Presidential debate begins with candidate walk-out

By Melhor Leonor/Asst. News Director 

A presidential debate of three turned into a discussion of one, as two out of the three presidential tickets for the 2012 Student Government Council at the Modesto Maidique campus walked out of the debate session on April 2.

The two campaigns signaled a violation of the Elections Code as the reason for their departure.

As the debate was about to begin, Laura Farinas, presidential candidate in the SGA elections, read a definition of the word ‘partisan’ and quoted article VI of the Elections Code, while Samir Patel, also a presidential candidate, explained that the two campaigns felt it was a violation of the Elections Code to have one of the moderators of the debate show “bias towards one of the candidates.”

“As you guys have all seen in today’s issue [of The Beacon], they endorsed a particular candidate and that does raise some issues for us as one of the moderators is the Editor in Chief of The Beacon,” Patel said.

The moderators for the event were Alessa Torres, elections commissioner for the Student Government Association and Alexandra Camejo, editor in chief of The Beacon.

The morning of the debates, The Beacon released “The Beacon Recommends,” a voting guide for students, recommending Sanjeev Udhnani and Connor Mautner, the third set of candidates in the presidential race.

“In the elections code, under the section where it describes the moderations for the debate, it clearly states that the moderator for the debate shall not act in any partisan manner and shall have no affiliation to any party,” Farinas said. “Due to the fact that their recent issue, clearly endorsing Sanjeev Udhnani and Connor Mautner, came out this morning, that makes them bias[ed], putting them in direct violation of the Elections Code.”

Farinas and Patel announced they would hold a separate debate where “students ask the questions,” in the Betty Chapman Plaza, as a large group of their supporters and other students present followed them out.

With a crowd of over 25 students, the tickets answered individual questions and engaged in conversations with the students in non-formal discussions.

“SGA has not been serving their sole purpose, which is to serve the students, and to meet the needs and wants of their constituency,” Farinas said when asked about her platform. “For that sole reason what I am planning to do is not just about a platform but it’s about a vision, it’s to change what SGA does, and how SGA functions.”

Andres Wu, running alongside Patel, addressed a question from the crowd regarding tuition increases and spending on environmental initiatives.

“One of the biggest issues that we have had is the tuition hike and I think the green energy fund directly addresses that,” Wu said. “The only way that we are going to be able to save on tuition is to lower our costs and one of our greatest costs [is] electricity and power. By using the green energy fund we not only solve problems we have now but problem that can carry on in terms of cost.”

Meanwhile, Udhnani and Mautner remained for a question and answer session where they answered questions from the moderators with a crowd of about 25 supporters and students.

“This should still be an open forum,” Udhnani said, soon after the other candidates left the debate. “Conner and I are no strangers to criticism as you can see from our ‘100 ideas for FIU’ initiative. This is your opportunity to voice your concerns and ask us questions.”

Patrick O’Keefe, president of the SGC-MMC, addressed the day’s events.

“I can understand both sides,” O’Keefe said in a statement to FIU Student Media.  “Though I hope that there will be some sort of consensus and that people will start working together and that there will be less political stifling.”

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