SA Debate: Three candidates, identical platforms

If you want to know what distinguishes the three candidates for Student Assembly president, don’t ask the candidates. At least, not if you want to move beyond platitudes. When the elections commission asked the three candidates to distinguish themselves last night, each of them promptly reverted to archetype.

Colin Danly ’15 said his focus was “the issues” (a phrase he used six times) and “what needs to be done.” Carlton Smith ’15 said his goals would be “tangible,” while Trevor Parkes ’15 preferred “tangible and pragmatic.”

Still undecided? If elected, Smith said he would be a “voice for the voiceless,” but Parkes said he would be “listening to the countless voices” on campus. Do you have a voice? Do you not? One of these candidates is your man. And they are all men. In fact, there hasn’t been a female president since Christina Scott ’11 was elected in 2010. Not that diversity isn’t one of “the issues.” We should therefore be refreshed by the few choice nuggets of difference to be found among last night’s canned candidate-speak and pre-fab declarations. When an audience member asked about the student activities fee, citing it as the highest fee of its kind in Virginia, Danly made the risky argument that it was necessary to sustain proper levels of activities funding — and backed up the claim with his experience on the finance committee.

When the candidates were asked about the controversial Sigma Chi email, only Parkes seemed to have a prepared response, saying that faculty members should be trained to deal with sexual assault victims. When the subject turned to mental health, Smith spoke passionately about the need to allow those with mental health issues back on campus after they’ve gotten help.

If, as the candidates argued, diversity is crucial, we should expect more of it in the platforms of those who run for office. The president ought to be a ‘voice for the voiceless’ — but he must also have a voice of his own.

Email Tucker Higgins at

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Tucker Higgins, The Flat Hat's editor-in-chief, is a senior international relations major from Los Angeles, California. In 2015, he won The College of William and Mary's Rex Smith Award, named for the longtime writer and editor for the Associated Press. In 2016, he served as the J. Edward Grimsley Journalism Fellow.


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