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Monday, July 28, 2014

MSA presidential slates discuss diversity at final debate

The Maass/Catalano slate did not attend the debate.

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Chairs for Shelby Catalano and Spencer Maass remain empty during the MSA Presidential debate Sunday at the Black Culture Center. The candidates did not attend the final debate. 

Brent Pearson/Senior Staff Photographer

The Maneater and Four Front hosted the third and final Missouri Students Association debate Sunday, focusing on diversity.

MSA presidential slate Maass/Catalano was not present.

In an email addressed to the members of The Maneater and the MSA slates, Catalano said she and Maass had made previous commitments.

Maass had to work and Catalano had to participate in a chapter meeting and safe trick-or-treat event for the Sigma Alpha Iota music fraternity, Catalano said. She said she could not disclose further information to the media.

Maass/Catalano campaign manager David Wettroth said Maass was in a meeting.

“In our mind, a lot of the questions asked at the previous debates and Maneater articles have been revolving around accountability and keeping our promises in our platform,” Catalano said. “As a slate, we thought it would be hypocritical to not attend events that we promised our time to."

Catalano said she and Maass had promised to attend these other events prior to the knowledge of the date of the debate.

Maass and Catalano, as well as the other two slates, were informed of the debate through email Oct. 10. Neither Maass nor Catalano responded to the email until at 5:11 p.m. Sunday, announcing they would not be attending.

The debate continued despite their absence, with Elise Moser of The Maneater staff and Four Front chairwoman Ana Gutierrez-Gamez asking questions about diversity at MU.

The debate began with both Droege/Beattie and Wright/Mahr agreeing the definition of diversity means more than just race or religion.

“We want to get away from that blanket term (of diversity) and break diversity down into smaller sections,” Mahr said.

Drawing from Droege’s experience with Tiger Pantry, the Droege/Beattie slate is emphasizing diversity in terms of socioeconomic background. It plans to implement both a $500 emergency loan program and a business attire lending program, both of which would benefit students struggling financially.

“I have completely changed since I came to this university, and it’s not because of my classes — it’s because of what I’ve gotten involved in,” Droege said. “I think every student should have that opportunity. … If you’re worried about food on the table, how are you going to get involved in an organization?”

One major talking point at the debate was the proposal of diversity weeks. The Wright/Mahr slate plans to create various diversity weeks to raise awareness about different cultures and issues on campus.

“We want to bring out each individual group, focus on it and really learn it,” Mahr said.

Though Wright and Mahr want to create different diversity weeks, Droege said his slate wants to advertise and expand diversity weeks that already exist.

Both slates also discussed maintaining relations with diversity organizations at MU.

Droege also said he and Beattie want to encourage MSA members to attend different organizations’ meetings and maintain good communication with the organizations.

“We’re not just waiting for people to approach us with their problems,” Beattie said. “We want to physically go visit and talk to people.”

Mahr said he and Wright would represent diversity on campus by working with both MSA’s Department of Student Activities to create more cultural events and student organizations to create diversity weeks.

When asked about the One Mizzou Initiative, the Wright/Mahr slate said it would like to take pay cuts in the presidential and vice presidential positions in order to fund more speakers and other activities. Droege/Beattie have opposed this proposal in previous debates.

Both slates agreed to implement gender-neutral housing, which has been supported by both MSA and the Residence Halls Association by resolutions. Both slates said they want to quicken the process.

At the end of the debate, Droege and Beattie summarized the diversity-related goals they had not already discussed, including work with Campus Dining Services to provide food for students with dietary restrictions. Beattie added he and Droege plan to work with the Women’s Center to expand the Mr. Zou and Ms. Zou programs.

The night’s debate featured less clashing on diversity-related topics and more on the attainability of each slate’s goals. Wright/Mahr plans to post progress reports on MSA’s website detailing where the slate is in each campaign promise.

This does not truly hold the slate accountable, Beattie said.

“Knowing that you’re going to get a grade card at the end of the semester does not guarantee that you’re not going to have C's on the report card,” Beattie said.

Beattie said campaign promises should be attainable from the beginning, which is something their campaign has done.

The debate was more relaxed than the previous two, Droege said.

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