Candidates introduce themselves in serious debates
By JASON McFARLEY
Assistant News Editor
With the exception of a few periods of laughter, a 90-minute student body president candidates' debate Wednesday night was marked by serious discussion of issues and goals.
The format of the annual event allowed each ticket about 12 total minutes for introducing itself and its platform, answering panel questions and presenting closing statements. The debate was students' first chance to formally meet the candidates before the primary election Monday.
In general, five tickets' remarks were met with polite applause from the audience of about 50 inside the Hesburgh Library auditorium. Running mates Chris Zimmerman and Andy Nelson, however, drew the biggest reactions from the crowd.
Several times a sarcastic audience laughed openly at the sophomore Fisher Hall residents, whose platform calls for dissolving the Student Senate and Campus Life Council (CLC). The men said they plan to assign Senate and CLC duties to the Hall Presidents Council.
Asked about the feasibility of the Senate voting to dissolve itself, Zimmerman said, "Senators will do what's best for the student body. It's not like they're voting themselves off the island and can't come back." The reference to the popular television show "Survivor" attracted laughter and applause.
At another point, Nelson, encouraging renovations to the LaFortune Student Center, called the center's current conditions "pretty piss-poor," a comment also met with audience chuckles.
The five other tickets, Maureen Gottlieb and Victoria Fetterman, Demetra Smith and Yogeld Andre, Brooke Norton and Brian Moscona, Holt Zeidler and Allison Henisey and Ryan Becker and Nikki McCord, triggered less of a reaction from the audience.
After discussing their platforms, these five campaigns received respectful applause from an otherwise indifferent audience.
But some tickets drew attention to themselves based on their issues.
The Smith-Andre ticket, for example, focused on social justice issues in addition to more common campaign promises, such as cable in residence halls, that characterized other candidates' platforms.
"We need to expand our vision beyond issues that affect students immediately," Andre said.
During the panel portion of the debate — which allowed campus media representatives to ask candidates a series of three questions over a three-minute period — Observer reporter Laura Rompf targeted the section of the Norton-Moscona platform that proposes bringing hip-hop and rap artists to the University to speak about diversity issues.
Rompf asked if the so-called "hip-hop conference" was potentially offensive to African-American students and if University administrators would allow controversial rap figures to speak or perform on campus.
Norton said the idea springs from an idea begun at Harvard University, but she ran out of time before clearly addressing the potential controversy.
Later, Norton and Moscona responded to concerns that they were neglecting their current responsibilities while running the presidential campaign. Norton is student body vice president, and Moscona is sophomore class president.
"It's been very tiring, but we're not neglecting any of our duties," Moscona said.
The Gottlieb-Fetterman and Zeidler-Henisey tickets also faced scrutiny.
Gottlieb and Fetterman, both sophomores, dodged allegations that their platform revolves around women's issues, calling the attention given to their gender "misplaced focus."
"Our ideas aren't benefiting one gender over the other," Fetterman said.
Zeidler and Henisey were questioned about the feasibility of their proposed addition of a bowling alley to the Alumni-Senior Club.
Henisey said talks with Notre Dame administrators have yielded positive feedback about the idea.
"I think everyone would agree there's a need for more social space," Henisey said. "Revamping Senior Bar brings one component of off-campus life to campus."
The Judicial Council sponsored the Wednesday debate. If Monday's primary election results in the need for a run-off election, a debate between the two leading tickets is scheduled for Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Library Auditorium. The run-off election would follow on Thursday.
All News Stories for Thursday, February 8, 2001