By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
Presidential candidates Clay Rich and Layne Rouse positioned themselves in two starkly different camps on the eve of elections-with Rouse touting his experience as an executive officer and Rich claiming change was needed in the Students’ Association.
The pair faced off in a Tuesday evening debate that highlighted the candidates’ policy, if not their planned rhetoric in Wednesday’s Chapel campaign speeches.
“I want to see change in SA,” said Rich, co-chair of the Spring Break Campaigns committee. “I want students to get excited about SA meetings.”
Rouse responded, claiming his experience would make the difference in a productive SA.
“What we have to come back to is how we empower the representatives on Congress to do something for the students,” Rouse said
Rich and Rouse took swipes at each other, as well.
After Rich criticized the “Big Shake-Up” as having pushed student groups out of SA, Rouse said his opponent was referring only to the SBC committee.
“When Clay talks about disenfranchisement, he’s talking specifically about Spring Break Campaigns,” Rouse said. “This is a grand inclusion of every student group we can get a hold of.”
Rich, meanwhile, criticized Rouse for saying the achievement in SA for which he is most proud was “existing for the past 80 years or so.”
When the moderator, executive president Jonathan Wilkerson, asked Rich if he had a response, Rich replied: “Pretty vague. I don’t know where to go with that. No response.”
Despite significant differences in the candidates’ platforms, one thing those running for Students’ Association executive office agree is needed: better communication.
“Communication caused a lot of different problems” this year, said Sen. Melanie Booker, sophomore class, in Monday night’s vice presidential debate, “specifically how non-effective our communication of the budget was.”
Booker’s opponent, Sen. Kathleen Pi–a, junior class, sounded a similar note, saying SA’s top priority in the coming year should be “building a relationship within Congress as well as outside of Congress.”
Booker and Pi–a conducted a cordial debate, disagreeing more on phrasing than on substantive issues-both cited their willingness to servant-lead, and each gave an example of a major project that she had brought to completion in Congress. Booker’s efforts helped lead to more crosswalks on the streets around campus, and Pi–a has investigated rising intramural fees.
In questions posed to the other candidate, Pi–a questioned Booker’s record at having reached out to student groups, and Booker asked what Pi–a had done to improve the campus.
Booker said she was active in the Big Purple, while Pi–a said she had talked to students.
Rich and Rouse also delivered positions on the communication issue, with Rich describing it as “giving SA a face for the student body” and Rouse more explicitly saying the No. 1 issue is “communication to student groups and how they can use and allocate SA resources.”
Rich spent time painting himself as an average student, dissatisfied with recent executive administrations. He noted that he hasn’t attended Congress meetings and criticized the “Big Shake-Up,” which Rouse supports, as being detrimental to student groups.
Rouse, in turn, said he would benefit from the absence of a learning curve and would help “empower” Congress to act as the students’ representatives.
The debate, however, merely cemented the candidates’ already-established campaign themes: Experience vs. change, with the students to decide Wednesday and Thursday which SA needs more.
“I’ve seen so many aspects of this campus,” Rouse said. “I’ve been all over this campus and seen so many ideas. … Continuity of leadership creates awesome opportunities.”
“There’s a time for change,” Rich replied. “Now’s the time.”