2011 AS debate draws crowd

AS presidential debate reveals different candidates’ platforms.


Job Ang

Moderator Corey VanHuystee and current AS President Lizzie Neely led the campaigning teams in a series of questions at Tuesday night’s debate. | Job Ang/THE CHIMES

Sarah Seman, Writer

What’s more patriotic than apple pie and a presidential debate? Sitting in the cold until your nose is numb in order to be a part of it. At 9 p.m. on Tuesday, the Associated Students presidential debate took place near the mailboxes where onlookers heard the three teams hash out their campaign promises while enjoying free apple pie.

Candidates were prefaced by senior Lizzie Neely, current AS president, who explained the president’s duties to help further understanding of the candidates’ qualifications. The AS president’s job is to give students a voice by speaking on their behalf, Neely said.

She said that much of this involves meeting with faculty, deans, provosts, and sometimes Biola president Barry Corey. The AS president also conducts AS meetings and helps make decisions for the student body, Neely said. With these duties in mind, Neely told students to “listen for [candidates’] heart and for their passion, and listen to who they are.”

Presidential hopefuls discuss money management; Veep candidates on working with others

The first question directed to the AS presidential candidates asked in what ways they are equipped to serve the students and handle the nearly $500,000 that passes through AS. Vice presidential candidates were asked how they would work with the president and aid the senate.

Seitz: mingling of success and failure strengthens

Presidential candidate, junior Kelsey Seitz said that while God “has let me excel in leadership positions, he has also let me fail a lot.” She believes that this combination of successes and failures has strengthened her abilities. As the current AS advertising director, Seitz oversees four staff positions, giving them direction and making sure they are on top of their schedule. Seitz also helps maintain the relationships between different service chairs and says she knows how AS works as a system.

Zimmerman: teamwork and managerial experience are key

Seitz’s running mate, junior Kevin Zimmerman, believes that Seitz’s experience working with staff, budgeting, AS service chairs, and the senate provides a great basis for the team. He said he entered the race with much prayer and believes his managerial experience as assistant Chapel Board chair brings expertise to the role. He claimed that the senate needs managerial experience, visions and overall leadership.

Gustafson: poli sci major and management experience assist

Junior Tomas Gustafson, presidential hopeful, said his experience goes back to management positions he held in the workplace and his current role as Emerson senator. Gustafson is a political science major and said his studies help him to understand the inner workings of a structured organization like AS. Additionally, he said he has become aware of “the compromises that have been made in leadership positions.”

Hinton: catalyzing conversation as senator

Junior Alexis Hinton said she’d be a good vice president because she is confident and likes to take charge. As a senator for the Bluff, she is quite outspoken and good at facilitating discussions.

Drebinger: experience as V.P. gives firsthand view of president’s role

Junior John Drebinger said that as the current vice president he has “served alongside Lizzie… and got an excellent view of what the president does.” Additionally Drebinger said he has talked with past AS presidents and they’ve discussed possible improvements within the system. As vice president, Drebinger also works with senators, plans meetings and discusses how to connect better with students. Drebinger also mentioned that he has a passion for connecting with people.

Marderian: understanding of flexibility and balancing strengths

Sophomore Janine Marderian, running alongside Drebinger for the vice president role, is a current Sigma Chi senator. Having worked with current vice president Drebinger, she said she has gained knowledge about leadership and the flexibility it takes to run the senate. For every hour spent in the senate meeting over 160 dollars are being spent, Marderian said. She said that where she is detail-oriented, Drebinger focuses on the big picture; combined, this equips them with necessary leadership tools.

Candidates asked how to improve AS

The second question pointed out that Drebinger is the incumbent figure, since he is already vice president, and as such, the other candidates are somewhat advocating for a change in the current workings of AS. The candidates were asked how they would continue in the current path or improve the performance of AS.

Drebinger: pursuing continuity of leadership

Drebinger answered that the near 100 percent turnover every year in AS makes it challenging to have a continuity of leadership. The functional changes that he and Neely have created aim to target this issue and he hopes to advance the work they have begun. Building on the structure will help “develop this campus to grow as leaders and develop as AS an organization,” Drebinger said.

Gustafson: fresh blood and diversity to follow students’ passions

Gustafson had quite a different view from Drebinger, saying that fresh faces in AS is a good thing, and more diversity is in order. A lot of business majors have flooded AS, making it very impersonal, Gustafson said. He suggested that business majors have the tendency to focus more on AS as an organizational structure rather than as a tool for capturing student interests. Having a very multicultural background, he wants that impersonal angle to change and instead wants to follow students’ passions.

Seitz: making finances known; good stewardship of campus

Seitz does not want to restructure AS, but believes in last year’s goal in “making God known.” One way she aims to continue that is by making the finances known. “We are given half a million dollars a year to spend on students… I want to be held accountable.”

Seitz also said that we need to be good stewards of our campus and do more than just allowing outsiders to use our facilities for basketball games. We need to work on “being a light to the outside world.”

“I have some issues with bringing people in, we need to go to where they are and not expect them to come to where we are,” Drebinger said. Making the financial records available to students will be a natural progression under the new director of marketing and communications position, Drebinger stated.

Additionally, Gustafson pointed out that the contingency, the money that AS receives from every student enrolled at Biola, changes due to students dropping out. The contingency is directly tied to the number of students and sometimes the funds are not firmly solidified until almost halfway through the semester.

Seitz said that the Bible calls for us to be hospitable, and what better way than bringing people onto our campus? Concerning finances, she said that the updates should be tracked and any fluctuations should be shown on the web, even if they must be constantly updated.

Candidates discuss different proposals

Candidates were asked what one proposal they would not have passed and what one proposal they would have passed instead.

Seitz and Zimmerman: no voice for service chairs; unfamiliarity with proposals

Seitz said that she is not familiar with any of the proposals that were not passed. Zimmerman pointed out that this is a huge flaw within AS. Even the recent structural changes have been created by those in the senate, giving no voice the other half of AS: the service chairs. Seitz says that one of the changes she most advocates is better communication between senate and service chairs.

Drebinger rebutted this claim saying that the Executive Leadership Team worked with both the senate and the service chairs to create the new structural changes within AS.

Diversity, change, and connection recurring themes

Topics that kept arising were diversity, changes in AS, and connecting with students.

Seitz said that AS should be “catering to the diversity that God has given all of us” while making sure that diversity is not an idol on campus.

Gustafson responded to the remark saying that the issue of diversity is biblical and that ultimately “anything can be an idol and we need to understand that it’s a kingdom issue.” He would like to offer more events related to things that deal with “the melting pot of America, especially L.A.” Gustafson said that he has a next door neighbor from India, with whom he has a hard time communicating and Biola needs to work on ”mature relationships and cultural developments. ”

Drebinger challenged Gustafson to list tangible ways in which he plans to promote diversity. Gustafson replied, “I would love to bring in prominent leaders who deal with that stuff.”

Question and answer session creates conversation

During a question and answer time, one student said they had never been approached by their senator. As vice president, Drebinger is currently in charge of overseeing the work of the senate. The student asked how he intended to carry through with his promise to connect with students when he was already failing to connect the senate to the people.

Drebinger explained that AS positions are paid and as such, must stay within certain hours. The job descriptions cover more than what they can do in the time allotted. Drebinger said that he and currenct president have addressed this problem by making a senator’s job description more specific. Additionally, senators are trying new ways to reach students, like setting up tables outside of the dorms rather than going door to door. This also saves time by speak to larger groups.

Zimmerman said they planned to rectify this problem by giving each senator a list of their constituents and by requiring that they talk to each person by the end of the year, writing a letter of apology to those they failed to reach.

Hinton responded by saying that this idea has been presented before but that the University said such a list was not allowed.

Zimmerman and Seitz were unaware of this fact; however, they said they envisioned better connection between the senate and students by having senators partner with resident assistants and resident coordinators. Seitz said that they need to challenge senators to do more, “If we don’t see that vision for them, they won’t see it for themselves.”

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