ASCSM discusses key campus issues during student election debates

This week elections will be held for the 2012-2013 ASCSM student government. To prepare for the election the Oredigger hosted a debate between two of the three student body presidents, Mattew McNew and Erin Nawacki. The night started out with a few lighthearted questions that were answered by both the presidential candidates and the candidates for Vice President (Tyler Cooper) and Board of Trustees Representative (Stephanie Bonucci), who are running unopposed. The panel agreed that the Broncos acquisition of Peyton Manning was a good thing, and that you should always dunk your Oreos. After a few more fun questions, the event moved onto the debate between the two presidential candidates.

The candidates first fielded questions about their background and their generalized ideas for the Mines community. Nawacki and McNew explained that they have similar motivations for running for student body president. Nawacki believes that “ASCSM should be used as a resource for our students…[but] our students don’t all realize what ASCSM can do for them.” McNew addressed this same issue and claimed that this problem stems from the fact that “students at Mines don’t view the government as relevant to them.” He never really explained how he would solve this problem directly, but offered a few policy proposals later in the debates that may indeed solve this problem. Both McNew and Nawacki have worked on student government and seem to be equally qualified for the position. When asked about changes they would make to the campus, they were both able to call on unique experiences they have had working for ASCSM. Nawacki would “like to see more interactions between different groups.” She thinks the “main goal of ASCSM should be to connect all of the students together.” This idea became one of the main themes of the night and was supported by McNew as well.

The debate then shifted to addressing specific policies around campus that have been controversial in the past. The first of these focused on the potential increase in fees due to the Student Recreation Center and the Wellness Center. Both candidates were equally diplomatic on the issue, telling the audience that at this time neither candidate really has enough information to make an educated decision.

The issue of budget allocation for student organizations pinpointed the first real disagreement between the two potential presidents. McNew believes that the current system is a good way of allocating money, but proposed changes to some of the bylaws due to the fact that occasionally “clubs that have very small membership…get more money than some larger clubs.” Nawacki disagreed with this, stating that right now “allocation is done really well” and that “if every club is doing what they’re supposed to, then…the money is going to a good place.” McNew criticized Nawacki, stating, “it’s more complicated than that.” He cited his experience on the budget committee, explaining that “we have a very legalistic rule system…[that] needs to be revised.”

The issue of parking was one that the candidates seemed much more prepared for. Nawacki and McNew both proposed limiting freshman parking. Nawacki stated that “freshman don’t really use their car that much…it’s not necessary for freshmen to have a car on campus because they already live on campus.” McNew echoed this sentiment, but pointed out that “this is something that is talked about every year…[because] there is no simple solution.” He explained this opinion by pointing out “there are parking spots available; they’re just farther away from the buildings.”

The debate then went back to the idea of using ASCSM to connect students. McNew believes that “what ties people together is cool things…[so ASCSM has] to work and do things that are legitimately ‘cool.'” Nawacki thinks we are already moving towards this goal, “using the WAM and RHA events” but that we could do more to back these activities. The discussion continued to talk about the separation between undergraduate and graduate students. Audience members asked how the candidates would attempt to bridge the gap between ASCSM and the Graduate Students Government (GSA). McNew suggested ASCSM and GSA “start by attending each other’s meetings.” Nawacki went further than this, hoping to “get people more involved than just coming to meetings…[by getting] people more involved in specific departments.” A follow up question was asked by the current Student Body President, Brenden Swensen, about how to make the collaboration between GSA and ASCSM go beyond just the executive positions to the rest of council. Nawacki suggested a liaison between the two councils, but McNew argued that the root of this problem is the disconnect between the two councils. He explained that “they are really two different organizations…[and] the way to solve this is to have them work together on certain issues.”

The topic of ASCSM’s organization inspired further questions from the audience about the structure of ASCSM. McNew believes that “student government is kind of heavy in members.” He didn’t propose a solution, but instead made a future proposition that “if we can’t make people care about student government, then we should look at restructuring it so that everyone is working.” Nawacki took a different approach, one that looks “into positions rather than looking into the whole structure.” According to Nawacki, the problem is that “we just don’t have things for everyone to do.”

This was the last question asked of the candidates before ending the debate. Robert Grumet, the third candidate for Student Body President, was unable to attend the debate due to a time conflict. The elections begin Monday at 8:00 A.M. and end Thursday at 5:00 P.M. Students will be able to vote through their trailhead accounts.


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