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First ASUW presidential debate calls out candidate knowledge — and talent

The five presidential candidates, (from left to right) Dillon Berrey, Michelle Nance, Fred Ness, Evan Smith, and Ryan Vogel, answered questions that came from moderators, Twitter, and each other. Photo by An Huynh

At the first ASUW presidential debate, candidates based their arguments on what they think the role of president is and what the role of ASUW is.

The debate, hosted by the ASUW Elections Adminstration Committee and The Voice, an ASUW elections commentary blog, included a lightning round, moderator questions, Twitter questions, and questions from candidates to other candidates — and a talent portion.

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This was the first ASUW presidential debate sponsored by the Elections Administration Committee and The Voice, an ASUW election commentary blog.

The lightning round quizzed candidates for their opinions on university and ASUW issues. The moderator questions — from ASUW president Conor McLean and ASUW alums Jed Bradley and Jono Hanks — ranged from candidate weaknesses to broader questions about the function of ASUW. The talent portion included candidates displaying their musical abilities.

Fred Ness, who is running as an independent, argued that the ASUW president should have ultimate say in the policies that govern the UW. He expressed concerns about the Board of Regents making decisions given the corporate affiliations of some board members.

“I just think that it’s ridiculous that we let the university fall to the corporate interests,” Ness said.

Other candidates took a more traditional approach to defining the role of the president. Purple Roots candidate Dillon Berrey said that it’s the president’s job to lead the Board of Directors. Ryan Vogel, who is running on the Connect UW partial ticket, said that it is the president’s job to make sure that all students’ voices are heard. ProgressUW’s Michelle Nance and Husky Impact’s Evan Smith both argued the importance of lobbying for student interests in Olympia.

“Advocating for what we resolved in our legislative agenda is very important,” Smith said.

But for Ness, working with legislators in Olympia shouldn’t be part of the president’s job. He said that as president, he would deal with the state government as little as possible because the Legislature “disrespects students to their faces.”

Berrey also advocated for a change in the relationship between the ASUW president and the state government. He said students need to be pragmatic about the issues they bring to legislators. They need to “choose their battles” so that legislators don’t “turn a deaf ear.”

Throughout the debate, candidates frequently talked about their desires to increase ASUW’s communication and visibility. Berrey argued that as someone who hasn’t participated much in ASUW, he can reach out to all students and make sure they feel like they belong. Smith said that if he could change one thing about ASUW, it would be how the organization reaches out to students. Vogel agreed.

“ASUW is weakest in its visibility,” Vogel said. “Sure there is information visible on the ASUW Wiki and the ASUW page, but it’s not relevant to students.”

Nance said that if she were to change ASUW, she would increase community service. She argued that this would increase students’ opportunities to participate in the organization as a whole.

Ness said that he would change ASUW’s judicial committee. He wants the committee to be able to review the practices and decisions of faculty and administrators.

“Right now the judicial committee doesn’t do very much,” Ness said.

Another issue candidates mentioned frequently was the UW “going green.” The UW was ranked the most environmentally friendly school in the country by the Sierra Club last year. Nance said she’s proud of the university’s efforts, and that as president she would advocate for increased environmentalism.

During the debate, moderators questioned Ness’s desire to increase smoking areas on campus. They said the removal of designated smoking areas was in response to student demands. Ness said that this wasn’t fair to the students who use the spots.

“Who advocated for the removal of smoking spots?” Ness said. “Because I guarantee that it wasn’t smokers. And it makes me really uncomfortable when we take away things from others.”

The moderators also questioned how Vogel plans to create a Connect UW website, and how he plans to fund it. Vogel said that he will have students design the website, and that he will seek private funding.

All of the candidates believe that they are the best people to represent ASUW. Nance and Smith both said they have the necessary experience. Vogel said he is a born leader. Ness said he is friendly. Berrey conceded that all of the candidates would do a good job.

“I think the university is in good hands regardless,” Berrey said.

Reach reporter Amelia Dickson at news@dailyuw.com.

Twitter: @ameliadickson

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