Head-To-Head: USG’s Remaining Prez Slates Have Debate

Towards the debate's closing, participants asked the candidates questions./Radwan Farraj

By Radwan Farraj

 

   Last Thursday, Mar. 16, two of the remaining presidential slates in the 2023 Undergraduate Student Government presidential elections came head-to-head for a debate. Candidates Asma Ramisa and Yafa Abulawi, who had the third ticket in the race, did not meet the required 400 signatures needed at the end of the petitioning period that closed on Mar. 13.

   As of press time, students are able to vote in all USG elections on the BC WebCentral Portal starting Monday, Mar. 20 through Mar. 31 at 5 PM.

   Carrie Ebbin and Huda Ayaz make up the first slate, coming to the debate as incumbent candidates. Ebbin currently serves as USG vice president and Ayaz is USG’s club director. The second slate has Malak Yafai and Hozifa Sowkat, both of whom are student club leaders. Yafai is currently the vice president of the Bridges for Yemen club and Sowkat is the vice president of the Gift of Life club and secretary of Muslims Giving Back.

   The debate was hosted in partnership between USG and the BC Forensics Speech and Debate Team, with Sumbal Asghar, debate captain of the Speech and Debate Team, as the moderator for the event. Candidates were asked approximately ten questions and given one to two minutes to respond. They also had the opportunity to ask each other questions near the end of the debate. Audience members were given time to pose questions about topics that were not already discussed. 

   Questions were related to student life, discrimination and anti-semitism, budget cuts and enrollment, student engagement, and other topics. Both tickets talked about how they would address key issues and why they would be the best possible choice for BC students.

   Candidates had the opportunity to describe how they would fill Cabinet positions and what they looked for in potential picks. “Huda and I have been expecting to run for these positions for quite some time, so we’ve had time to talk to people, and do our due diligence to find people to fill Cabinet positions and other committee positions,” said presidential candidate Ebbin. Potential Cabinet members were in attendance at the debate, including Noam Abrahams, who was recently appointed as USG’s current treasurer.

   Yafai remarked that her Cabinet selections would be made with campus diversity and unique student expertise in mind. “I want to put time and to choose people who I would work with precisely. And my choices would reflect the diversity of Brooklyn College,” said presidential candidate Yafai. “And because I chose diversity, I want to bring a different perspective and experience to the table.” She elaborated that she would want students from different majors to fill her Cabinet, who would be committed to serving the student body’s interests.

   Discussion shifted to the partnership formed between CUNY and Hillel International to combat anti-semitism on CUNY campuses, where candidates provided their opinion on the collaboration and additional steps for creating more inclusive campuses.

   Creating clear policies and procedures that prohibit anti-semitism and developing dialogues between different groups on campus is a priority, according to Yafai. “It is important to know that overseeing issues of discrimination requires ongoing effort and commitment from all members of the Brooklyn College community, including leaders, family, faculty and staff and students,” she said. 

   Ebbin welcomed campus initiatives that would target anti-semitism and promoted student government as a way of combating discrimination. “Our body of student government will not stand for any sort of discrimination, anti-semitism, anything at all,” said Ebbin. “We will support in any way students who come to us and keep the conversation open. Students should know that our door is always open and they can always come to us.”

   Both candidates were asked about student advocacy and representation, and how USG planned to act as the voice of BC students. “If I feel against something and the entire student body feels something else, it is my duty to represent the study body as best as possible,” stated Ebbin. “With that, means transparency, keeping conversations open, having office hours so that people can come in whenever they need to, having our email out there, and just keeping the door open overall.”

   Yafai wished to make USG more of a prominent presence in students’ minds and actively engage with BC students more. “I want students to know that we exist – not only through email or social media, but physically there for them on campus. I want them to know or to come to us to feel that we are part of them and they are part of us,” said Yafai. “I want them to come with struggles or issues because we are students just like them.”

   Candidates shared what they believed were the most pressing issues currently facing BC. Yafai’s outlook on the most pressing issue on campus is the limited amount of extracurricular classes and programs available for students. “Their limitation have a negative impact on how students overall view the school. The extracurricular activities provide opportunities for students to develop new skills and to explore their new interests and to build their resumes and future education and career opportunities,” stated Yafai. Her running mate, Hozifa Sowkat, expressed concerns about the difficulty of developing social connections and making one’s degree useful.  

   “Me personally, I’m doing a biology degree as a pre-med [student], but what happens after,” said Sowkat. She continued, noting that additional opportunities would make it easier for students to network and feel more secure about their choice of degree.

   Ebbin noted that after talking with students both before and during her campaign, there were a variety of issues facing BC students that all needed to be addressed. “I think that if you went out on the quad right now, and you asked 1,000 students what the biggest problem at Brooklyn College would be, they’d probably give you 500 different answers,” said Ebbin. Her running mate Huda Ayaz talked about the scale of issues USG actively addresses and its ongoing work to connect students with the administration and the necessary resources. 

   “There is so much out there and so many resources out there that are hard to access – sometimes you send an email and don’t get a response, sometimes you simply can’t find the right office that will help you with your issue,” said Ayaz. “Something that we’ve been really focused on is trying to make sure that we have those resources accessible to students by having clear ways that they can make out to people, and also if you just come to us to ask us, so we can know the right people to connect you with.”  

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