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Candidates debate visions for USG

By Nick Shigo
On February 28, 2014

  • USG vice presidential candidates Claire Price and David Rifkin speak at the debate on Thursday, Feb. 27. Presidential candidates Mark Sargent and Carlyle Bethel answered questions by a panel of student leaders. Santaigo Pelaez/The Daily Campus

In Thursday's Undergraduate Student Government presidential debate, candidates Mark Sargent and Carlyle Bethel answered questions by a panel of student leaders and members of the audience.
Their running mates, Clair Price and David Rifkin, spoke in a debate preceding the presidential candidates', along with the sole comptroller candidate: Parth Rana.
While both candidates' platforms address improving communication between USG and students, their methods on how best to enact change follow different processes.
Sargent said several times in his answers that he plans to make USG a more transparent organization for the students of the University of Connecticut.
"I will ensure that everyone knows exactly what their administration is doing," Sargent said.
Sargent said he will accomplish this by establishing a positive environment for students in which they can have simple conversations with USG leaders. He also promised regular State of the Campus addresses to keep students informed on the workings of the USG and UConn administration.
Candidates were questioned on what new communications policies would be instated to increase student awareness of the campus cultural centers.
Sargent suggested that USG add representatives from the cultural centers to regular meetings and use the student government to educate the student body as a whole.
Contrary to Sargent, Bethel claims that the way to improve communication between USG and the student body, particularly with cultural groups, is through direct interaction - not more legislation.
"Legislation, legislation, legislation - this seems to be the theme for USG," Bethel said. "How about you actually go to these events and support it."
Bethel believes that the problem with communication is not one of inability, but connecting with students in innovative ways.
While the USG Senate recently passed legislation making office hours mandatory for members to be available to students on a daily basis, Bethel claims that more legislation is not the way to support students on campus.
"It's about getting back to basics," Bethel said.
Sargent stood by his position on adding more legislation when needed, claiming "that's how government works."
Bethel claims that USG is excellent at communicating their goals and programs with students during election times, but the flow of information stops once the candidates take office.
"It's the same old promises every time and not following through on making them happen," he said.
Another issue that divided the candidates was Bethel's proposal of new scholarship programs provided through USG. According to Bethel, USG has thousands of dollars that are unspent every year that could be redistributed to students.

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