Presidential Forum Fails to Answer Students’ Questions About Candidates

This year’s debate between the final six candidates for School President yielded mixed results from the audience. Andover First Amendment Society organized the presidential forum in Uncommons during dinner on Tuesday. A large group of students awaited the candidates to hear their individual platform ideas. But many students, including some of the moderators of the debate, believed that the ideas from the candidates lacked detail. Alex Gottfried ’09, one of four moderators, said that the debate consisted of “a lot of agreement and repetition, which made the event pretty dull to watch.” He said, “I thought that the debate ran smoothly, but could have been more substantive. In retrospect, I wish we had called for more specific answers.” “I think we got a sense of who was confident with their ideas and who is comfortable speaking in front of an audience, but the candidates didn’t do much to differentiate themselves in terms of their ideas or their vision for Student Council,” added Gottfried. Sam Dodge ’09, another moderator, said, “There wasn’t really any debate because all the candidates, with the exception of maybe Duncan [Crystal ’10] and Billy [Fowkes ’10], agreed on all positions.” Fowkes is a Features editor at The Phillipian. “The best part of the debate was when Billy [Fowkes] flatly said that Student Council is inefficient,” continued Dodge. “This is the type of fresh rhetoric I wanted to hear all night. We wanted the candidates to separate themselves from their opponents, for the sake of the voter. I feel some candidates did this, while others stayed stagnant.” During the debate, Fowkes said, “Would I say Student Council is an ineffective organization? No. However, would I say it’s an effective organization? No.” The forum moderators asked the candidates about their motives for running, personal experiences, platform ideas and Student Council issues. However, with the exception of a few answers, most of the candidates shared similar views. Elizabeth Goldsmith ’11 said, “ The debate was beneficial because it allowed people to hear the candidates’ specific ideas and outlooks and also gave us a good first impression of their public speaking skills.” “However, I felt like there was a lot of repetition throughout the debate,” she said. “I would have liked to hear more questions about specific issues that are currently important to students, asking exactly what they would do to address these concerns.” “The debate helped me get a better sense of the forces driving the candidates to run for president,” agreed Amber Quiñones ’11. “But it did not help them present their visions for the future of Andover well enough.” She added, “I would have liked for them to speak a bit more in detail about their ideas. Instead, I thought that the ideas were just briefly introduced and left me with a few questions.” Candidates Fowkes, Tyler Jennings ’10 and Eric Sirakian ’10 were pleased with their responses but agreed that the questions were often too vague. Fowkes said, “I thought the debate gave the candidates a chance to discuss the issues at hand, but it lacked conflicts and arguments. All of the questions asked were expected and did not leave much room for truly original answers.” Jennings said, “I thought the debate was an overall success. Everyone involved from the moderators to my fellow candidates did a really good job. However, I think that it could have been slightly more focused with regards to the questions.” Sirakian said, “I think the style could have incorporated more discussion and debate rather than just [questions and answers], but regardless, it was a fun opportunity.” Despite the generic questions, all candidates felt confident that they were able to convey the important components of their campaigns. Faiyad Ahmad ’10, a presidential candidate, said, “It was my intention to convey a few of my values during the debate—the most important being that the President must exclusively and unequivocally represent the students.” “My goals with the forum were pretty simple,” said Jennings. “As always, I tried to make it clear that the issues that are most important to me are what is most important to the student body.”