Candidates debate platforms

The three tickets vying for Student Senate president and vice president in next week’s election faced off Wednesday to an almost-full house in The Cabin of Davies Center.

Presidential and vice presidential candidates Sarah Coyer and Brady Johnson; Avril Flaten and Jon Radcliffe; and Christopher Wagner and Chris Nielson took the stage in an hour-long debate, moderated by current Student Senate President Aaron Olson.

With three tickets and only one hour, the candidates didn’t get the chance to present their full platforms; however, through a series of 14 questions, drafted by the campus community, the candidates got to discuss their views on a variety of predetermined “hot topics.”

The issues discussed included the Putnam Park proposal; RAs conducting religious, political or commercial events in their residence hall rooms; and the extension of building hours.

Regarding a question about whether RAs should be able to hold Bible studies in their dorm rooms, the candidates had various opinions.

Coyer said there have been five times this year when students approached her, instead of each of their RAs, to talk about difficult issues such as abortion or alcohol use because, she said, they thought their RAs, who are openly religious, would judge them.

“And unfortunately (RAs) should not have stereotypes placed on them because they hold Bible studies,” she said. “It’s not fair, but unfortunately, that’s the way that our society works.”

It’s because of this assumption, Coyer said, that the actions of RAs should be limited.

“I think that that needs to be taken into consideration, that their job is to be there for thresidents,” she said.

Radcliffe disagreed, saying he believes that by restricting what all RAs can do, it wouldn’t be fair for RAs who don’t misuse their privileges.

“You don’t need to make a blanket policy to punish a majority for what a minority is doing,” he said.

Nielson said the university should be a place where students should be free to express their ideas and be exposed to a variety of opinions and beliefs as part of the learning process.

“I’m all in favor of the ideas of RAs, or any residents, sitting down and having these things and discussing them so … we can become better citizens of our campus and our community as a whole.”

Nielson said, however, that other activities, such as for-profit events, should not be allowed.

Coyer and Johnson, both of whom have had no experience with Senate, stressed the skills and abilities they have developed in other leadership roles on campus.

In addition to being a former RA, Coyer has been the director of UW-Eau Claire’s production of “The Vagina Monologues.”

A current Putnam Hall RA, Johnson also is involved with Housing & Residence Life’s Making Our School An Intercultural Community.

Both Flaten and Radcliffe serve as off-campus senators and hold other leadership positions on Senate.

Flaten is the director of the Academic Affairs Commission and is involved in various campus academic sororities, while Radcliffe has previously served as Senate’s University Senate liaison as well as the former assistant managing editor of The Flip Side.

Wagner and Nielson said they feel they provide balance between Senate experience and having an outside perspective.

Wagner has served as both president and vice president for United Hall Council, while Nielson currently serves as an on-campus student senator and the chairman of the media relations committee.

To view video clips from Wednesday’s Student Senate debate, which are
featured on the Student Senate Web site, please visit: http://www.uwec.edu/studentsenate/elections/2006debate.htm