwestern. We can’t boil that down to just one section of the platform; it has to be in every part. We can’t paint our campaign as a single issue campaign - this is something we need to talk about, not just once a year at ASG elections."

    The New York Times just published an article about how Stanford has once again received a record-setting acceptance rate, this year all the way down to 0 percent. What is your plan for getting us a negative acceptance rate to beat out Stanford?

    Joji: "If you’re actually trying to get a serious answer, I refuse to answer this question. Anyways, the moral of the story is go ‘Cats!"

    Christina: "I think we need to create a net around the entire campus. This will ensure that students that are already at Northwestern are able to pass through the net, so it’s like a filtration system and therefore they’ll be stuck on Sheridan road."

    (Note: if students can’t get on campus, our acceptance might be negative!)

    Debates will continue Tuesday and Wednesday, and voting will occur on Thursday.


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