Article Updated at 12:00 p.m. March 19, 2009
The Student Government presidential candidates tackled student issues and called on the SG to do a better job connecting with students during a debate Thursday night.
Eagle Editorial Page Editor Joe Wenner and Nicole Pulley of ATV News moderated the debate, which was produced by ATV and co-sponsored by this newspaper.
The candidates discussed a wide range of issues including how to make improvements to the AUTO program, suggested improvements to the shuttle system, continuing developments for a possible Metro discount and last semester’s impeachment trials involving former Comptroller Matt Handverger.
Seth Rosenstein said the SG needs to make vast improvements to the AUTO system.
“[AUTO Commissioner Nick Russotto] has done a fantastic job thus far,” he said. “He’s taken a lot of steps towards improving the program. But we need new vehicles.”
Write-in candidate Nirvana Habash outlined a number of AU shuttle system changes she would like to see in the near future. Habash said if she were president she would work towards getting shuttle stops for both the Berkshire and Avalon apartments because both apartments house many AU students and, in the case of the Berks, are classified as on-campus housing by the university.
“The transportation department at AU is always eager to hear suggestions,” Habash said. “And there is only room for improvement with the AU shuttle system.”
Bronstein said he looks forward to new changes for the shuttle system, especially the shuttle changes that are already in the process of being implemented.
“I’m excited for the GPS locators that they will be adding to AU shuttles in the near future,” Bronstein said. “We need to keep advocating and making sure the shuttle system is a success. I’m excited to see where we head in the future with the AU shuttles, especially with the addition of new GPS locators.”
The Eagle previously reported that AU shuttles will soon be outfitted with a GPS system to help students locate shuttle buses. Students will be able to log on to a Web site and see where AU shuttles are and what times they will be arriving at every stop along the shuttle routes.
Anthony Dunham said getting a Metro discount for AU students would be a two-step process. First, the SG would need to push the administration to get funding for the discount. Second, AU needs to collaborate with other D.C. schools to institute a general D.C. college student Metro discount.
Dunham stressed that a D.C.-wide Metro discount for college students would be the SG’s ultimate goal.
“If we could get this discount for all D.C. students that would be amazing,” Dunham said.
The presidential candidates also discussed whether or not the comptroller should be an appointed position. Last fall, there was debate over whether the position should remain an elected position, in light of the controversy following Handverger’s impeachment trial.
Rosenstein said the SG must allow the students vote for the comptroller.
“We need to be a little less serious when it comes to impeachment matters,” Rosenstein said. “SG takes itself way too seriously and it is becoming something that does not represent the students. If students can’t elect their leaders, then they won’t know who their leaders are.”
When asked what letter grade they would assign to current SG President Andy MacCracken, none of the candidates gave a specific grade, but instead gave general opinions on the work that MacCracken has done throughout the year.
Dunham said to boil down MacCracken’s work into a single letter grade would not take into consideration the amount of work he has done for the SG this year.
“[MacCracken] has had to deal with unprecedented challenges throughout his term, such as the impeachment trial,” Dunham said. “But he has persevered throughout all these issues. Assigning him a letter grade is not fair, but I would review him with dignity and honor.”
Students can vote for all SG candidates this upcoming Tuesday and Wednesday, March 23 and 24, through their my.american.edu portal. The results will be announced at 9 p.m. on Wednesday night.