With a platform of student outreach, USG senator and presidential candidate Zachary Ogle ’15 called for a focus on best serving the needs of the student body at the USG presidential debate on Wednesday. Ogle’s opponent, incumbent USG president Shawon Jackson ’15, emphasized improving USG infrastructure along with external outreach.
Jackson detailed his platform with ideas to strengthen academic advising, to consider better integrating upperclassmen into residential colleges and to enhance external relations. Internally, he said, he hopes to amplify the consulting role of the USG projects manager and expand the communications team.
Jackson said he would evaluate the successes and failures of his past term to improve in the future. Referring to the platform that won him his position, he said USG has done an “okay job” with accountability and could improve by holding more check-in meetings with its members.
“If we’re not an accountable organization, at the end of the day we won't get anything done, unfortunately, and I definitely don’t want that to be the case,” Jackson said, emphasizing that his internal management approach would remains hands-off.
“It’s … important for each chairperson to work as much as they can independently of the president to ensure that we can all try to avoid micro-management,” Jackson said. However, he added, he is more than willing to work with members whenever they have questions.
Ogle said he is running for president because he believes USG has the potential to be a “great voice for the student body to administrators” and wants to see USG improve its outreach to the student body.
“USG needs to tackle specific, feasible ideas that can be accomplished, that will have a great impact on the student body as a whole,” Ogle said in his opening statement. He said that, as someone who joined USG sophomore year, he could contribute the perspectives of both a member of USG and a regular member of the student body.
Jackson, on the other hand, said he has the “perspective to implement projects effectively,” not only because of his involvement with on-campus groups such as diSiac and the Pace Center for Civic Engagement, but also because of his extensive experience within USG.
In response to a question about why the student body should elect Jackson despite his failure to fulfill certain campaign goals during this term, Jackson said he had not promised they would be completed. While he acknowledged that he had not pursued increasing financial aid for eating clubs or establishing an airport shuttle for students, he said he and USG academics chair Dillon Sharp ’14 are working on adding midterm course evaluations and expanding the calendar to accommodate a shopping period.
To work more closely with the student body, Jackson said he planned to continue holding office hours and eating ice cream with students off-campus, while Ogle said USG members should approach other organizations with project ideas to help them accomplish their missions.
Audience member and U-Council executive committee representative Zhan Okuda-Lim ’15 asked how the candidates would address the campus perception of USG. According to Okuda-Lim, a student might say, “I don’t know what you guys do, or I don’t feel like you really make a change.”
The USG could help resolve the issue by considering the impact of projects on various members of the student body, Ogle said. “How will this affect athletes? How will this affect international students? How will this affect students who choose to join eating clubs?”
He proposed systemizing outreach to other student organizations, such as by directing class senators to attend club meetings. “We need to go to students directly and to talk them about USG ideas and future USG ideas and current USG projects,” he added.
Although Jackson said the low turnout at weekly USG meetings does not concern him given students’ busy schedules, he acknowledged that USG’s image as ineffective is a problem. He pointed to USG office hours as a positive sign and said he would continue improving USG’s presence through biweekly emails to the student body and further collaboration with the communications director.
Jake Jackson ’14 asked how the candidates would develop more events that could reach most of the student body. Jackson said USG is currently planning an ice cream gathering in February.
Ogle said he would like to reinstate a Senate project called Tiger Universe designed to increase student turnout at different sporting events.
“Increasing school spirit is certainly a way to provide students with innumerable experiences that they'll carry on with them, you know, from here until forever,” he said.
In response to an audience member’s question about plans for external outreach, Shawon Jackson said he is chairing a planning committee that will bring student leaders from other Ivy League schools to Princeton for a March policy conference.
"We don't serve the other Ivy League schools. We serve the Princeton student body," Ogle countered.
Shawon Jackson replied, “At Princeton, you can only come up with so many ideas, while if you look at what other schools are doing in terms of best practices, we can then transfer those best practices here.”
Voting for the USG president begins Monday at noon and will continue until Wednesday at noon.
Anna Mazarakis ’16 and Matt Saunders ’15 moderated the debate, which was sponsored by USG, The Daily Princetonian and the American Whig-Cliosophic Society. It took place in the Whig Senate Chamber.
Mazarakis is a staff writer for The Daily Princetonian.