Subtle Distinctions Separate Candidates in Final UGBC Debate

UGBC campaign season came to a close last night, Feb. 18 as the three UGBC presidential and vice-presidential candidates met to debate issues of diversity, advocacy and transparency.

The Vanderslice Cabaret Room was mostly filled with campaign members and students claiming the promised catering of El Pelon. Those who stayed for long enough heard the promises, challenges and hopes of three candidate teams: Cassidy Gallegos & Mike Keefe, James Kale II & Jose Altomari and Thomas Napoli & Olivia Hussey.

Anthony Golden/Gavel Media

Anthony Golden / Gavel Media

Most of the questions centered on issues of diversity. The candidates were asked whether they thought homophobia was an issue and how they plan to diminish hateful and prejudiced language on campus. Candidates generally said similar things in response to these questions, stressing the need for education, more programming and a streamlined reporting process.

There were subtle queues that separated the three teams. Thomas and Olivia continually pointed to their extensive policy and action plans supporting all of their points. James and Jose invoked an emotional connection, focusing on community and “inclusivity.” Cassidy drew from her goals to promote mental health and both Cassidy and Mike pointed to the dynamic of coming from within and outside of UGBC.

When asked about ways to improve or ameliorate the insecurities of people coming from diverse backgrounds, all three teams had similar things to say. James and Jose brought up the Montserrat program and stressed the need for similar programs bringing topics of diversity into the classroom.

Thomas pointed out the need to promote dialogue to take away the stigma in the first place, pointing to policy changes that begin “at the top level,” and Olivia followed up by drawing on her work with the “What I Be” event. “UGBC has done a great job this year in bringing about those conversations,” Olivia commented, “but unfortunately I don’t ever think they will be enough.”

Anthony Golden/Gavel Media

Anthony Golden / Gavel Media

Cassidy focused on three words: education, conversation and action, attempting to take a holistic approach. Cassidy also brought up the need for policy and institutional changes, including implementing courses in the curriculum on specific components of diversity.

For most of the debate, the candidates refrained from challenging one another, which created the impression that all of the platforms were very similar. The candidates were comfortable with agreeing with previous points and offering perhaps one other insight.

Among the crowd there wasn’t a clear favorite and all of the candidates were relatively well prepared. James and Jose tended to speak emotionally and stress the need to serve the students. Thomas and Olivia drew on compelling figures and data gathered from their platform. Cassidy and Mike had a comprehensive platform as well and noted the need for change within UGBC.

For much of the night, the answers continued in much the same fashion. However, the last few questions highlighted key differences both in platform and personality.

When asked what concrete changes can be done to improve UGBC, James wanted to highlight an online platform for students to voice their opinions while Thomas suggested a more physical presence on campus, “by having office hours in dining halls, tabling in the quad.” Cassidy added that she wants UGBC's presence to be “interactive” and “innovative.”

Anthony Golden/Gavel Media

Anthony Golden / Gavel Media

Finally, Mike disagreed with a comment Olivia made about the need for students to engage themselves for UGBC to matter. He quickly dismissed this notion and said UGBC has to “step up” and reach out to students, rather than the other way around.

During the closing statements, the teams shifted the focus to their distinct plans. Thomas and Olivia’s campaign motto is “back to basics,” stressing the need for advocacy. The team has presented an action plan with articulated goals and dates to improve the fact that 60 percent of students feel that they don’t have a voice on campus. Cassidy and Mike want to offer a “breath of fresh air” and believe that their mixed background from “inside and outside of UGBC” can make a positive change. James and Jose stood up and approached the audience to present their closing statement, which perfectly captured their own stance: emotional, casual and welcoming. James made very clear he wants to put the “U” in UGBC.

The polls opened February 19, 12 am and close Friday, February 20 at 6 pm.

For more information on Cassidy and Mike’s platform, click here.

For more information on Thomas and Olivia’s platform, click here.

For more information on James and Jose's platform, click here.

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John Paradiso