Less than 24 hours away from the start of voting, passions boiled over as the ASG presidential candidates faced off in their final debate of the election cycle Wednesday night, clashing over their stances on divestment movements and public perceptions of their platforms.
After a brief delay due to an ASG Senate session which ran late, presidential candidates Christina Cilento and Joji Syed took the stage, this time paired with their running mates, respectively Macs Vinson and Archie Baskaran, for the entirety of the debate.
Each ticket fielded questions from a panel of Daily editors, starting with a discussion of each campaign’s willingness and ability to effectively work with the administration. Tyler Pager, a moderator and editor-in-chief of the Daily, said some students worry that the candidates' personal convictions and activism might restrict progress when dealing with University higher-ups.
ASG leaders should not have to abstain from campus activism, Cilento said.
“We care about student activism and we care about putting a foot down where it’s necessary,” Cilento said, but suggested that did not mean their ticket could not work productively with Northwestern officials.
“What I think is truly unpresidential is to allow this university to be invested in the oppression of its students,” Vinson said, referencing Northwestern President Morton Schapiro.
Syed and Baskaran emphasized that working with the administration is part of the job.
“At the end of the day, we have to work with administrators,” Syed said. “Having a working relationship does not mean that you’re not going to push administration.”
“We’re not afraid to push back where it’s necessary,” Baskaran added.
The stage was divided when asked about NU’s three divestment campaigns, all of which have endorsed Cilento and Vinson, who have been vocally supportive of each movement.
Syed said taking a public stance on divestment distracts from the purpose of ASG leadership.
“My personal opinions on divestment movements should not be relevant or part of the conversation,” Syed said. Instead, she suggested ASG “provide the platform for students to actively pursue their passions,” whether that be divestment or other issues.
“Anybody who knows me personally knows where I stand on the issue,” Baskaran said. However, as an ASG leader, he said it's important to remain a “universal resource,” a tool for all students, not just those involved with particular groups or causes.
Aside from disagreements regarding neutrality, the tickets clashed over public perception of their individual platforms. While Cilento and Vinson have been criticized for being a one-issue campaign, Syed and Baskaran have faced pushback for their focus on student groups and more incremental changes.
“I think there are hurt feelings on both sides,” Cilento said after a question contrasting the campaigns resulted in one of the night’s more heated exchanges.
Despite personal differences, each side stressed a need for a more inclusive Northwestern.
“A rising tide lifts all ships,” Vinson said, reiterating an earlier point that addressing the needs of marginalized students will better the entire campus community.
According to Syed, Northwestern students “do a tremendously great job at factioning themselves,” but collaboration is key for any real change.
Baskaran echoed that sentiment in his closing statement and extended it to ASG candidates as well.
“While we may have seen hostilities on the stage,” he said, “we’re friends at the end of the day.”
Students can vote online starting at 5 p.m. Thursday.