An experience disparity was on full display at yesterday's debate. The differences between the candidates were evident, and the questions really boiled the three candidates down into two neat groups. David Rattner '13 - who, in full disclosure, is in the same fraternity as myself - and Anthony White '13 represented candidates desiring to work within the system, while Robert Bentlyewski '13 was the outsider desiring to go out and completely rework it.
Yet, when it boiled down to the actual policy details, the three shared nearly identical positions on every policy.
So the question remains: Who do we choose, outsider or insider, and who is the most competent candidate?
The insider choice was evident from the first couple moments of the debate. Rattner's knowledge of how the school works is amazing. I'm not sure if it was his pregame strategy to mention as many school administrators as possible, but it was extremely effective. Though it might have seemed pretentious to some, students often don't really appreciate how byzantine the workings of the school are. We glancingly appreciate the intricacies as a student body, but we don't really acknowledge our school's complexity. Our president must be able to effortlessly navigate the dangerous currents of this bureaucracy in order to best serve our student body.
White seemed at times a less well-versed version of Rattner. He declared that he "sought to serve the Brown community to the best of his ability" during his opening statement, but his policy proposals failed to convince. The only difference between him and Rattner policy-wise was his position on how to increase the Student Activities Fund. White stressed the power of the people, while Rattner advocated potentially selling naming rights and searching for a large donation. While I don't deny the power of a popular movement, it is infinitesimally more realistic to expect the school to be able to sell naming rights of a fund than for an early morning student band performance outside of the provost's office to magically convince school administrators to make a student activities endowment their number one priority. That exchange showed the difference between the two - both are incredibly qualified, but Rattner is more experienced and realistic.
Bentlyewski was impressive, and his strong desire to bring an "outside perspective" - his buzz phrase of the night - to Brown really resonated with the crowd. That said, his push for an outside perspective wasn't convincing. With a new University president coming next year, it might be wiser to have an Undergraduate Council of Students president who knows the school better and can better act as a guide for President-elect Christina Paxson as she begins her time at Brown.
Equally important, the turnout was disappointing. Given the turbulent time the University is going through, you would think that more students would want to turn out for the debate - even more so considering that the school is known for its activism, and the student body, at least according to Bentlyewski, has gained a new interest in UCS after its recent idea to merge with the Undergraduate Finance Board. Despite all of this, maybe 65 percent of the auditorium was filled.
Bentlyewski noted at one point during the debate that all three candidates were "good dudes." They most certainly were, but Brown needs more than a good dude as its UCS president - it needs someone who truly understands how this University works and can make substantive change happen. Out of all three candidates tonight, only Rattner really demonstrated the understanding to succeed at the job.
Chip Lebovitz '14 endorses Zak Fischer for Undergraduate Finance Board Chair over all of his other nonexistent competitors.