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Student government presidential candidates debate tuition, safety

BY ANNA THEODOSIS | MARCH 30, 2012 6:30 AM

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Tuition hikes and improving student experiences formed the keystones of a University of Iowa Student Government presidential-candidate debate Thursday evening.

I Party candidate Nic Pottebaum and # (Hashtag) Party candidate Sunny Kothari focused on their platforms while answering questions pertaining to their plans and the UI community as a whole.

When considering proposed tuition and funding proposals — the House has proposed a $31 million cut to regent universities, and the Senate has proposed a $34 million increase in appropriations — Pottebaum said students need to be realistic in their requests.

"I think what needs to be understood is what sounds good and what reality is," he said. "We've recognized that you can't just go to the Capitol and yell for more money. Obviously, every tuition hike should be taken with great concern, but you need to make sure you look at the facts to ensure that every student has the opportunity to get a quality education. I'm willing to make the tough decisions."

Kothari was more critical of the Legislature.

"The state has been cutting our budget," he said. "We need to go to the Capitol and tell them to stop. We need to target the issue at hand, we need to stand up and say, 'Hey, this can't work.' I don't think it's right to keep raising tuition."

Kothari also stressed student safety, proposing a reintroduced East Side Cambus route.

"We did some research and dug around," he said. "There's a vast majority of campus that lives on the East Side. Why shouldn't we cater to them? We don't want people walking home 10 blocks at night; we shouldn't let that happen."

Installing lights past downtown could also deter crime, he said.

Pottebaum spoke of the developing Safe Ride program — underway since last fall — for student safety.

"This taxi program will be rolled out the first day of fall semester," he said. "The Safe Ride program will allow students to get out of an environment that they don't feel safe in, and UISG will be serving its students."

Both parties also spoke about the 21-ordinance, though they differed in their parties' response to year-and-a-half-old law.

"In the reality of things, it cannot be reversed at least within the next two to three years," Pottebaum said. "We need to ensure that the environment for students downtown at night is safe. We'll go through other avenues to make sure [it] is."

Pottebaum said he is not opposed to seeing it eventually reversed, though Kothari advocated students pursue a more immediate response.

"The 21-ordinance has passed," Kothari said. "We need to revisit it; if students want it to be repealed, we need to do something about that. I think the bigger issue at hand is why the students want it to be repealed."

The debate came several hours after some current UI Student Government representatives returned from advocating for university funding at the annual Regents United Day in Des Moines. President Elliot Higgins spoke with legislators and Regent Greta Johnson about the university's importance on a statewide level.

"Sometimes, there's the perception that the universities are really only beneficial to the immediate surrounding communities," Higgins said. "But the reality of the situation is that the universities provide great value to the state as a whole."


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