Student debates lead into today’s Senate elections

The student government elections at Carnegie Mellon began yesterday and will continue through Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Conflicting viewpoints took the stage last Monday in preparation for the elections as candidates for the Student Senate executive branch debated campus issues. The candidates for student body president (SBP), student body vice-president (SBVP), and student body vice president of finance (SBVPF), discussed such topics as effective implementation of student activities fee, the transparency of student government, campus safety, extended hours in campus venues, and the overall reform of student government.

This year’s annual executive branch debate was sponsored by The Tartan. The event differed from past years as it featured video clips provided by cmuTV.

In preparation for the debate, crews from cmuTV taped students asking questions, many of which were screened before the candidates and audience at Monday’s debate.

The two candidates for SBVPF were the first to take the floor in McConomy Auditorium.

Sagar Mehta, a sophomore business administration major, and Evan Osheroff, a junior business administration major, presented different strategies to improve the efficiency of the Joint Funding Commission (JFC) and to better use the student activities fee.

According to Osheroff, the most important way to t ransform the JFC is through improving of the Budget Tracker website, the implementing of financial audits on student organizations, and increasing the transparency of the JFC.

Mehta hopes to make his own changes to the JFC by reforming the process itself through earlier assignment of JFC representatives to student organizations and eliminating the initial step for approval to be funded.

According to Mehta, Budget Tracker is not the biggest item in need of reform.

“We can counter flaws in Budget Tracker by allowing representatives time to work with organizations,” Mehta said. “Time is where the solution lies.”

This was not the only item on which the two had opposite viewpoints.

Mehta’s proposal to eliminate the need for organizations recognized by the Committee of Student Organizations (CoSO) to apply for funding was countered by Osheroff.

“If we allow all groups recognized by CoSO to be eligible for funding, we will be opening the door to groups who do not have as much interest,” Osheroff said.

He indicated that the extra step ensures that only very interested groups apply for funding.
Osheroff and Mehta agreed on some points, however.

When asked about the appropriateness of funding religious groups, both expressed the opinion that as long as a group is not exclusive, it deserves funding from the school.

Both also expressed hope that more organizations will eventually be able to procure funding as a result of the efficient use of the student activities fee and reform of the JFC.

The hopes for next year continued as the two pairs of candidates for SBP and SBVP started their portion of the debate.

Jared Itkowitz, a junior business administration and Chinese studies double major, and Pooja Godbole, a sophomore business administration major, candidates for SBP and SBVP respectively, introduced their platform CMUnity. CMUnity is based on seven main campus initiatives, each with detailed, tangible steps from which to start.

These platform ideas address such issues as campus safety, extending the hours of campus venues, instilling university pride, and expanding the influence of student government to the Pittsburgh community.

Dorian Adeyemi, a junior public policy and management and international relations double major, and Alex Short, a junior chemical engineering and biomedical engineering double major, candidates for SBP and SBVP respectively, presented a very different platform.

They insisted that although based on change, accountability, and pride, their platform does not have specific goals as they hope for the input of students to define their initiatives.

Itkowitz and Godbole said that they have tangible steps for each of their initiatives, which they believe will lead to an effective year in office.

“We know what we are going to do at day one we get into office,” Godbole said.

Adeyemi and Short insisted that their platform will ultimately benefit the students more than a previously-decided set of initiatives.

Both pairs of candidates recognized that, for most issues, change will come in small increments, rather than large modifications.

“The change in student government visibility will not happen overnight,” Itkowitz said.

Itkowitz has made such small changes in his role as chair of Student Senate during this past year, initiating both the Senate Spotlight Series, where students, faculty, and administrators are invited to discuss important campus issues, and a student government visibility committee. Itkowitz also strived to create a full Senate, including 12 members at large, Senate members who contribute to discussions without voting.

When asked about their feelings on changing campus culture, the two pairs of candidates had contrasting opinions.

Adeyemi and Short hope to transform the community through regular events such as last year’s free Rita’s and bicycle spray painting day, in which over 700 students gathered on the Cut to decorate bikes provided by the student government.

However, Itkowitz and Godbole maintained that it is more important for students to have pride in all that Carnegie Mellon offers.

Itkowitz mentioned that a fraternity, newspaper, or student organization at Carnegie Mellon is dramatically different than one at another university, and that this is something students should appreciate.

While the candidates had contrasting opinions on many issues, both agreed on the importance of the campus knowing about student government and the SBP and SBVP’s ability to keep informed of student ideas and opinions.

The elections began yesterday at 6 p.m. and will officially end Tuesday, April 8 at 6 p.m. Paper balloting will be available in Wean Commons in the University Center, and students can vote online at (