UISG debate fairness questioned

BY ANNA LOTHSON | APRIL 08, 2009 7:30 AM

To debate, or not to debate, that is the question.

After UI Student Government President Maison Bleam selected Bryce Carlson — who has ties to Your Party — to moderate tonight’s UISG debate, members from Go Party and L Party said they will boycott the event unless a new moderator is chosen.

“I hope that the parties will reconsider choosing not to participate in this debate,” said Bleam, who also openly supports Your Party.

It would be childish for party leaders not to participate because they are trying to represent themselves to students, he said.

On Tuesday, Bleam said he will not choose a new moderator and canceling the debate would be fiscally irresponsible.

Questions will be made available to the three UISG parties in advance so there are no surprises, he said, and that gives each party equal chance to respond.

But Ryan Kopf, L Party’s presidential candidate, said the chosen moderator reveals a clear conflict of interest.

And regardless of getting questions beforehand, he said the manner in which each question is delivered — including time allotted for each query — has the potential to be biased.

“What we need is a neutral third party [to moderate],” he said, and his party and Go Party have mutually agreed to skip the debate unless the change is made.

Mike Currie, the presidential candidate of the Go Party, echoed Kopf’s decision and said Carlson’s role presents a clear ethical concern.

“He is full-blown Your Party,” he said. “I have seen him around campus all week wearing its stuff.”

If there isn’t a new moderator for the debate, he said, Go Party will find other ways to promote its ideas.

But Emily Grieves, Your Party’s presidential hopeful, said internal drama in UISG is what causes the public to lose faith in the group.

“I think if the moderator is fair and ethical, it’s not an issue,” she said.

As long as integrity is upheld and the election process remains fair, she said, she doesn’t understand why Go Party and L Party would refuse to debate.

But Go Party’s vice-presidential nominee JD Moran, the current speaker of UISG Senate, said he told Bleam a week ago the choice is unfair.

“It’s not that we’re being babies and don’t want to debate,” he said, they simply don’t want to participate in a tainted debate.

Moran said Bleam — in a series of e-mails between the two — made it clear that no change would be made and that Moran’s party shouldn’t show up if the members had objections.

Among all the discussion, Carlson, who is the director of public relations for UISG, said he was chosen as moderator weeks ago. He said he was initially a Go Party supporter but switched to backing Your Party.

“I am 100 percent objective,” Carlson said, and noted that a strong student government, not parties, is what matters. “I care very deeply about this. It seems like an attack on my integrity that I don’t deserve.”

He said this unstable structure in the debates only shakes up elections.

Carlson noted that Meredith Place — a Go Party supporter — was the moderator for Monday night’s debate.

“We didn’t run and try to tattle,” he said.

Place, who confirmed she backs the Go Party, said she made an effort to bring up neutral questions that did not target any single party. As moderator, that would be disrespectful, she said.

Because parties are asked the same questions, she said there doesn’t need to be discussion about fairness. By this point, most people have already decided who to support, she said.

“It’s hard to find a student leader who is unbiased,” Place said.

The final debate is set for 6 p.m. today in the IMU second-floor ballroom.

DI reporter Michele Danno contributed to this report.

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