To the Editor:
By changing the school presidency to a Co-Presidential model, the Student Council Review Committee and Student Council took an important step in making running for student government a fairer experience. One of the most promising facets of the change was replacing the speeches candidates gave at All-School Meeting (ASM)—a practice that tended to favor the most humorous candidate rather than the most qualified—with a structured forum. The forum promised to endow the school presidency and the election process with a seriousness that has been absent in previous years.
Though I went into Wednesday’s ASM excited about the prospect of the forum, I emerged sorely disappointed. Rather than engage in spontaneous, open debate, the candidates read from responses to questions that they were given before ASM—in other words, they gave a series of speeches. The forum was performative rather than informative, and the whole event had a staged, stilted feel. The language of the responses was vague and abstract and did not give students a fuller picture of the candidates. While I understand that giving off-the-cuff, spontaneous remarks at ASM can be intimidating, the forum failed to achieve its intended purpose and was not an improvement over the speech system. Labeling Wednesday’s event a “forum” or “debate” is misleading. A speech by any other name remains a speech. If we truly value candidates’ ideas, let’s do away with the prepared writing once and for all. Let’s listen to candidates give true, honest and spontaneous answers to questions that they don’t know in advance. Let’s see candidates argue. Let’s have a debate.
Maia Hirschler ’13