Presidential Candidates Discuss Platforms Over Dinner

Amid loud dinner discussions in Uncommons, Phillips Academy students heard the voices of seven presidential hopefuls in the first debate of the Student Body Presidential race of 2008 on Wednesday evening. The seven remaining candidates are Malin Adams ’09,?Carolyn Brown ’09,?Lawrence Dai ’09,?Trevor Gulick-Stutz ’09,?Ishan Kapoor ’09,?Arun Saigal ’09 and William Thompson-Butler ’09. Dai is an editor at The Phillipian. During the debate moderated by Jack Dickey ’09, News Director of The Phillipian, individual questions were directed towards the candidates regarding their platforms and their experiences at Phillips Academy. Brown and Adams were asked whether they thought that their experience with Student Council would benefit or hurt them in this election. “I feel like my experience really helps me because it makes me more aware of what Student Council can do and what it can’t do,” said Brown, currently Secretary of Student Government and a former Lower Representative. “It allows me to come up with ideas that I know can get done.” “I’d say this past year, which is my first year on Student Council, has been an eye-opener for me,” said Adams, who is currently an Upper Representative. “I learned this past year that it’s really important for students on campus to talk with their representatives. … As a whole, if you want to get something done, you’ve got to get the students behind you,” Adams said. Candidates were also asked if they believed that Student Council should create a spending policy for the presidential campaigns. After Kapoor obtained corporate sponsorship from Red Bull and received free packages of the popular energy drink to distribute on campus, some students and faculty expressed disapproval of this practice. “Last week, when I started giving out the Red Bull, I started having meetings with Dean Edwards and cluster deans, and I started kind of getting in trouble because I was ‘buying the election,’” said Kapoor. He added, “Each can [of Red Bull] had my ideas [on it] and it was just a way to learn a little bit about me. I was in no way trying to buy the election. I think it also showed that if I can get a corporate sponsorship, I can be a good leader in other ways.” In another question, Dickey asked Thompson-Butler and Gulick-Stutz whether their joint campaign weakened their platform to “half of the ideas that would normally come with a candidate.” “We actually have the same number of ideas, and that was the whole point,” said Thompson-Butler. “We had individual ideas and put them together. Trevor and I have different peer bases and different activity bases and we thought that coming together would make our platform stronger.” Gulick-Stutz said, “[Thompson-Butler] and I are revolutionizing this process. By implementing our ideas together, we can get a lot more done in a shorter time.” Dai’s platform primarily tackles the single issue of communication and proposes a system modeled after the successful Fishing for Feedback exchange in Uncommons. “I believe that communication is the most important issue for Student Council right now,” said Dai. He continued, “I’d like to think [my platform] is an all-encompassing campaign because it’s based on communication and it’s based on student ideas…Through my system, these ideas won’t be lost in a whole mess.” Saigal’s platform includes more class trips, a reform of the Disciplinary Committee system, a proposal for an online report card system and increased wireless with the help of the Technology Office. “I have the ideas and I have done a lot with them,” said Saigal. “If elected, I will definitely work my hardest and work my best until everything in my power and then some is accomplished.” The next round of voting will take place today, Friday, February 29. A number of students said that the presidential debate gave them a greater perspective of which candidate they might vote for. “Actually hearing the candidates say their plans out loud was sort of reassuring. You were able to tell what they were passionate about and what they weren’t,” said Kathryn Quijano ’08. Many listeners considered the candidates’ public speaking skills to be a large factor in their final decisions. “I think the one thing that I was looking for was not so much the issues, but how [the candidates] spoke, because All-School Meetings are really important when it comes to voting for a president, since you want someone to be really charismatic and humorous in their speech,” said Kyle Rogers ’09, a candidate eliminated in the last round of voting. Edward Zhang ’09 said, “It was an opportunity to observe their speaking styles as a taste of future All-School Meetings.” Stacia Vladimirova ’10 said, “Seeing them debate helped me decide because public speaking always helps me make a judgment about someone. The way a person speaks in front of a crowd can help determine the nature of their character, whether in reality they know what they mean.” However, some students were not swayed by the debate. Eleazar Vega-Gonzalez ’08 said, “I found that, under pressure, none of the candidates managed to be at the top of their game. Although I have faith in many of the students that are running, under pressure, they all seemed to stumble on their words.” “It wasn’t so much a debate as a [Question & Answer], so there was no real reason to change my vote. Nothing really controversial was said,” said Tiffany Li ’09. This marks the first time that the presidential debate has occurred in a dining hall since the 2005 elections, when a debate between the final three candidates was held in Ropes Salon in Commons. Previously, presidential debates were broadcast live over WPAA online. Collins said, “One of the big reasons was that we thought we could reach out to more people by holding the debate in Uncommons. It was done a few years ago and it worked out quite well then, so we thought it would be worth trying, and I think it worked well this time.” However, some students thought that the technical difficulties of the debates in conjunction with the high levels of noise in Uncommons created a poor atmosphere for debate.