Monday night’s Student Government Association presidential and vice presidential debates lasted more than two hours, and gave each candidate a chance to respond to questions from moderators and audience members.
The debates were held at Meacham Auditorium in the Oklahoma Memorial Union and were moderated by freshman Jake Mazeitis, chair of the debate.
The presidential debate
Julia Depew said she is running on a platform of non-bias and fresh perceptivity.
This is her first year on the Norman campus, and because of that, she said she carries no biases or old ties into the candidacy.
“It can actually work to my advantage…” said Depew. “I don’t come in with any special interest groups and I don’t have any friends I’m trying to help out.”
Depew maintained that her professional work experience will give her an edge in the election and in the presidency.
The debate focused heavily on diversity on campus, and Depew said she wants to give multicultural groups avenues to express their ideas and not put them in "corners" to be upset in.
“No, I can’t be their voice, I can’t tell you exactly what I’m going to do to change things yet. What I am going to do is continue the dialogue and the conversation with everyone I can until we find a way to get this solved,” Depew said.
Depew faced several questions about her lack of experience at OU, but said she thinks anyone can jump into SGA and make a difference.
Isaac Hill is running on a campaign focused cultural inclusivity on campus, based on his experience as the former president of the OU Black Student Association.
Hill said his experience sets him up perfectly for continuing change on campus.
“I’ve already been in a position to make important change on this campus and I want to continue to do that,” said Hill.
Hill is also running on the premise of more transparency from SGA, including doing things such as monthly check-ins presented in a newsletter by The Oklahoma Daily or by OU Nightly.
“People can go to that and use it as platform for information… to keep people involved and intrigued,” said Hill about the monthly status updates.
Hill was questioned about how he would respond to incidents of students not feeling included in multicultural clubs on campus, a question he later said was the only one that gave him pause.
“We’ve always been taught, when I was president of the Black Student Association, that these groups were inclusive groups and we need to work our best to make sure these are inclusive organizations,” said Hill after the debate.
Daniel Pae faced a heavy amount of criticism and questioning about the aspect of his platform that talks about challenging the status quo of SGA.
“During the whole year when I was a representative, we did not meet a single time, something I thought was embarrassing, to be frank,” said Pae on his experience in SGA.
Pae added that he wanted to work to educate students about SGA.
“There is a large portion of the student body who doesn’t know about SGA, they don’t know about its potential… we need to reach to them,” he said.
Pae also included a portion of his platform to reform “dead week.”
A topic all three candidates touched on was the removal of “sooner” from the titles of organizations on campus.
Depew said she would aim to educate students on campus about the history of the word, Pae agreed that it is an “important discussion to have” and Hill said it is important to make sure no groups or persons feel excluded.
Lastly, when the topic of guns on campus came up, all three candidates agreed that students who want to carry guns on campus have no place at OU.
The vice presidential debate
The vice presidential debate started with the moderator asking each candidate why they are qualified for the position. All three cited the experience and skills they have gained through previous leadership positions.
Depew’s would-be vice president, broadcast journalism sophomore Matthew Marks, focused on the pair’s motto 'Tell Us About It,' inviting students to come to them with grievances.
He said he wants to increase the community involvement of campus student organizations.
“President Boren has this vision that there’s this OU family and OU community, and I want to share that with the city of Norman,” Marks said.
Marks said when he met Depew, he was surprised how well their goals aligned, and that they are a unique team with a unique vision.
When asked about addressing grievances of groups on campus, Marks said it is simply a matter of hearing them out.
“Basically it's very simple: you listen, then you talk,” he said.
Economics and letters junior Michael Lutter, Pae's would-be vice president, expanded upon he and Pae’s desire to increase SGA’s reach on campus and promote dead week reform.
Lutter said he and Pae researched how other schools handle dead week and want to talk to administration about changing it.
“We know that’s something that will make finals week more comprehensive; students will perform better and retain more information,” Lutter said.
Lutter said although this intention has been pursued before, he plans to make it a reality though persistence and meeting with administration.
Lutter said he and Pae compliment each other because they have different experiences as leaders on campus but similar goals, which will help them accomplish things.
“I think it's a matter of perseverance and not having wishy-washy goals,” Lutter said.
Leah Clemenson, a public affairs and administration junior and Hill’s would-be vice president, expanded upon the pair’s desire to increase diversity training and better publicize SGA business.
Clemenson said she and Hill want to create mandatory LGTBQ and diversity training for student organizations, with at least 50 percent of members attending in order for them to receive SGA funding.
She said they want to issue statements on a month-to-month basis to allow students to know what is going on, as well as keep cabinet members in check with their goals.
Clemenson said the vice president's role is to take the lead on tasks delegated by the president but have their own vision.
"We not only support each other, but I'm there if he needs to delegate things to me... We share our responsibilities, and that's something special,” Clemenson said. “We keep coming up with new ideas — we have flexible and adaptable mindsets."
Lutter said after the debate that he was impressed with it and felt like all of the candidates did well.
“I think the questions were accurate and reflective of what needs to be discussed right now,” Lutter said.
Students can vote for the presidential candidates at elections.ou.edu starting Tuesday.