The annual Morehouse College Student Government Association debate embodied the spirit of American politics. With an emphasis on drama and a hint of authentic political debate, the event as a whole was more fun and entertainment than an expression of candidates’ platforms and ideologies.
“I feel that the debates went very well,” Junior Board of Trustees candidate Amari Brown said. “The turnout was a complete surprise for me, and it was great to see Sale Hall packed with all students from the AUC. I hope moving forward the crowd doesn’t support when candidates take personal shots at other candidates.
“Even though it may be exciting at the moment, it still isn’t a good look overall for the SGA because students should be informed about student concerns at the debate, not people’s dirty laundry. However, that’s the culture of the AUC. I just hope next year more candidates get (ooohs and ahhhs) when they make great points about platforms and policy, not an attack on another candidate.”
Respectively, debates commenced by the importance of positions sought. The evening began with a small crowd at 5 p.m. for the rising sophomore class senator candidates, and finished with a packed house four hours later for the last and main event: the presidential debate. The theatrics increased with the progression of the ballot, however each candidate, regardless of the position he was running for, expressed a platform.
“The SGA and class council debates were an assessment of hypothetical change vs. actual change,” sophomore class presidential candidate Marcus Battle said. “I can conclude that each candidate seeks greater for Morehouse, but the only difference is what each candidate defines greater as. At the debates, I wanted to express how genuine and passionate I am to serve not only as a voice, but as a movement to encompass all of my brothers of the Class of 2019.
“My platform is simple: Advocate. Innovate. Motivate. (A.I.M.) I aspire to advocate for my brothers of various demographics, using innovative ideas to motivate and enhance the brotherhood within our class while serving the surrounding area.”
The format of the debate was constructed to create a spectacle. Perry Washington, chairman of the election committee, served as the moderator of the events. The scene resembled that of a boxing match.
The format allowed candidates to give opening statements and then they were attacked by questions from the audience, questions from the elections committee, and even questions from fellow candidates that promoted slight, slander and pettiness.
“The culture of the debates needs to improve,” presidential candidate Anthony McLeod said. “The debates are supposed to give the candidates the platform to debate their platforms and issues the college is facing, but instead, it’s a shady throwing contest. No one fact-checked the information they use against another opponent, which makes the debates a joke that no one takes seriously.”
The attendance, noise level and intensity was at its highest when Washington announced the “final debate of the night” – the presidential debate. The atmosphere was comparable to the fourth quarter of a sporting event.
Avery Jackson, the first presidential candidate to give his opening remarks, began with the statement that “a presidential candidate has an ongoing sexual assault allegation pinned on him.”
After Jackson’s opening statement, Washington said that the elections committee had cleared each candidate to run for office.
The presidential candidates received questions about topics that ranged from funding to faux political stunts to inclusiveness.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the debates as a whole,” presidential candidate Jonathan Hill said. “It was a great chance for the campus to not only see candidates but also get a chance to hear their platforms. But of course, if there’s one part that truly set candidates apart, [it was] the Q&As.”
After candidates were given the opportunity to ask each other questions, a large chunk of the audience within Sale Hall briskly left the room. About a fourth of the crowd remained for the closing statements, which had an uncanny resemblance to 2016 American primary politics. Unfortunately for the candidates, the event was transparently more for entertainment than a chance for them to convey their political rhetoric and to further their campaigns.
“I thought the debates were terribly ineffective,” vice presidential candidate Lonnie Washington Jr. said. “Candidates spent more time with petty personal attacks instead of explaining their platforms and convincing the student body that their vision was the most appropriate and effective. Unfortunately, we were mired in sensationalism.”
Campus News Editor