Top 10 takeaways from the MSA debates

Voting will take place 5 p.m. Nov. 9 to 5 p.m. Nov. 11.
The MSA presidential election slates discuss different topics at the presidential debate Oct. 26, 2015, at Bengal Lair in Memorial Union.

The Missouri Students Association presidential and vice presidential candidates debated a variety of topics during the first two debates of the election season, from candidates’ controversial social media posts to confusion about what Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals actually means.

The first debate was hosted by The Maneater and Four Front on Friday, Oct. 23, and the second was hosted by the Board of Elections Commissioners on Monday, Oct. 26.

We compiled our top 10 takeaways from the debates below. Voting will begin at 5 p.m. Nov. 9 and end 5 p.m. Nov. 11.

1. The candidates didn’t know what DACA was.

None of the slates gave appropriate responses to a question about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in Friday’s debate.

Jordan McFarland and Jonathan Segers brought up student parents and daycare facilities offered by the university rather than addressing the immigration policy.

Syed Ejaz and Heather Parrie said they would work with the Office of Admissions to ensure everyone has a voice.

Haden Gomez and Chris Hanner initially said that they should work with admissions to address the issue of DACA students, but then echoed McFarland and Segers’ statement that addressed students with children.

When DACA was brought up again in Monday’s debate, after people on social media criticized the candidates Friday, all slates corrected their previous statements.

2. Haden Gomez’s response to a question about mental health resources prompted backlash on Twitter.

Gomez said students should feel as comfortable getting help if they have a “broken mind” as they would if they had a “broken arm.” Several people spoke out about the wording of this comment on Twitter.

“There are many things I would call my brain, such as resilient,” student Katie Harbinson tweeted. “‘Broken’ certainly doesn't make the list.”

3. The candidates are not afraid to go down to Jefferson City.

In the Monday debate, McFarland emphasized that he would “go down to Jeff City” himself to fight for the best education possible, but he also said he would devote more time dealing with campus issues.

Ejaz said as the chief advocate for students, he would lobby at the state level for higher education funding.

“I think that is an uncomfortable task, but it is necessary,” he said.

Gomez and Hanner said they wanted to advocate for students at the state level by working with Associated Students of the University of Missouri.

“MU is being strangled by state legislature,” Hanner said.

4. Segers and Gomez discussed Black Lives Matter.

Segers confronted Gomez about a tweet he said one of Gomez’s campaign workers made with the hashtag #AllLivesMatter. This tweet was sent during Friday’s debate using #MSADebate.

“No, that individual is not on my campaign team,” Gomez said in response. He thanked Segers for bringing up the issue.

5. The candidates plan to use both their privilege and marginalized identities as a tool.

In Friday’s debate, McFarland, Segers, Ejaz and Parrie all said they have grown up with marginalized identities.

Ejaz and Parrie said they use both their identities of privilege and marginalized identities to create discussions and educate each other. Parrie said she would leverage her privilege as a white woman to change campus climate.

Gomez also said he would use his privilege to help marginalized communities.

6. Current MSA President Payton Head is tired of the politics.

Head criticized the the candidates' superficiality and ambiguous answers.

“Let's stop caring about social justice only during election season,” he tweeted during Friday’s debate. “It's really getting quite old. Mizzou deserves better.”

“For this last question, I really hope we keep it ‘real,’” he tweeted during Monday’s debate. “I've heard enough fluff for tonight.”

7. McFarland and Segers called out the other two slates for excessive name-dropping.

During the debates, Gomez and Hanner mentioned several individuals they said they’d spoken to, including current MSA President Payton Head, activist Jonathan Butler, Vice Chancellor for Operations Gary Ward, Director of Student Services Samantha Franks and Wellness Resource Center Director Kim Dude.

Ejaz and Parrie mentioned Ward and Manager of Visitor Relations LeAnn Stroupe in both debates.

8. The candidates discussed social media as a reflection of leadership.

During Monday’s debate, moderators asked the candidates, “How is your current social media presence reflective of how you will lead?”

Gomez has been criticized for a Facebook post critical of the Title IX office and for a tweet from Jan. 22 that said, “OMG I ‘literally can’t even’ with these two sorority girls behind me in this lecture. Be useful and get me starbucks or something plz.”

He said during the debate that social media had been a “learning experience” for him. However, Parrie responded to Gomez that it shouldn’t be a learning experience.

“Hopefully it’s not an educational tool where I am triggering or offending people on social media and then learning,” Parrie said.

McFarland claimed he is out of touch with social media, saying he’s “a bit of an 80-year-old man” when it comes to his social media presence. Segers, who said he is active on Facebook, recently posted a message calling for UM System President Tim Wolfe’s resignation after the Homecoming parade incident. Segers said that he was “purely ranting.”

9. Gomez, Ejaz and Parrie disagree on the meaning of allyship.

In response to a question in Monday’s debate that asked slates if they had “been silent” on issues facing students, Gomez said he thought one way students could show support was to share posts on social media.

Parrie said in a clear response to Gomez’s comment that social media should not be an educational tool. She said she would question what it would say about her as a candidate if she were perpetuating societal wrongs on her social media.

During Friday’s debate, Ejaz said the word “ally” is a verb, not a noun, because it is something you have to do. However, after explaining in their opening statements that they were “ready to take the filters off,” Parrie said she is tired of hearing that the word ally is a verb.

10. The candidates support the proposed library fee because they have to, not because they want to.

The fee, which will be voted on Nov. 9-11, would be the fifth-highest activity fee when implemented at $5 per credit hour and would grow to become $15 per credit hour.

McFarland said he would vote yes, but he “shouldn’t have to.” Segers said this is the first time that MU is putting “books before dumbbells.”

Ejaz said he was in support of the library fee but it was unfortunate that it had to come down to a fee. Parrie said funding for the library comes from a different place than the Student Recreation Center, therefore the university is not valuing the library any less.

Gomez said it was “incredibly disappointing” that students had to fund the library fee, but said he and Hanner supported the fee.

Taylor Blatchford and George Roberson contributed to this report.

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