SBP Debate Addresses Race Relations, Orgs, Service, and Talking in the Library
Tuesday’s Student Body Presidential debate featuring Eddie VanZandt (Lewis), Blake Ashley (Lewis), Koby Jackson (Churchill), Jennifer Ingraham (Queen Elizabeth I), and Josiah Simons (Bonhoeffer) marked the first major campaign event in the presidential race and one that many students hung their decisions upon.
Moderated by Phillip Reeves and Ian Wilson, the debate featured questions on a variety of topics ranging from race relations and the restructuring of student organizations, to whether talking in the school library was an acceptable social behavior.
From the outset, each candidate sought to make clear their passion for the school and their desire to improve and fine tune the functions of the student body. In his opening statement, VanZandt leaned into his record as an experienced and well-versed leader at the school.
“All five of the people standing here before you,” he said, “have something unique to offer, rooted in and shaped by their experiences at this school...Of these five candidates, four of us have served on a house exec team. Of we five, four of us have served on an org exec team. Of we five, three of us have played for King’s athletics. I alone have done all three.”
Ashley and Ingraham sparred early in the debate in response to a question about reforming the structure of the council. Ashley suggested a slight change to the status quo by giving student organizations a bigger platform. “I’d like to see the Director of Student Organizations help foster a community of voices heard from the student orgs” Ashley said.
But later down the line Ingraham implied that she didn’t see things the same way.
“To Blake’s points,” Ingraham said, “I personally—from being org president this year of The Click—met with [the Director of Student Organizations,] Anna Woods and she asked me what was going on...and was there anything that I wanted to be represented on the council? I felt very supported by the council,” she added.
Ashley responded briefly by noting his involvement in the formation of the John Quincy Adams Society and while he made clear that he didn’t fault the council directly, he said that “the expectations and structure in place at the time made me feel like there was not the ample amount of communication that I would expect. And then” Ashley added, “we turned around and got a $125 budget per semester and that was devastating.” He concluded by saying that he wished they’d been given an opportunity to have more insight into why and how that surprising decision was made.
On a more lighthearted note—but one still emblematic of a candidate’s view of school culture—the candidates were asked whether they thought a quiet library or more spaces to congregate on campus was more important.
While most of the candidates agreed that the idea of the library serving as a social hub was harmless, Simons diverged from the others by emphasizing the importance of maintaining serenity in the library. He noted the existence of the Lion’s Den, the Student Union, and other places to congregate on campus.
“It’s just a respect thing,” said Simons. “This is an academic institution… and we need to care about our studies”. He pointedly concluded: “If you’re talking in the library, you’re a problem.”
On the topic of promoting house service opportunities, the candidates emphasized the need for more consistent, year-round engagement. “There is a shame culture around [people who don’t participate] and it’s sad” Jackson said, “but we have to realize that service all the time isn’t convenient...A big part of serving is sacrifice.”
Service is a key point of emphasis for Jackson who is running on a platform of reinstating a house service competition.
Most students seemed to agree that there was a strong showing from all candidates involved. Freshman Colton Gotwals observed that he “wasn’t sure there was a clear winner of the debate” and while he liked a lot of what was said, he also made clear that he thought there “seem[ed] to be some confusion amongst the candidates as to the actual role of the SBP.”
“I think the debate went pretty well,” said Simons. “I think the questions were good and they got at the heart of what we care about at King’s.”
Jackson also made clear that he thought the event went well and he noted that he was “very thankful that so many people showed up to hear the visions that five of their peers had.” Jackson later added, “hopefully I got that message across to the point where people can see that love and why I hope to serve them next year as their student body president.”
The candidates will be on the campaign trail for the duration of the week taking part in further events including their own Q&A sessions, an official SBP bonanza, and culminating with their final speeches early next week.
Voting will begin at 1:00 p.m. on Monday.