We decided to do something different in covering the Thelmo presidential debate this past Monday – to offer our honest opinions in a non-news article format. Our managing editor Zach Johnk and assistant managing editor Anthony Martin decided to attend the debate, take separate notes, and compare their observations in a written discussion for you, our readers, to digest. Without further ado…
Zach: First, I’ll begin by noting how level the field of candidates is – I really doubt there will be an outright winner in this round of voting. As for the two candidates who will progress to a likely run-off election, I can see any two from Kessenich, Dodge, Yador and Adam garnering the first and second place spots. Parent, for me, was very well spoken and reasonable but he faces a pool of candidates with far more experience, and, on this debate’s evidence, more unique ideas. “Jazzy” Jeff Gill, meanwhile, demonstrated that he is a serious candidate but, again, his Thelmo inexperience may count against him. The other four all had their pluses and minuses. Kessenich has shown the most commitment to student government, boasting a good deal more experience than the other candidates, and also demonstrated a realism regarding the university’s dire financial situation that I didn’t see in some of the other candidates. Dodge’s proxy (he’s abroad in London) did a good job outlining his candidate’s experience and highlighted his balanced platform – several of his sustainability ideas, in particular, were food for thought and would not be exceedingly expensive. Yador has been involved extensively on campus and her prior experience at the Brush Alumni House bodes well for any potential future interaction with the Board of Trustees. And finally, Adam improved as the debate went on, putting forward a couple of unique ideas in the question and answer session that showed he has given the Thelmo presidency some real thought; his proposal to have members from different organizations act as representatives in the Thelmo Senate was intriguing, even if it might be difficult to transform into reality. Anyway, those are my initial thoughts.
Anthony: Good points; I agree with most of things you’ve outlined here, especially the top four candidates that you see in contention. You talked about Kessenich’s experience and this is certainly what impressed me about her. Although she was a bit shaky in her presentation, she showed a knowledge and understanding of the Thelmo procedures. You’re right about Yador — she was comfortable speaking in front of everyone and she seemed motivated and like someone who would put the necessary work into the presidency.
I had some qualms about Dodge, though; from his proxy it seemed like they were running on popularity. Sure, his background with Goldman Sachs and at Williams College is impressive, but I question what he could actually bring to our campus from either place. The ideas he mentioned, stickers on the light switches and a competition between dorms for lowest energy use, were, besides his only new ones, questionably effective.
On the topic of ideas though, the only contender with some real new ones was Adam. You mentioned his idea for senators, but he also talked about a program allowing students to text security. While these were both interesting, I was a little nervous when he told us he was a three-sport captain; I hope he doesn’t envision leading us like his lacrosse team.
I have to agree with you about Jeff and Parent. Both seemed unprepared for the position, Jeff seemed to think the classes he’s taken will be enough, while Parent seems like he’d rely on other people too much. I’m curious, though — who do you think would be able to effect some changes? Could any of them, or are their hands tied by administration?
Zach: What you imply is really the stark truth of the Thelmo presidency – that it’s extremely hard to implement change as president of the student body, especially over the course of a yearlong term that passes quickly.
Every now and then we do see student government make a noticeable difference. For example, the efforts of 2007 president Jasper Burch were crucial to the building of Pub 56, but cases like this are fairly rare. I think that no matter who is elected, they will see their power constrained considerably by our financial situation. And that’s why I think the conservative approach of Kessenich, despite the other candidates producing more unique ideas, might be best – because realistically, the next Thelmo president will not have that much power. Another point worth discussing – do you think that prior Thelmo experience is necessary to be president? It would be a ridiculous scenario for someone who isn’t a senator, congressman/woman or governor to emerge as a serious candidate for president of the United States (Ross Perot, anyone?) but the Thelmo presidency is admittedly a bit different.
Anthony: An interesting notion indeed. I think that the Thelmo presidency, unlike the American one, requires experience and overall involvement, rather than strictly government experience; obviously the position requires dedication above and beyond that of an average student. If someone vying for election suddenly finds themself in office without realizing the burdensome time commitment, they’ll be setting themselves up for failure. To point out two candidates here — I think Yador has proven herself capable of this by managing multiple leadership roles, while Jeff, to reiterate what I mentioned earlier, seems to have only his classes and some campus employment at the QRC. But truthfully, no matter who gets in, or what they can actually do, there are some pertinent issues facing all of campus. I’m wondering what issues you think are the most important, and who might be best poised to tackle them?
Zach: As I’ve mentioned earlier, I think that our financial issues are most pressing, though the role the Thelmo president will play in this will mostly be one of damage control – dealing with a substantially smaller budget to distribute to clubs and organizations. Any Thelmo president who tries to do too much might end up disappointed and back where they started. Smaller sustainability projects are, however, a realistic goal for any president, and the only candidate who demonstrated concrete, practical ideas for this was Alex Dodge. Kessenich and Yador, for me, were impressive in general but their sustainability plans essentially amounted to talking to those more knowledgeable on the subject. These are much more important issues for me than expanding Greek life and providing more social options, which all the candidates are stating as one of their goals with the obvious intent of gaining more votes. I don’t deny that more social options are important, but I think that the financial situation is our number one issue and that we should have one eye cast towards sustainable endeavors (and not just because it looks good on university literature, which I suspect is our administration’s motive). When you consider these priorities, Dodge seems to be the strongest candidate. I’m open to Kessenich or Yador, however, and I would be interested to see how an Adam presidency would unfold.
Anthony: Green is the name of the game these days, and I think our new president will need to embody a mix of creative ideas, realism, and time management. These are idealistic and lofty goals for sure, but I think there is potential in all the candidates, though. You seem like you’re favoring Dodge here. I’ll credit him for his ideas, and I don’t think he could lead us awry; but I’d like some one who’s held some more leadership roles. I think Yador has potential because she’s been in enough student groups that she has a broad connection to campus; this could be the swing vote she needs.
These are expressly the views of The Hill News. We’d like to wish the candidates good luck; we applaud them for standing up and running and we hope the student body will do the same and cast their votes for this election.