The second and final round of the 2012 USG Debate hosted by The Ticker and WBMB took place last Thursday, April 19 in room 3-150 of the Vertical Campus during club hours.
Three presidential hopefuls were seated around a single, shared microphone to square off, explaining why each thought his party’s platform is ideal while taking plenty of opportunities to point out the weaknesses in the platforms of their opponents.
To start, each took a moment to introduce him self and his ideas before being subjected to a series of prepared questions.
From there, the floor was opened up and students were able to directly address each individual candidate.
Chris Catalano of A Better Baruch was the first to take the mic, setting forth his challenge that, “everyone in this room has seen [A Better Baruch] out there for almost a month now.
"You’ve seen me for almost two years now doing my thing. I think that’s really the most important thing to think about when you’re doing student government…getting people who are willing to put themselves out there.”
“A smile goes a long way,” he went on, “and people might say that’s a silly thing but I think that’s where you start…you start with the individual change.”
From there, he says, “you can start focusing on the other points…opportunities in the college, making progress with the facilities on the campus, and really getting a great education.”
Next, Slava Brodetskiy from Suit Up Baruch took his turn to discuss why he entered the race.
“We actually started very late in the game this year and it was extremely difficult to organize in such a short period of time…but the reason why we…got together and I decided to take this risk was that I have a specific vision for USG next year; I don’t want the same flow into next year.”
When Suit Up was formed, it was very close to deadline for party platform submission. While this may have had a negative impact on the party’s ability to really stew their ideas, Brodetskiy saw it as a positive thing.
“What we were able to get done in four days…has challenged me and has challenged our leadership, has challenged our whole entire team, and we know that from everything that we went through in the last two weeks that we can make a huge, huge impact on this school,” said Brodetskiy.
Then Ke Wei, Connect with Baruch’s figurehead, stepped up and explained, “Connect with Baruch came together upon the dream that we really hope to connect all the entities at this school, from administration to student life, to student services, because that’s really what we have a lack of here.”
“Like Chris touched upon…we do have a lack of community [at Baruch College],” he said. His party was built-up “to provide the students with the value that they could be getting. Baruch is a gold mine of student a service that are being cut and underutilized and that is quite frankly, really a shame.
"As representatives of Connect with Baruch, we want to provide the students with more benefit, more representation, and hopefully, more action.”
As has been explored in depth in The Ticker’s online exclusive, “The Debates 2012: A comprehensive guide to the USG elections,” these parties are all very interlinked due to the nature of their formation.
Chris Catalano’s team, A Better Baruch, began forming in December last year. It wasn’t until February – when current USG Finance Chair Adam Camacho was booted from the roster – that a second party was formed under the banner Connect with Baruch (CWB), with Ke Wei stepping into the presidential position after Camacho dropped out of the race amidst party turmoil that led to formation of a third party, Suit Up Baruch, with Slava Brodetskiy in the top slot.
The first question of the night addressed the probability that whichever team dominates next years’ USG seats, there is going to be some cross-pollination, especially due to CWB and Suit Up’s lack of a full slate going into the elections.
Catalano noted that his team does have a full slate before saying, “It will be very hard, say if someone doesn’t win and the rest of the slate does…at the same time, I think it’s a great opportunity for people coming in with a new idea."
Brodetskiy next said of Suit Up, “We have only about 38 people with about 40 slots covered, so we’re definitely going to have to work with people from [CWB and Better Baruch].
“What it’s really going to come down to is me and Ke…or someone from his team sitting down and talking, going past our differences to really make things happen at this school. To look at their platform, look at our platform, and say, what can we accomplish together? And likewise with Chris and his team.”
In regard to Connect with Baruch, Wei told the audience that even before joining CWB, “working with people and team dynamics [was] one of the things that made Connect with Baruch stand out to me. We also do not have a full slate, so we will also be working with the two teams next to me.”
“What makes me comfortable with saying that we will be able to…work with people with opposing views is, we’re already used to working things out…debating things. We’ve done it democratically once." If they’re voted into USG, “things will run basically the same way,” he said.
In a response, Brodetskiy began discussing the diversity of students, mentioning that VP hopeful Sara Dowd is the only female Vice Presidential candidate as an introduction for his statement that “out of the 13,000 students [at Baruch], we found the competent people; we found qualified people who will be able to get their job done.
"Ke has failed to fill three positions on the vice presidential senate, as well as the treasurer role and I don’t know how he’s going to be able to complete his platform next year.”
Wei rebutted with, “Some of the people on the slate are of higher positions that were not filled. First of all, it was a communication error between Student Life and CWB, and Student Life refuses to rectify the situation. Now, in terms of carrying out our platform, a lot of the platform points that we have do not require the vice presidential positions to be filled, it requires the senate seating to be filled, which we have more of.”
“Furthermore,” said Wei, “on the note of diversity, I am also the only Asian running for President, and I will be the only Asian president, if I should win, in all of Baruch’s USG history.”
After that, he continued “When this team was put together, it was definitely not just a slew of club leaders,” taking a stab at Suit Up’s method of going from club to club and finding the right people to get more involved, saying, “that’s too easy.”
Slapping back, Brodetskiy brought up that he had turned down leaders he didn’t feel were competent including Ke Wei. “When [Wei] asked me about the Student Services position, when he asked me about Legislative Affairs, I declined. Why? Because although he’s a very competent leader, I didn’t see him fulfilling that role.”
Later in the debate, Wei interjected on this point, saying that he never actually approached Brodetskiy with the intention of fulfilling either of those roles.
There were many other tense verbal interactions throughout the debate, including one quarrel that started with Brodetskiy talking about wanting to compile a database of all the ad hoc majors and minors in the school, something that he brought up with last year’s team but that never materialized.
Catalano responded to this, saying, “If you were passionate about that and you’re on the team, regardless of if you’re [on the] Student Building Fund [committee], you could’ve made that change, you could’ve pushed it.”
Brodetskiy came back at Chris Catalano about a $5,000 award from the Great Ideas contest that he was planning to use for the creation of an intermural sports league that has never materialized, to which Catalano replied that Suit Up’s own Sara Dowd was also involved with the contest as part of team that won the other $5,000 from Psychology in Motion, and that their project never materialized either.
“I wasn’t in Student Government [at the time], I won a contest…and saw how much bureaucracy you had to go through, and that was one of the things that spurred me to actually join student government,” explained Catalno.
Dowd later explained in an email to The Ticker that while she was involved with Psychology in Motion, she was not the creator of the idea or in any significant role in the attempted implementation.
Wei agreed with Brodetskiy, adding that he thought the line item for the USG retreat could use some scaling back, a remark that led to an exchange of words with Catalano, who is in support of the retreat as an important part of the USG experience.
The last question of the debate from the moderator Elisabeth Greenberg, Editor-in-Chief of The Ticker, had to do with a trending decline in student involvement. This was the one thing that all parties agreed on.
While each team has a slightly different approach to this situation, all involve face-to-face interaction rather than a reliance on social media to get people in touch with the school.
The questions asked by students included one for Wei concerning a statement he had made in the previous debate that if won the election he would find a way to provide money for spiritual advisement for the students. With the student wondering where that money would come from.
Wei responded that it would come from Student Activity Fees, arguing that the school has “two lawyers on retainer that help about 200 students a year,” while spiritual leaders provide support for a much larger base of students.
From the other team, Brodetskiy said that if the students voted on a referendum and it was voted in, that he would of course support that, while Catalano argued that USG is “not allowed to use Student Activity Fees for religious services,” stating the separation between church and state (CUNY is a public school system) as the reasoning behind this.
Other questions included two for Brodetskiy, one that was more of a criticism about the plan for scaling back USG into more of a support system than a governing body, and the other, from current USG President Antonio Alfonso, asking him why he “essentially walked away from” the Baruch Connect project early on and never came back to it.
Brodetskiy replied to the latter, “I made sure to fulfill my commitment…by August, I felt a lot of friction on the team; people were talking about impeaching you, and it’s hard to move forward in that environment.”
Later, Alfonso mentioned to The Ticker that this was the first he had ever heard of the plan to impeach him.
The candidates were all asked how they plan to address the “name calling” and “dirty play” that has been a trademark of this year’s election campaign, especially on Facebook, where party members and supporters have been throwing insults and challenges back and forth in flurries.
All the parties agreed though Ke Wei said best that in the heat of the campaign, “name calling happens when a couple of overly passionate people get fired up,” causing a few stifled if not uncomfortable laughs from the crowd.
In the words of Catalano, “If your reason for running is legitimate I will gladly pat you on the back and welcome you on my team,” which despite their differences, all presidential candidates seemed to agree on as the right way to go.
In his closing statement, Catalano said, “If there are questions about our platform, about my character, feel free to ask. I think one thing that can’t be questioned is the dedication of my team. This is more than a title; it’s something we’re all very passionate about.”
Wei told the students, “you being here…shows that you care about the school. No matter who you’re supporting, things are going to change for the school, and that, truly…is what matters.”
Ending on a serious note, Brodetskiy said, “I’m sad, I wish we had more people here...more seats filled up," possibly reminiscing about the first debate in the VC Cafeteria and the rowdy crowd that had gathered there to watch and react.
"That said, it’s your duty to vote…to look over every single platform, judge them on the basis of their merit, ask questions up until next Tuesday through Thursday and then cast your vote. That’s all I could ask of you.”