The two candidates for president of Undergraduate Student Government presented two visions at Wednesday’s debate: one of expanding and rejuvenating USG’s current structure and one of restructuring the organization to maximize efficiency.
Presidential candidate Christian Kurth, current USG director of university affairs, advocated for USG to use its current structure to better advocate for students, while presidential candidate Matthew Arkfeld, current USG Senate speaker pro tempore, said USG will better advocate for undergraduate students interest by changing its internal structure.
“I believe what Kurth is offering to the table is really nothing new,” Arkfeld said. “I want everyone to think a little bit bigger. I believe that you did not do a sufficient job on behalf of the student body.”
Kurth said USG’s current mode of advocacy — surveying the student body on certain topics and bringing the results to administration — does bring about tangible results.
“One thing that I’ve noticed is how students don’t really understand how powerful their voice actually is,” Kurth said. “I really value the importance of surveys. Anytime you can get a survey with over 1,500 students or more, the university really does listen.”
Arkfeld, when asked if his one year of experience within USG was sufficient, said his activity as a senator, which includes co-sponsoring a resolution against raising tuition, shows his commitment to the student body.
“I believe that time is not really a measure; it’s more about action,” Arkfeld said. “I strongly believe that in this past year I’ve done a lot of action. In addition, as president of the student body, it’s about being in touch with the student body.”
Kurth, however, emphasized that his years of experience in USG have given him a better understanding of the organization’s role in the USC community and a better understanding of the operations of the university itself. When discussing the new security measures, he cited the effect of the Dept. of Public Safety’s efforts on both students and the surrounding community while also disagreeing with USC’s handling of the policy change.
“The people that are more happy about our security [in general] are actually the community around us — we have over 400 security programs that USC puts on to strengthen the community around us,” Kurth said. “What I do think, though, is that the university should have consulted the students better.”
Arkfeld said the community’s relationship with USC is a priority for him.
“It’s more important to move forward and develop a tight-knit community and break these barriers down to foster a great relationship with the Greater USC area,” Arkfeld said. “I strongly believe that because community members cannot enter the campus … [is negatively affected and the measures are] not really doing what it’s set out to do – to make people feel safe.”
Students who attended the debate said that the debate gave them more information about the candidates’ platforms. Elli Hanson, a junior majoring in art, said that the debate helped her to understand the differences between the presidential tickets.
“I was really happy to be here because there were a lot of platform points that I heard from both sides that I didn’t really know just from pamphlets and stuff on Trousdale,” Hanson said. “I learned a lot at this debate.”
Director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics Dan Schnur moderated the debate. Schnur noted that the crowd of 150 students in attendance was the largest turnout he had ever witnessed at the annual debate.
“I was extremely impressed by both tickets,” Schnur said. “I’ve moderated these debates for five years and this is by far the largest turnout I’ve seen..”
Current USG President Mikey Geragos said he thought the candidates both did a good job of vigorously debating important issues, but wished more students came.
“There were a lot of students who seem to have already decided which candidate they will vote for at the event,” Geragos said. “I really hope students who have not made up their minds go online, watch clips of the debate and research the candidates before they cast their ballots.”