Student government happenings: Candidates preach to empty pews

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After over a week of practicing in the mirror and preparing for a strong display of their ability as juniors Charles Pierre and Nicholas Flores entered Meherry Hall Wednesday to two rows of candidates competing for other positions and only a handful of other voters.

Because Pierre and Flores are running unopposed in the election for president and vice-president they did not debate other candidates — as is tradition — and instead answered a series of unscreened questions. The new format drew few spectators, but allowed the opportunity for candidates running in other elections to defend their platforms.

Flores explained presidential and vice-presidential candidates traditionally debate, while candidates in other elections may not have the opportunity to publicly argue their ideas. 

"I think it's important that there are venues for students running for those other positions to kind of get their voices heard and really get a sense of what they're running on," Flores said. 

The discussion Wednesday provided such an opportunity for students and candidates running for all positions on the executive board as well as a few senators. Though these candidates appreciated the opportunity to publicly share their opinions and go directly against their opponents, some felt the low attendance made their answers less worthy of their effort. 

Candidate for vice-president of student life, junior Ellen Clayton addressed a question that her three other competitors also faced in the discussion. She said that though she appreciated the opportunity to speak, she wished students had attended the event to get a better overall idea of who the candidates are. 

"I think the biggest problem with people not going there is that people don't get to hear the candidates' ability to speak or the way they work the crowds or can think on their feet," Clayton said. 

For candidates running unopposed, the discussion created a different challenge. Pierre and Flores said the discussion posed an opportunity for them to introduce themselves to the student body and explain their positions, but because of low turnout they had less chance to do that. 

"It was a little bit disappointing to see such a low turnout, but I think we've campaigned very hard and done everything right so it should turn out well," Pierre said. 

Student body president senior Christine Walker also acknowledged that Pierre and Flores entered a strange situation in regards to their election, and she expressed that a debate against opponents likely would have been easier. 

"I think it provides a unique challenge for them because now they need to prove their own legitimacy instead of having it validated by running against somebody. I think they did a good job of that," Walker said. 

The use of social media has been the campaigning tool many candidates favored in the election more so than verbal communication or posters and some voters believe this led to the lack of attendance.

Freshman Marcelle Forsyth said she has only heard about the election from scattered Facebook posts and posters. She said she would have attended the discussion in order to better get to know candidates had she have been informed. 

"I guess I just completely blame the lack of advertising," Forsyth said. 

Candidates across the ballot along with Walker have admitted this flaw in the election system as well as in communications on campus overall.

The elections are running now until Sunday at midnight.