Candidates examine issues at Student Association debate

Candidates for several SA positions discuss their positions on community service, personal leadership skills and the university's national rankings at this year's debate.

Showing divides on ways to tackle community service, Syracuse University’s falling rankings and leadership capabilities, Student Association presidential hopefuls Dylan Lustig and Taylor Carr debated at Grant Auditorium Sunday evening in front of an audience of more than 40 people.

The debate acted as a prelude to the SA elections. Students can vote for Lustig or Carr, as well as the unopposed comptroller candidate and home college representatives. Voting is done through MySlice and starts Nov. 14 and continues until Nov. 17 at midnight.

Photo: Brandon Weight
Taylor Carr, a junior public relations major, responds to questions at the 2011 Student Association Presidential Debate on Sunday.

Lustig, a sophomore international relations and economics major, sparked a heated debate when he brought up his idea of a “Day of Community Service” for SA. The proposal would allow SA members, in collaboration with other on-campus organizations, to participate in a day of philanthropic activity. Lustig argued against mandating community service, saying that required hours can seem more like an obligation than an opportunity to help others. He said that by maximizing connections across organizations, the SA body can also maximize impact.

“If people are sour about the fact that we want to collaborate to do some good in the community, I think that that’s too bad,” Lustig said.

Carr, a public relations junior, disagreed. He said creating only one day of community service could compete with events like Block Blitz and other community service-based days. He said that by requiring five hours from each member, SA could clock in 700 hours of service a semester. Carr also mentioned that these hours could also be fulfilled by participating in other events, and opposed Lustig’s thought that some view service as a chore.

 “I don’t think it becomes a chore to the rape victim at the Vera House, or for whomever else you’re helping,” Carr said. “That person is going to be thankful whether or not they care that you’re mandated to be there or not.”

 This year’s debate featured a new format. Not only was the event televised on-air and online by CitrusTV, but the student body was encouraged to tweet and text questions to both candidates. A projection screen hung behind the stage, displaying video questions and live tweets and texts. The format allowed students to ask candidate questions by Tweeting the account @sadebate. By appending “ques” to their tweet, they could quiz Lustig or Carr on topics of their choice.

Andrew Chernoff, a broadcast journalism and political science senior, moderated the event, asking questions from the various sources. One of the first Tweets Chernoff brought up asked the candidates how they felt about articles written for The Chronicle of Higher Education about SU’s falling rankings. Lustig, the first invited to address the question, proposed continuing discussion among the student body and faculty. He mentioned that when he was applying to universities, rankings were something he looked at.

“Numbers, they may be narrowly assigned,” Lustig said. “However, they scare people. Drops in numbers scare people.”

Carr was critical of the rankings, saying they are too narrow in their judgment, and not necessarily accurate. He said rankings are not that critical when job hunting after graduation.

“I guarantee you, and every speaker that comes in that I go to and talk to says it’s your experiences and who you are and what you take out of your experience here is what is going to get you that job,” Carr said.

Before the presidential candidates debated, unopposed comptroller hopeful Stephen DeSalvo addressed the audience and answered questions from Chernoff. The sophomore chemical engineering and math major advocated for his unbiased nature, saying he had no ties to other organizations, and wouldn’t favor anyone for funding.

When asked about the recent allocation of $1 million from a $1.4 million fund to University Union, DeSalvo backed the decision, saying that there was no better option. UU has been known to hold events SU students want to attend, he said. He said he was not in favor of letting the money sit, nor letting other on-campus organizations apply for the majority, as there is currently limited space to hold events.

The presidential candidates also debated on their views of an ideal leader. While both students have had an equal amount of time in SA, Carr said he had more diversity in his leadership positions, including work with residence halls and part-time students.

“All of those types of experiences I’ve had allow me to gain the networks with students and organizations and the faculty, to really be able to understand the intricacies of this campus and lead this organization to the next level,” Carr said.

Lustig said he was excited to work with SA, and that being a year younger than Carr doesn’t make him any less qualified. He mentioned working on the Dean’s Team, a coalition of students that advises first-year students in the College of Arts and Sciences, and with a number of high-level faculty members.

“I’m ready to go, and passionate about what I do, and that’s what's going to make a difference,” Lustig said.

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