Top five takeaways from first MSA presidential debate

The two presidential slates, Wopata/McAteer and Schmidt/Kahveci, debated MSA and social justice issues at the first MSA presidential debate.
MUTV livestreamed MSA's first presidential debate for the 2018-19 school year from the Bengal Lair in Memorial Union North.

The Board of Elections Commissioners and Four Front held the first debate of the 2018 Missouri Students Association presidential election Monday in Bengal Lair. The two slates are Julia Wopata and Connor McAteer of “More to Roar” and Robert Schmidt and Alp Kahveci of “Mizzou for You.”

Here are The Maneater’s top five takeaways from the debate:

1. Neither of the presidential candidates have served in MSA before.

Actually, the only candidate in the race who has been involved with MSA before is McAteer, who served as an academic business senator. Neither Wopata nor Schmidt have participated in MSA before, and neither has Kahveci.

When asked if they would be willing to serve in MSA should they not be elected, the slates responded differently. Schmidt and Kahveci were open to the idea but said they didn’t know where or how to apply. Wopata said that she was considering running for senate rather than president, but decided to continue in the race for presidency.

2. Both slates admit there are holes in their platforms regarding LGBTQ issues on campus.

Four Front asked if there was anything specific in the slates’ platforms that addressed LGBTQ issues. Schmidt said that there is a part in his platform addressing mental health, and that because members of the LGBTQ community are more likely to have mental illnesses, it applies. He also added that he and his running mate would listen to the concerns of the community.

Wopata said that she plans to continue MSA efforts to install gender-neutral bathrooms in downtown Columbia. However, she and her running mate recognized that there is nothing specific in their platform addressing this and plans to listen to the concerns of the community as well.

3. Neither of the slates have much experience with MU social justice centers.

Both of the slates stated they have limited personal experience with MU’s social justice centers. However, they’ve encountered diversity and inclusion in their lives. Wopata said she saw the effects of inclusion and diversity in decision-making skills during her time at Google. McAteer said that he learned to work with different groups of people as an MU tour guide. Schmidt said he learned about different people coming together through his time at an animal hospital. Kahveci added that being part of the Muslim community has made him more aware of political issues.

Kahveci also said that he didn’t know what Four Front was, even though the organization was hosting the debate.

4. Both slates agree that hate speech has no place on MU’s campus.

Schmidt defined hate speech as speech that is targeted and aims to break someone down based on their background, including their race, ethnicity or religion. He also said that universities have the right to expel students for hateful speech. Kahveci agreed and said that the controversial tweets from the former MSA candidates are unacceptable.

Wopata and McAteer reaffirmed this.

“To make it very clear: Hate speech has no place on this campus," McAteer said. Wopata also said that she believes the victim should decide if speech is hate speech or not.

5. None of the candidates knew much about the Legion of Black Collegians’ concerns, but both agreed to work with LBC in the future.

Wopata said that she made efforts to reach out to LBC to learn its concerns but was never able to have that conversation. She said that she plans to sit in on LBC and Four Front meetings to understand where improvements need to be made.

Schmidt and Kahveci had a similar response. Schmidt said he will reach out to incoming freshmen and ask LBC what initiatives they think would be beneficial. Kahveci suggested weekly meetings with LBC and other student organizations.

The next debate will be hosted by The Maneater in 204 Strickland Hall on Thursday, April 12 from 6-9 p.m.

Edited by Stephi Smith | ssmith@themaneater.com

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