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Columns

Moffat ’13: Response to the UCS/UFB candidate debate

By
Opinions Editor
Friday, April 13, 2012

For all of you who didn’t make it to the debate last night, you really missed out. You have no idea how refreshing it is to listen to a non-Republican presidential debate, where the candidates are actually willing to be charitable to one another and – oh my goodness – even agree with each other. Supporters of Brown for Financial Aid should be pleased to know that each candidate wholeheartedly agreed that expanding financial aid is the most important issue the University faces. Unsurprisingly, they also took turns emphasizing that expanding student group funding is a top priority – that’s a no-brainer for anyone running for student government. In fact, on these issues – which by and large dominated the debate – there was so much parroting back of previous sentiments of other candidates that, if it weren’t for outgoing President Ralanda Nelson’s ’12 booming voice cutting them off, I probably would have fallen asleep. 

That said, it was clear that there are substantive differences between the candidates, perhaps the most salient one being Robert Bentlyewski’s ’13 plans to completely overhaul the current student government system if elected. This was a part of Bentlyewski’s strategy to play the role of outsider. In order to deflect criticism from both Anthony White ’13 and David Rattner ’13 – who both pointed out that Bentlyewski had no experience with Brown student government – Bentlyewski told the audience that he was the candidate who would shake things up and bring in a fresh perspective. I thought this narrative would have been much more compelling if Bentlyewski had spent more time explaining why the current system was dysfunctional and how his model would fix those problems. However, he said almost nothing about why his revolutionary ideas had merit. 

The differences between White and Rattner were more subtle. In fact, I don’t recall hearing any concrete policy disagreements between them – with the possible exception being their respective strategies to grow the student group fund. However, these candidates, who both touted their prior experience in student government, carried themselves differently. White was faster to play the populist card and to invoke students’ right to enact their agenda within the University. He also sought to make himself appear more human and personable by acknowledging that financial aid mattered to him because he would not be able to attend Brown without it. I appreciated the thoughtful question he posed to the other candidates – “Discuss a serious setback you’ve had and how you overcame it” – because it forced them outside of their comfort zones.

Rattner, on the other hand, was all business. He came across as more professional and better prepared than the other two candidates. He clearly demonstrated he had experience working with the provost and the rest of the administration and that he understands the day-to-day operation of student government. He effectively portrayed himself as the most competent candidate. But he also won the prize for “most Romney-like.” 

Overall I was pleasantly surprised to see that, for the most part, these candidates were in touch with the general mood of the student body and understood the most important issues that concern undergraduates, but I was sad that I didn’t see more of you there. 

 

 

 

Jared Moffat ’13 hasn’t decided whom he will vote for, but whoever first agrees to fund the creation of a Nintendo 64 Super Smash Brothers club can seal the deal.

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