Last evening, the Student Council hosted a presidential candidate Q&A session in the Kohlberg commons. Yongjun Heo ‘09 and Paul Apollo ‘09 were present in the flesh, while Randall Johnston’s ’09 image was ‘Skyped’ from Spain.
Over the course of an hour, candidates were challenged to address a variety of issues, long-term and short, affecting the Swarthmore community. Apollo mentioned the upcoming “capital campaign” in reference to the ‘Swarthmore of 2020’ planning group. According to Apollo, the student council president will have one of eight seats in the planning committee, which will be responsible for allocating “hundreds of millions of dollars” in school spending, shaping the future of Swarthmore. Apollo stated his interest in the expansion and development of various academic programs, including funding for an Islamic Studies major and a Women’s Studies major, the renovation of Hicks, and the need for more professors in departments with larger numbers of students, such as economics.
While Apollo opened discussion by focusing on the long-term effects his presidency would bring, Heo concentrated on more immediate matters. “We need to move beyond transparency; [Student Council] must be held accountable” for the issues concerning student groups. Heo wants “to work with student groups directly,” and suggested student groups keep a prioritized list of their needs, requests, and desires, to facilitate the council’s ability to address student needs. He addressed the need for improved communication between students and Student Council, as well as between students and the administration, and said he would exert effort to facilitate the exchange.
From the computer monitor, Johnston introduced the more technologically savvy issue of the forum, the ‘OneCard’ system. A work Johnston has already helped put in progress, the ‘OneCard’ system would introduce more advanced student ID cards that will grant students access to all participating college buildings. In addition, the cards will have cash points for use at vending and laundry machines. “I have talked with Facilities and with the deans, and it is going to happen,” Johnston said.
Each candidate related a highly qualified resume to the audience. Johnston has served on Student Council for the past two years, and maintained that her greatest contributions are the little things she has done to improve the quality of service provided by student council. Also, she has been an active member of Drama Board, and will be an RA next year.
Likewise, Apollo has been a member of the Student Council for a year, working alongside Johnston. He also serves as chair of the Charter Committee and a member of the Budget Committee in addition to being the captain of the men’s rugby team.
Heo was proud to mention the success of his fledgling organization, PemÃ³n Health, in UrimÃ¡n, Venezuela. PemÃ³n Health is a grass-roots health organization dedicated to “demonstrate initiatives designed to provide sustainable improvements in the health of PemÃ³n villagers,” as stated on the PemÃ³n Health website. Heo said he has put in over 20-30 hours of work into his project per week this year, although next year, he will be handing the organization off to an underclassmen.
While certain questions were easy for the candidates to answer, others provided more difficulty. Romane Paul ‘10 asked the candidates: “What events have you attended among [the BCC and IC] in the past year?” after candidates mentioned their ability to address and serve all students equally. The question challenged each candidate to demonstrate a (formal) social relationship with groups outside of their respective social circles; they were unable to do so.
Other questions elicited similar responses from the candidates, such as the candidates’ reverence for the progress and direction of financial aid, their inability to effectively change the quality of Sharples or Tarble, and their support for the existing funding appeals process. Candidates expressed an eagerness to accept the criticisms that such a public position would attract, and learn from any mistakes or errors they might make.
Heo, Apollo, and Johnston let loose an array of ideas and a general feeling of excitement and determination in their first public appearance. They demonstrated their own reputable backgrounds, and made sure to comment on their ties and relationships with the Deans and administration. The candidates spoke evenly, yet passionately as they attempted to persuade the public in his or her favor. The candidates will engage in a political debate this Friday, April 18.