Presidential candidates square off in Gallagher

By J. Ferguson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, March 8, 2005

The final ASUA presidential debate yesterday was dominated by questions of character and experience.

Both Associated Students of the University of Arizona candidates were asked tough questions about their past actions during the Arizona Daily Wildcat sponsored debate in the Gallagher Theater in the Student Union Memorial Center.

During the debate, candidate Jacob Reuben, a business economics junior, answered questions from a panel representing Arizona Student Media about the circumstances of his dismissal as corporate director for Spring Fling. Panelists also asked about a 2003 incident involving his fraternity, and comments he made to the Wildcat as a freshman stating his indifference to a large increase in tuition.

"You guys really did your homework," Reuben said.

Reuben defended himself stating he was neither forced out of his position nor fired by Spring Fling directors.

"It was a mutual decision ... I walked away." Reuben said.

He emphasized how after leaving his Spring Fling position, he immediately went to work in other ASUA projects.

Reuben said the incident at his fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, which involved stolen benches and a table from UA buildings, was a one-time mistake. He added the crime was not done while he was president of the fraternity.

Despite repeated opportunities during the debate, Cade Bernsen, a political science senior refused to comment on questions about Reuben's actions.

"This isn't what I want to do," Bernsen said. "Negative campaigning has never educated a single person."

Reuben said if Bernsen had been on campus longer, he might have to answer similar questions about past mistakes.

"My opponent hasn't been on campus long enough to make those mistakes," Reuben said.

Bernsen was not spared from tough questions during the debate. He was consistently asked to defend his candidacy, despite being an out-of-state student who has only attended the UA for one year.

"I think you could spend 10 years here and still have a lot to learn." Bernsen said. "But putting the best and brightest (students) around me, there is nothing we can't do."

He was also asked to defend the relevance of his experience in the Texas Senate to the job of ASUA president.

Bernsen said his experience in the cash-strapped Texas Legislature would be helpful in getting money from the Arizona Legislature.

He said during his time at the Texas Legislature he sat with several members of the Legislature, including his father, as they found a way to get funding for several Texas colleges.

But Bernsen said it will be difficult to change the mind of some state legislators.

"It's like herding cats," Bernsen said.

Bernsen said aggressive lobbying efforts in the Legislature would not be enough to solve the current fiscal crisis in Arizona education.

Bernsen also said the use of fees to pay for programs did not always make sense.

"It's like Enron math. We need to go after other sources of money, we are barely breaking even," Bernsen said.

Later in the debate, both candidates found flaws in their opponent's platform.

Reuben said he did not support Bernsen's aggressive plan for a child care facility on campus because the UA already has a subsidy program for students who need childcare facilities.

A $500 subsidy is available every semester for students with children.

Bernsen said his program was vital to protecting the diversity on campus, associating women with children to other minorities.

Bernsen said Reuben's plan to institute a "fall break" was irresponsible. Reuben wants to eliminate Wednesday classes before Thanksgiving.

"This is a sexy issue. I haven't met one person that doesn't want a break." Bernsen said. "But to put it in the same field as finance, campus safety and child care is wrong."

Samrat Miller, a history junior, said she was impressed with the debate.

"I thought they were both very articulate and knowledgeable about what they were talking about," Miller said.

Miller said she was opposed to at least one campaign promise, Reuben's "fall break."

"We are here for an education; I strongly oppose it," Miller said.