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UISG IC Council stance suggests full-time student preference

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | OCTOBER 20, 2011 7:20 AM

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With Iowa City Council candidate Raj Patel dropping out of the University of Iowa, there is only one true UI student left in the City Council race: Michelle Payne.

Citing a lack of knowledge of the candidate's policies, the UI Student Government has not yet extended Payne, a non-traditional part-time student, a formal endorsement. Given that Payne's platform is one Internet-search away, UISG's ignorance suggests that it favors full-time students over those that only attend part-time.

Part-time students are arguably even more valuable to the student body, given that they are often older and offer real-world experience to their student-peers.

Payne works full-time, serves on the Planning and Zoning Commission, is running for the City Council, takes nine hours as a part-time student at UI. She explains that for her, "full-time is at least 60 hours a week."

Patel and Payne have run two completely different campaigns: Patel has been looking for the spotlight whenever he can manufacture one, and Payne has been appealing to the sense of hard work and organization.

It's not as if UISG would have to repeal its endorsement of Patel in order to support Payne. There are two at-large seats open, and the student government has endorsed numerous candidates in the past. So what could be the reason?

When Nic Pottebaum, the speaker of the UISG Senate, was asked if there was any indication why UISG had choose to endorse Patel and not Payne, he explained "her name was brought up," but formally, there had been "no discussion."

UISG President Elliot Higgins says he cannot officially endorse a candidate for the student government, but he is "supportive of any student candidate" for a council seat. He also said he would support Payne, but later described his position on these issues was limited, as he "takes direction from the Senate." He further explained that the Senate was responsible for the endorsement of Patel, and he "just signed" the legislation.

"It was a Senate issue," he said.

Higgins noted that Patel was invited to speak in front of UISG. He could not confirm whether Payne was invited.

UISG Sen. Joe Van Zant, one of the key drafters of UISG's Raj Patel for City Council Act, explained his job as a student legislator is to "promote and empower students," citing that as a reason for the endorsement of Patel.

When asked why Payne was not endorsed he said, "being a student is only the icing on the cake."

As he tried to iterate his point, Van Zant said he wanted to endorse Patel because he had advocated student issues and he "reached out to the student body." Van Zant's definition of reaching out was Patel sending him a personal email, asking to speak in front of the student legislature: an easy action to take, because Patel had worked within with the student legislature in his work as council liaison.

Van Zant went on to explain Payne was not endorsed because there was a "lack of information," about her campaign. He thought Payne had many chances or cues to ask the body for support, though his examples of cues where along the lines of an article in a newspaper or UISG talk of endorsing Patel.

After the interview, Van Zant took the time to assert his job exists to promote and empower all students, "but only if they have the students' best interest in mind," which is, of course, up to his own interpretation of what is best for the students.

If UISG didn't consider endorsing Payne because of age or that she had a platform built on something other than repealing the 21-ordinance, that would be one thing. It's another thing entirely given that the members seemingly haven't even considered educating themselves on the platform of one of their student-peers. Payne is a part-time student, but she is a student and should get the same opportunities and support as all other students.

The job of a government representing a student body, elected by a student body, and made up of the same student body, is to support all students in that student body. Payne's experience and maturity, along with her representation of students' needs, would be a great asset to being a student member of the City Council.

It's just like what student Sen. Abbey Moffitt said earlier this month in support of Patel's endorsement: "It's a student running," she said. "We're a student government."

The polarity of each candidate's consideration is laughable.


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