MSA candidates clash over advocacy, platforms

It was the third and final MSA presidential debate.
Missouri Students Association presidential candidate Jordan Paul debates with candidate Phyllis Williams, left, during The Maneater/Four Front debate Wednesday night. Williams sharply criticized Paul's platform, including his proposed installation of security cameras in parking garages.

The third and final Missouri Students Association presidential debate focused on campus diversity issues.

The Maneater and Four Front hosted the debate. The Wednesday night event featured sharp exchanges, especially between candidates Jordan Paul and Phyllis Williams, over platform promises and student advocacy. Candidate Joe Fessehaye also participated.

With less than a week left until the Nov. 10-12 election, the debate was the candidates' last major chance to get their messages out to the public.

Williams, who gave up her job as MSA Academic Affairs chairwoman, and her vice-presidential candidate Jonathan Snipes went on the offensive for much of the night, at one point questioning the motives behind Paul's plan to install cameras in parking garages, which is part of his platform. Williams cited a quote published in The Maneater on Nov. 10, 2006, in which Paul said the number of cameras needed "would probably be cost prohibitive."

"It sounds to me like you're pandering," Williams said.

Paul defended his platform and said his opinion of parking garage cameras has changed since then.

"I made that statement eight weeks into my job (as DSS Campus Safety Chairman)," Paul said. "I can learn from my job, thank you very much."

In return, Paul criticized Williams' decision to run without a platform.

"She has only said she's a student advocate," Paul said. "She has never said who she's advocating for."

Snipes questioned the qualifications of Fessehaye's running mate, Lindsey Abell, who is an early childhood and elementary education major, to be in charge of MSA's budget.

"I don't know if you should trust someone without any financial experience with $1.3 million," Snipes said. "You can't just come up here and say you're a hard worker."

Fessehaye defended his running mate and said most of MSA's budget is pre-planned anyway.

"Organizations talk about funding increases, and that's something Lindsey can do," Fessehaye said.

The candidates also discussed MSA's relationship with the Legion of Black Collegians and the Residence Halls Association. Although all three candidates agreed that increased recognition of LBC and RHA by MU's administration was needed, Paul and Williams clashed about how to make that happen.

"The problem is that people see MSA as a liaison for LBC and RHA, which directly undermines that they are student governments as well and they stand alone," Williams said. "We must demand recognition of the importance of all three of these groups."

Paul said Phyllis' tactics would turn off administrators, rather than encourage cooperation.

"You can't 'demand' things like that from the administration or from the Board of Curators," Paul said. "Whenever you piss off administrators, suddenly they're not so willing to work with you on other issues."

The candidates also discussed how they'd go about recruiting, hiring and managing their cabinet. Fessehaye said "if they're qualified, we'll take them," while Paul and running mate Colleen Hoffmann said he'd have as large of an applicant pool as possible and would keep from micromanaging. Williams said her cabinet members would have more flexibility because of her campaign's lack of a platform.

Paul questioned Williams about her emphasis on speaking to students directly rather than a platform.

"What happens when you have 50 phone calls a day and 50 initiatives stacked up?" he asked.

Williams said Paul obviously "battled" with the definition of a student advocate.

"Let me clear that up for you, brah," she said.

Her definition is that an advocate forcefully supports the needs of student groups, but that as an advocate she'd still exercise independent judgment.

In closing statements, Williams again defined what an advocate is and said she and her running mate had "worked with student groups in every single corner of campus you could possibly imagine."

Paul said his and Phyllis' definition of advocacy "obviously differed" and criticized her for not developing new ideas or a platform.

Fessehaye finished by saying he'd like to use MSA axillaries such as MUTV/Channel 22 and KCOU to bring students a better understanding of MSA.

"Students need to better know how MSA senators' bills affect them," Fessehaye said.


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