Candidates voice platforms in debate, question format

Six candidates running for student body president and vice president debate their platforms Friday in front of an audience of about 70 people. Voting begins at 8 a.m. Monday on myWSU and ends at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Winners will be announced during a reception at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Chance Swaim

Wichita State Student Government Association held its annual presidential and vice presidential debate Friday.

Candidates from the three competing tickets— Progress, Shockers United and Spark — debated Friday in the Rhatigan Student Center in front of about 70 people. Eric Sexton, vice president of Student Affairs, served as the moderator.

Each ticket was given two minutes to give an opening statement and explain their platforms, and later responded to questions from Sexton and from the audience.

Progress, which includes incumbent Student Body President Joseph Shepard and vice presidential candidate Taben Azad, said their ticket is focused on three pillars which serve as their campaign’s motto: engage, empower and enhance. Their primary objectives include student safety, student health and student life.

“We want to engage students and empower students, making sure everyone has a seat at the table to voice their concerns, and we want to enhance the student experience at Wichita State,” Shepard said.

Shockers United, a ticket including presidential candidate Ruben Lebron and vice presidential candidate Matthew Brinkmeyer, said their focus will be serving students on three key issues: communication, campus safety and Shocker advancement.

“We think it’s important to maintain a healthy dialogue with the administration and to open communication with the Kansas legislature to be able to get things done,” Brinkmeyer said. “We have high expectations for Wichita State students, and we have specific solutions to issues on campus.”

Spark, a ticket including presidential candidate Michael Schultz and vice presidential candidate Mariah Smith, said they are focused on running a values- and integrity-based campaign. They want to enhance the student experience, increase outreach, and grow association education.

“The thing that really differentiates us is that it’s not just about our experience, but that we’re focused on how to create a team that’s going to do the best job. We’re going to create a team and train them correctly to do that,” Smith said.

After the debate, the candidates had mixed emotions about the format of the debate. Spark said this year’s debate was more organized and respectful than previous years. The Progress and Shockers United tickets were disappointed they were not given more time to answer questions from the audience; there was only time for three questions.

“I think it’s important that we allow this opportunity to speak and ask questions, especially of me,” Shepard said. “I thought I was going to get a lot more questions — I wanted more questions. There are lots of stereotypes and misconceptions associated with me that I want to dispel.”

Shockers United was frustrated by the limits of the formatting, but felt they had a good showing.

“I think there are a lot of things being said and thrown around, but not a lot of action being shown and not a lot of proposals being shown, and that’s something that the debate should have hopefully cleared up, but was unable to do tonight,” Brinkmeyer said.

“Other tickets had very broad pillars and we actually have very specific policy proposals that we discussed, and I thought the other tickets should have been pressed further,” Lebron said.

Progress thought, despite the limited questions, they were able to address many concerns students might have.

“I think we did a great job dispelling many myths,” Shepard said. “One of the myths is we don’t have a good working relationship with the administration, which is a myth. President Bardo and his team and I work on a consistent basis regularly. We meet and sit down and just talk about life sometimes.”

While Progress and Shockers United went back and forth in a brief exchange about the success of the current administration, Spark focused on issues.

“We didn’t want to take any low-blows at anyone,” Schultz said. “We were fortunate enough to not have anyone ask us specifically any hard questions during the debate so we are blessed to really be able to share our vision with everyone.”

Sexton said he thought the debate was a success.

“We saw three great tickets who have passion for the student experience and that’s what’s neat about each one of the tickets,” Sexton said. “And I’m just excited about a good election next week and I want to encourage everybody to come out and vote because it’s their decision who represents them in student government and it’s an important role to play.”