Jackson '15, Wagstaff '14 square off in debate
Reforms to academic policies and the ability of a new USG president to work with a new University president were highlights of the issues discussed at the debate between the two USG presidential candidates and three vice presidential candidates Sunday night.
Class of 2015 senator Shawon Jackson ’15 and USG social chair Benedict Wagstaff ’14 debated first at the Frist TV lounge in the presidential debate. Daily Princetonian News Editor Teddy Schleifer moderated the debate.
Wagstaff spoke about his experience as social chair in his opening statement, noting that he organized Friday’s Hoodie Allen concert and Saturday's bonfire.
Jackson pointed to his work organizing the third Committee on Background and Opportunity survey and leading new service projects. The USG has not yet released the results of the COMBO III survey, despite initially planning to do so in early October.
He also discussed his goals for increased communication and transparency within the USG, which Wagstaff attacked as nothing new.
“In essence, Bruce has put together Shawon’s vision of the USG already,” Wagstaff said.
He went on to argue that his experience communicating with Nassau Hall is good background for working with a new University president.
Schleifer then asked the candidates whether the USG should emphasize day-to-day services and accomplishing small-scale goals over focusing on ambitious objectives.
Jackson explained that many small projects like handing out bagels on the first day of classes are important to the USG and for showing the student body that “we actually care about them,” he said.
Jackson added that the fact that he is a sophomore will not hinder his abilities as USG president, even though USG presidents are typically juniors.
“I don’t see my class year or age being any restriction at all,” Jackson said.
He added that he wants to expand gender-neutral housing options and hopes to hold office hours and create mailing lists for students to hear about USG projects.
Wagstaff expressed similar interest in making the USG more transparent, adding that he plans to include project status updates on the USG website.
Both candidates said they would also like to expand mentorship opportunities for freshmen. The candidates explained that in reaction to the ban on freshman rush, they would like to increase opportunities for freshmen to interact and bond with upperclassmen.
Though most of his experience has been with project planning, Wagstaff said he is qualified to make policy decisions as well. He said he has established strong relationships with members of the University administration, proof that he can interact with the administration effectively on policy-focused projects.
Wagstaff is in a relationship with vice presidential candidate Carmina Mancenon ’14 but said he would have no problem maintaining a professional relationship should they both be elected.
“We have worked together on many projects and we have a healthy relationship in and outside the work setting,” Wagstaff said. “We know our strengths and weaknesses and we can work together in a mutually beneficial relationship.”
In the final minutes of the debate the candidates explained their ultimate reasons for running for USG president.
“There is no value to life if I didn’t serve other people,” Jackson said.
Wagstaff said he has become deeply committed to the USG and has found it to be a rewarding experience.
“For me, the USG has become something I care about more than classwork,” Wagstaff said.
The vice presidential debate followed, featuring candidates Daniel Johnson ’15, Elan Kugelmass ’14 and Mancenon. Whig-Clio President Cara Eckholm ’14 moderated the debate.
Johnson said he supports Jackson for president, while Kugelmass and Mancenon both support Wagstaff for president.
Johnson, who is also a staff copy editor and contributing news writer for the ‘Prince,’ said the vice presidential role is primarily administrative in scope but added that the vice president should also have “concrete policy goals.”
Kugelmass expressed a similar view.
“In general the role of the vice president is to manage the Senate and manage a vision for getting things done and enabling projects of other members,” he said.
Mancenon emphasized a focus on service. She explained that it is most important for the USG “to do things students actually want and increase innovative projects.”
About 35 students attended the presidential debate and approximately 30 students remained for the vice presidential debate.
Correction: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this article misstated the date of the Saturday night bonfire. The 'Prince' regrets the error.