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KSG Student Presidential Hopefuls Face Off in Debate

* Five Candidates Discuss Spending, Services, Curriculum

By Georgia N. Alexakis, CRIMSON STAFF WRITER

Candidates running for the position of student-body president of the John F. Kennedy School of Government (KSG) felt the pressure last night as they clashed in the first and only debate of the election.

In the race to become the school's first-ever popularly elected president, the five candidates worked the room, pressing the flesh and getting out the word. If babies had been there, they would have been kissed.

Today is Super Tuesday for KSG students, who will have until 2 p.m. on Thursday to vote for a student-body president and class representatives. Up until a change in the student government by-laws last semester, the president was selected by the student government executive board-behind closed doors.

It was no surprise then that last night's presidential debates-the first chance that KSG students had to officially meet the candidates--made the professional politicians these students study seem like the amateurs.

And with only four minutes to describe their platforms and a little over 20 seconds to field each question posed by an audience of approximately 150, the candidates also perfected another essential political weapon-the soundbite.

"I am the poster child of financial responsibility," said F. Jay Olson, who as the current Kennedy School student government (KSSG) treasurer used his past year in office to reverse past financial mismanagement and eliminate the student government's debt.

"I have more experience in the KSSG than all of the other candidates combined," Olson said, adding that he was the most qualified candidate for president.

But Olson's opponents-Wayne F. Dennison, Patrick S. Normoyle, Helen Elaine Strauss and Robert G. Vasquez-each built broad platforms of their own, promising to improve the school's computer services, financial aid, academic curriculum and sense of community among students.

Explaining that the KSG spent $70,000 to renovate two bathrooms last summer, Normoyle promised that if elected he would spend $70,000 to hire two more career counselors for the school.

"I ask you to expect more from the KSG," Normoyle added. "Vote for me and that's what you'll get."

But while several students in the audience beseeched the candidates to start talking about the issues in more concrete terms, others praised the debates for helping to raise the level of enthusiasm surrounding the elections.

"Students were fairly apathetic about KSSG, and this was a good way to bring them into the process," said Mahreen A. Khan, a second-year student in the master's in public policy program and a former KSSG representative.

"When the position was decided behind closed doors by coalitions within the student government, this could stop the president from taking the direction the students wanted," Khan said.

Jenny Korn, KSSG election chair, said that opening up the elections to the student body helped increase the number of candidates running for office as well as the quality and diversity of the candidates.

In the past, it was not uncommon for a presidential candidate to run for office unopposed, Korn said.

"Now that the elections are open, everyone will get involved," Korn said. "Since the students from the different programs don't always have that much interaction, they can look at a popularly elected president as a unifying factor."

But several students present last night said that in spite of the increased enthusiasm, the turnout for the debates was still disappointingly low.

"I was weighing whether I should go to salsa [class] tonight or come to this political event," said Jordan Dey, a firstyear mid-career program participant. "The turnout could have been better, but I'm glad I came. I know I'll be able to make a better decision now."

Others said that listening to the candidates articulate their platforms helped them make a decision.

"The KSSG is nothing more than a glorified advisory council to the deans that really run this school," said Paul D. Wingle.

"You have to look at who will do the best job, especially when you consider the limits of our student government. Maybe it is possible to elect someone who can influence those who are really making the decisions," he said.

Results will be announced late Thursday night or early Friday morning

Explaining that the KSG spent $70,000 to renovate two bathrooms last summer, Normoyle promised that if elected he would spend $70,000 to hire two more career counselors for the school.

"I ask you to expect more from the KSG," Normoyle added. "Vote for me and that's what you'll get."

But while several students in the audience beseeched the candidates to start talking about the issues in more concrete terms, others praised the debates for helping to raise the level of enthusiasm surrounding the elections.

"Students were fairly apathetic about KSSG, and this was a good way to bring them into the process," said Mahreen A. Khan, a second-year student in the master's in public policy program and a former KSSG representative.

"When the position was decided behind closed doors by coalitions within the student government, this could stop the president from taking the direction the students wanted," Khan said.

Jenny Korn, KSSG election chair, said that opening up the elections to the student body helped increase the number of candidates running for office as well as the quality and diversity of the candidates.

In the past, it was not uncommon for a presidential candidate to run for office unopposed, Korn said.

"Now that the elections are open, everyone will get involved," Korn said. "Since the students from the different programs don't always have that much interaction, they can look at a popularly elected president as a unifying factor."

But several students present last night said that in spite of the increased enthusiasm, the turnout for the debates was still disappointingly low.

"I was weighing whether I should go to salsa [class] tonight or come to this political event," said Jordan Dey, a firstyear mid-career program participant. "The turnout could have been better, but I'm glad I came. I know I'll be able to make a better decision now."

Others said that listening to the candidates articulate their platforms helped them make a decision.

"The KSSG is nothing more than a glorified advisory council to the deans that really run this school," said Paul D. Wingle.

"You have to look at who will do the best job, especially when you consider the limits of our student government. Maybe it is possible to elect someone who can influence those who are really making the decisions," he said.

Results will be announced late Thursday night or early Friday morning

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