CU-Boulder Student Government elections: Lively debate heats up

D iscussions of safety, 4/20 and affordable education dominated Wednesday night’s debate between University of Colorado Student Government candidates.

Eight Representatives-at-Large, four from the conservative Entrust ticket and four from the progressive Pulse ticket, began a tame and agreeable discussion about affordable education and increasing the student voice in tuition talks through increased lobbying.

The Pulse ticket emphasized its focus of promoting transparency and prioritizing student programs, while the Entrust ticket vowed to use student fees to increase the value of a CU education. Both tickets promised to increase the student voice.

Some controversy was sparked when questions were raised about creating a new health board to relieve some of CUSG’s liability regarding student health care — which will show up on next week’s ballot as a referendum.

Pulse candidates appeared confused when discussions about the referendum were asked. The issue became more of a question-and-answer session with Pulse candidates asking Entrust candidates questions about the proposed referendum.

The Entrust executives were off to a slow start during the second portion of the debate when Danielle Watkins-Green stumbled over questions about the CUSG’s current efforts to divert students from Norlin Quad during the unofficial annual marijuana smokeout on April 20. A free Wyclef Jean concert will held on campus on the same day of the pot celebration in an attempt to encourage students to avoid the party.

Entrust presidential candidate Jeff Lassen was unable to answer a student question later in the night about how the ticket would be accountable to the student body if they were elected.

“I honestly don’t know,” Lassen replied to the question.

While both tickets struggled with different discussions, the majority of the debate was filled with well-prepared answers to questions revolving around budgets, student fees, programs, 4/20 and safety.

At the end of the debate, the floor was opened for audience questions. After about 10 questions the moderator, CUSG election commissioner John Michael Tomczak, was booed by the crowd when he announced that there was only time for one more question.

The lively — but strongly divided — crowd of more than 120 people at its peak, asked to stay longer to get their questions addressed. Tomczak asked the candidates if they were willing to stay and all agreed. Most of the audience stayed to hear the last several questions.

“That’s never happened before,” Tomczak said. “This is the best debate we’ve had in the two and a half years I’ve been here.”

The right side of the room was filled with students supporting the Pulse ticket, cheering for candidates as the tickets addressed issues of safety and increasing diversity on campus.

CU senior Cat Houdek said she thought the debaters remained fairly composed while the audience heated up, minus a few expected jabs at one another.

“I thought it was a good debate,” Houdek said. “They addressed a lot of issues and they seemed to agree on some of them, at least in principle.”

The details about how decisions would be made and what areas needed the most attention riled up the candidates and the supporters.

Supporters on the left side of the room clapped for Entrust candidates as vice presidential candidate Ryan Tyson listed several student groups he was active in, including law school groups and the Greek community.

Chris Schaefbauer, CUSG health board co-chair and doctoral student, said the room was obviously split with supporters — and though he unknowingly sat on the side with Entrust supports he is conflicted about who he should vote for.

“The ticket I was planning to vote for gave some answers I wasn’t sure about so now I don’t know who I’ll vote for,” Schaefbauer said.

A third ticket is running in the election with only three executive candidates, but because they turned in their applications late, they will not be included on the ballot. Students can vote for the America ticket — three CU freshmen — by typing the ticket’s name onto the ballot for the executive positions.

America candidates were also not included in the debate because they are considered “write-in only” candidates, Tomczak said.

Students said the vivacious crowd is a sign that next week’s election could bring one of the largest voter turnouts in CUSG history.

“The candidates are really getting people involved,” said CU senior Emma Stern.

Last spring’s election attracted the largest voter turnout in school history, with more than 10,000 voters, largely because the Recreation Center renovation was a referendum on the ballot.

The election begins Monday.

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