By Kelsi Peace, Managing Editor
Only two candidates faced opposition at Monday night’s SA executive officer debates: presidential candidates David Vanderpool, the “people’s man,” and Daniel-Paul Watkins, the “regular guy.”
Candidates for vice president and treasurer are running unopposed.
The presidential candidates launched their debates in different ways, with Watkins, junior political science major from Fredricksburg, Va., telling students his mother told him to smile and “don’t wear one of those ridiculous bowties” before beginning his response to the first question. Vanderpool, sophomore Biblical text major from Brentwood, Tenn., began by welcoming and thanking students.
Both candidates touted connections with administrators – Vanderpool mentioned his discussions with Dr. Royce Money, president of the university, and said he has served on several different committees where has offered input on university decisions, including the proposed student recreation center.
“I already have those relationships, and there is no learning curve,” Vanderpool said, responding to Watkins who raised concerns that the president could have a learning curve to battle through.
Watkins said his connections came from this past year, where he served as vice president, and mentioned several times his connection with Dr. Jean-Noel Thompson, vice president of Student Life, who Watkins later said will be a key voice for students at a private university.
“Our true power lies with Jean-Noel Thompson advocating for us,” Watkins said.
Vanderpool and Watkins differed on the subject of change, responding to one another pointedly.
“Change on campus is a pretty big issue for most people,” Vanderpool said, citing the alcohol policy and Bean renovations. “I’m a fixer.”
Vanderpool said he aims to find the root of a problem – for example, with the iPhone initiative, he said he plans to find out why iPhones will only be given to freshmen and see if the decision can be changed.
Watkins criticized Vanderpool, saying, “I’m not a big quick-fixer or a Band-Aid man.”
Instead, Watkins said he likes to “put on the knee pad before you fall down,” and fix problems on the front end as opposed to being reactive. He cited Thompson as a resource to combating issues on the front end, because Watkins said Thompson expressed a desire to hear students’ opinions.
“I am not the Band-Aid type person, either,” Vanderpool countered. “We can fix it before it happens.”
The candidates also differed on their three main objectives. Watkins focused on finances, promising to seek additional means of financial aid and assure that the university’s “quality goes up with the cost.” Watkins also said he will aim to advocate for the diverse student body – from social clubs to international soccer leagues.
Vanderpool focuses on community, promising to increase school pride at events, foster better respect between students and administrators and increasing outreach to Abilene as a means of remember the “Christian” in the university’s title.
When the debate opened to audience questions, the candidates were asked to present a reason students should vote for their opponent.
Vanderpool called Watkins respectable and cited his experience as vice president. Watkins, however, had a different response:
“I don’t think you should vote for him because I’m the best man for the job,” Watkins said. “He’s a good man, but vote Daniel Paul Watkins for student body president.”
Both said they “take on too much” as a weakness, with Vanderpool expanding on the subject.
“Also, I’m human,” he said. “And that’s a weakness.”
Vanderpool cited his charisma and outgoing personality as qualities he said would help him “bring more voices to the table.” He has also served two years on SA, this year as a sophomore senator.
“I am David Vanderpool, the people’s man,” he said. Watkins took a different approach: “I’m just a regular guy,” he said. “My experience as an ACU student is average, and that’s why I can advocate for you.”
SA vice-presidential candidate Sarah Pulis and SA treasurer candidate Spencer Hemphill still took the stage Monday night to answer questions, despite running unopposed. Vice presidential candidate Charles Gaines, sophomore social justice major from Cedar Hill, dropped out of the race Sunday night.
Hemphill, junior accounting major from Longview, comes to the treasurer position with two years of senator experience and as this year’s chief financial officer, where he sat in on the student organization budget decisions and co-lead the finance committee.
“Probably the biggest problem SA treasury faces is lack of funds,” Hemphill said, citing an increased number of student organizations as part of the reason the money spreads so thin.
Hemphill hailed this year’s partnerships with departments, which he said helped bring events like Welcome to Abilene and Def Poetry Jam to campus.
“I feel like more students will get to share the benefits of their student activity fee,” Hemphill said. “I don’t have a big policy for change.”
Hemphill also said the temporary position of chief advancement officer will likely be combined with the position of chief financial officer, to save on costs and because the CAO position does not require the time Congress initially thought it would.
Vice presidential candidate Sarah Pulis, junior political science major from Longview, also lauded systems SA put in place this year, telling students she planned to continue open forums next year.
“I think that those discussions are beneficial from both sides,” she said. “With all of the new things ACU is embarking on next year . it is so important for students to be involved in dialogue with administrators.”
As vice president, Pulis will be director of internal affairs within SA Congress, a position she said provides a “unique opportunity” to build relationships with administrators and student groups.
“I really do understand the challenge of founding an organization and maintaining it,” said Pulis, who this year serves as treasurer for new student organization ACU for the International Rescue Committee (IRC).
Pulis has also served three years in SA as a representative for Gardner, Sikes and Chambers halls, and on the appropriations, finance and internal affairs committees.