Ryan Ozminkowski ’19 invited his opponents in the Undergraduate Student Government presidential race, Rachel Yee ’19 and Matt Miller ’19, to an impromptu “Late Meal Debate” via a Facebook video posted on Thursday, Dec. 7. While Miller accepted the invitation, Yee declined to attend.
“I will not be attending on principle since USG is not sponsoring this,” Yee wrote in an email.
The Miller campaign, however, appealed to Yee to make an appearance.
“As Ryan has made it clear he will use late-meal as a platform either way, we would like to make this as productive and informative as possible to all candidates, and believe the only useful discussion will occur if all candidates are present,” explained Shea Minter ’19, the moderator chosen by the Miller campaign, in an email sent to various members of the campaigns and the ‘Prince.’
During the debate, Miller differentiated himself from Yee and Ozminkowski by affirming his “tangible” experience in communications for the Senate. He also talked about how his background as a gay former athlete distinguished him from the “narrow scope of [USG] social circles.”
“The real difference, though, is what we bring to the table,” Miller said.
On the other hand, Ozminkowski emphasized his being a “total outsider” and highlighted the distinction between qualification for office and USG experience. Ozminkowski additionally underlined the purpose of his campaign in an appeal to seniors.
“If you vote for me, you’re changing the game,” said Ozminkowski. “You’re inspiring the underclassmen to know that USG isn’t an insular group; it’s something that can get people excited, that can get people happy and engaged with the school community as a whole.”
Ozminkowski, confidently interacting with the surrounding tables of his supporters, called his campaign “fun.”
The tables responded very positively to the moderator’s questions directed toward the absent Yee, noting that they hope Yee will respond digitally. Miller and Ozminkowski also answered an audience member’s question about Yee’s absence.
“It was held in a very professional way in a very open setting and I do not think this has been in any way biased,” said Ozminkowski. “We worked together to ensure that could happen. I think it is very hypocritical of an individual to keep talking about how much more you’re going to engage the community and when there is a debate that can do nothing but engage them to their fullest ... to not even show up.”
In comments during the debate, Miller again reasserted his platform of re-allocating funding to Lawnparties and looking for rising musical stars. Ozminkowski coined the slogan “Make Lawnparties Great Again” in reference to Miller’s Lawnparties policy.
Both candidates backed the Honor Committee referenda, although Miller stressed the necessity of making referenda more accessible. Miller and Ozminkowski also underscored inclusion of various student communities on campus, such as student-athletes. For example, Ozminkowski noted that the time of the USG presidential debate in Whig Hall inhibited many athletes from attending. Notably, many athletes, including those in track and field, were in attendance at this debate.
The Miller and Ozminkowski campaigns finalized the debate in last-minute negotiations. The Miller campaign rejected the Ozminkowski campaign’s suggestions of having "get to know your candidates" questions and two questions of undisclosed content for each moderator.
“It's not productive, and with door-to-door campaigning, personal websites, and social media, there are plenty of opportunities for that kind of publicity: a formal and legitimate debate is not one of them,” Minter explained of the campaign's decision in an email to campaign staffers and the ‘Prince.’
In the same email chain, however, the Ozminkowski campaign maintained the necessity of not disclosing certain questions to the opposing candidate’s chosen moderator.
“We believe it is very unlikely that repetition would occur and believe that there is a level of ‘off-the-cuff’ that should be involved in this debate, and would encourage you not to confuse such with ‘gotcha’ questions,” Zach Halem ’18, campaign manager for the Ozminkowski campaign, wrote in an email to campaign staffers and the ‘Prince.’
Ultimately, the debate occurred without the undisclosed questions.
The “Late Meal Debate” took place on Monday, Dec. 11 at 8:30 p.m. in the Frist Gallery.