By Kristof Oltvai and Matthew Pennekamp
Features Editor, Staff Writer
On the eve of DCGA elections, the presidential and vice presidential candidates gathered in the basement of Burton Morgan for debate. After opening comments, candidates fielded questions from the audience and were allotted one minute per response.
Meghan Pearce ’16, Class Senator, officiated the debate. Ana Morales ’14 and Jackson Wu-Pong ’15, presidential candidates, delivered opening comments first; followed by Hung Tran ’15 and Stetson Thacker ’14, vice presidential candidates. All opening statements basically summed up each candidates’ published platform. Morales highlighted her arrival at Denison from the inner city, Wu-Pong outlined basic planks; Tran emphasized his love of campus and his seeing the job of Vice President as a prime ministerial role; and Thacker spoke of his three years of experience on DCGA.
The first question came from Curtis Edmonds ’15, a former Senator, and asked the presidential candidates how they would represent the minority community at Denison and how they would ensure that campus would remain a safe haven for demographics traditionally labeled as minorities. Wu-Pong pointed out that he sees both him and Ana as coming from minority backgrounds, and pledged to bring down the number of hate crimes on campus. Morales thanked Edmonds for his question and stressed her desire to connect vis-a-vis “intentional relationships.”
The second question came from Nick Ingram ’15, former Speaker of DCGA. He asked the two presidential candidates what changes they recommend for D-Day in light of changing campus culture. Morales answered the question with candor, noting that she has never been to a D-Day event before. However, she stressed her preferrence for smaller scale events as opposed to the traditional singers “singing at you.” Wu-Pong also stressed there was a need to appeal to “everyone on campus.” He stressed that the D-Day Committee should have a longer time to prepare and that the D-Day event itself should be longer; he wants to bring back “some elements” of a longer D-Day weekend.
Sunder Willett ’15 fielded the next question and was addressed to the vice presidential candidates. As the treasurer of three organizations, Willett asked about the Finance Committee and how it planned to improve its communication with campus organizations. Thacker said that the financing process has been “smoother” while he’s been on Finance than ever before, and that the number of requests met has only reason. Tran opined that he believes that the budgeting process should be much better communicated, and said he want to “bring PR” to the budgeting process.
The next question asked about racial segregation on campus and asked all candidates how they will integrate campus and bring minority representation to DCGA. Wu-Pong said that “addressing how we relate to each other comes on an individual basis” and that improvement involves “being proactive.” Morales said she desired to bring a mandatory leadership program wherein student leaders would be brought together and made to interact. “Change starts from the top,” she said. Tran said that passing the student forum resolution in Senate was an important step this year, but that he wants to see more initiative from PR to improve Senator outreach. Thacker said that “we’re talking about a huge cultural change on campus.” He agreed that having a shared identity on campus would help with improving segregation on campus, and said that many committees including his Big Red Spirit Committee.
The next question came from Senator Chris Townson ’14. He asked the presidential candidates where they see Greek life going in the next few years. Morales said that “Greek life is an important aspect of this community,” thereby stressing how they could further harness their already-organized structures for the betterment of the community at-large. Wu-Pong, stating that Greek Life is often ubiquitous on many a college campus, also made clear his belief that the “traditional” aspects of Greek Life (i.e. hazing, destructive acts of vandalism,etc.) should never be condoned.
Kyle Gasaway ’16 inquired about the future of housing lottery and fielded the question to VP candidates only. Thacker mentioned his desire to look into re-evaluating the usefulness of special interest housing, as well a honing in on small-scale changes that can be made (such as furniture changes.) Tran seemed to agree with Thacker’s point, noting the need to taansition more of the emphasis from special to general interest. He also mentioned his interest in moving to an online system.
The next question dealt with how candidates would keep “momentum going” on campus. Wu-Pong noted the many positives of Denison’s extracurriculars, highlighting the women’s rugby team and the Venture Philanthropy Club. Morales said that she would like to see more multiculutural, “mixer”-type events that would bring different types of communities together. Tran said that D-Day should be about “spirit,” not just a concert, and Thacker said that Denison has to reduce overprogramming if it wants to bring the community truly together.
Next came a question from Jun-Jun Cortes ’13, who pointed out the fact that Party Registration has seemingly only succeeded in driving parties underground. He then inquired what candidates would do about this issue. Morales lent credence to the work done by the Ad-Hoc Committee before mentioning that increased student involvement in the work of the Social Spaces Committee might be the best way forward. Wu-Pong staunchly defended the work of the Committee, but mentioned more could be done. He also shared his desire to get to the root of the problem, noting, “our students didn’t enter this school as alcoholics.” Thacker highlighted that alternatives to weekend drinking need to be in place for longer stretches of the evening to serve as an effective disincentive. Tran agreed with the positions of the other three candidates.
Bryan LeBlanc ’15 asked the candidates about their opinions regarding the ongoing role of community senators. LeBlanc himself is Outlook’s Community Senator for 2013-14. Wu-Pong lauded the work of community senators (due to their breaching of old perspectives.), but noted we may fall into the trap of splicing potential communities too narrowly. Tran mentioned his membership in Asian Culture Club, while publicly hoping that the senators the various organizations. Thacker noted that the model of community senators needs to be dramatically revamped and simplified to allow for further incorporation.
Peter Hurford ’14 asked candidates to highlight “one small step” from each of their platforms. Morales said she wanted to make sure that the car share program DCGA has brought to campus this year is fully utilized. Wu-Pong said he wants to address how Class Senators interact directly with their constituents. Thacker said that he wants to do a capital purchase drive to use the DCGA reserve fund, currently in excess of $700,000. Tran said he wants to create three things: first, a campus-wide calendar with all campus events displayed; and second, to use the reserve fund to bring campus together. He ran out of time before he got to the third point.
Abdi Ali ’13 said he felt that students have lost respect for campus, and asked how candidates will hold those who vandalize campus responsible for their actions. Wu-Pong highlighted his future service as RA of Sawyer Hall; he also said that students view Denison as a “provider of a service,” not a “home.” He says that Senators’ shared experience with residential assistance will improve the residential culture. Morales agreed and added that RAs shouldn’t be afraid of getting “sassy” with their residents. Tran built off of this and agreed that campus has to talk about ownership of campus, not use of it as a service. Thacker said that we are talking about a “huge cultural change” when discussing vandalism and that a partnership between DCGA and ResEd would be “easy” to achieve considering their present interconnectedness.
The next question asked candidates how they would help first-year students integrate into the Denison community. Morales said that she hesitates to use the word “transparency,” but advocates some form of first-year integration program. Wu-Pong highlighted his Denison Outdoor Orientation (DOO) leadership experience and said that perhaps incorporating D.U. Lead and similar leadership programs into the freshman orientation would be a good step. Thacker advocates the integration of DCGA Senators into the orientation programs. Tran said that Senators need to be “intentional” with their communication and said he wishes to us the PR Committee to “bridge the gap” between students and DCGA, which he thinks is to often say a controlling, not a governing, body.
Yusuf Ahmed ’16, Class Senator, asked candidates what is one thing they would change about Denison if they could. Wu-Pong said that he wishes to expand “what students can do.” He says that the car share program was an important step in increasing “mobility.” “We could do a lot with the reserve fund,” he said, to, for example, “empower students.” Morales said she wishes to change the “big campus mentality,” even though Denison is a “small campus.” She said she wishes “people would act more like a family.” “The people here is what really matters to me,” said Tran. “I really want to engage myself and everyone else” to “find the Denison identity.” He wishes to use the reserve fund to accomplish this. Thacker said that he really wants all students to “be happy with our social culture and our social climate.” He said that re-examining social spaces and using the reserve fund could be ways to affect these changes.
Ingram asked the penultimate question, asking all candidates how they would cohere campus event planning. Morales applauded Denison’s administration’s efforts to “meet this gap” although said she had “no concrete idea” of how to accomplish this. Wu-Pong said he supports Tran’s idea of a campus-wide calendar. Thacker pointed out that a campus calendar already exists, and that he wishes to streamline the process of accessing this calendar. He highlighted OrgSync as a way of cohering campus events. Tran jokingly said “OrgSync sucks” and said he wishes to create a student position within CLIC to work with University Communications and create a streamlined process for recreating the campus calendar, which is based on Google Calendar, the system widely used by the Denison community.
Drew Johnson ’13, President of the Student Body, asked the final question. He asked Wu-Pong how his experience on DCGA would help him with the presidency and asked Morales how her inexperience is a benefit. Wu-Pong highlighted his experience with delegation and engaging in “all the community.” Morales said that she has “more leverage” precisely because of her inexperience with DCGA, because she would represent an outside voice; she was widely applauded.
- The candidates’ platforms can be found on OrgSync.