After climbing the corporate ladder of Associated Students since his freshman year, Sigma Chi’s stoic figurehead, Jeff Plourd, proved a formidable vice presidential candidate in the A.S. debates last week. With a running history of held positions within the A.S. bureaucracy, it became obvious Plourd’s ambition and corporate instinct brought him to the A.S. Executive Committee in this year’s elections. When I asked what the three main goals of his presidency were, he came back with a brief and near-scripted response: He would enhance A.S. communication with students, spearhead his leadership and co-curricular transcript projects and rally the community around San Diego State’s burgeoning success in athletics. It was concise, but it sounded rigid, prepackaged and a tad unoriginal.
Plourd’s response to whether he felt the Greek community’s vast representation in A.S. had a more positive or negative effect on student representation at SDSU revealed his craft for evasive political speechmaking. As the face of Sigma Chi, he feels the Greek community breeds leaders who are fully capable of serving in A.S. on behalf of the student body. He did admit, however, that the exclusive nature of the Greek system and its pervasive involvement with A.S. could make the common student feel ostracized from the campus community. Steering clear of Greek overrepresentation altogether, he still managed to play a powerful card: As a native San Diegan and former commuter, he related his experience to the many commuters at SDSU who feel disengaged from campus life, assuring he would prioritize his agenda to get them more involved during his term.
Plourd’s delivery, demeanor and neck-deep involvement in Sigma Chi made him appear out of touch with the common SDSU student. However, he did manage to touch upon several of the major issues facing student life at SDSU next semester. Plourd pledged to build a relationship with President Stephen L. Weber’s successor around the principles of shared governance and respect for student initiatives. To stop the hemorrhaging disruption to our campus community life during the construction of Modern Space, he would slap on all the quick-fix band-aids students would need. He’d also keep us informed about how all of this was coming along. How? He failed to mention. It wouldn’t be too outlandish to assume he’s supporting the current A.S. executives’ decision to hire a public relations firm to get the word out.
At the end of the day, Plourd’s presidential running mate and fraternity brother, Kevin Gruidl, appeared to be the brains behind their fraternity-brand A.S. executive ticket. Plourd’s responses merely parroted the more authentic lead of Gruidl, who appeared the most qualified among the presidential candidates. It wouldn’t surprise me if Plourd has relied on tagging himself onto Gruidl’s momentum all along. For that reason, I think it would be better to choose another vice presidential candidate that could ensure more reform and diversity for this year’s A.S. agenda.
—Tom Hammel, Opinion Editor.
Boisterous, loud and incredibly charismatic, Joe Stewart stood out as the only magnetic personality in an otherwise lifeless lineup of Greek candidates for the vice presidential election. When asked what made him qualified for the position, he spoke of his colorful past as a homeless youth, former service member for the U.S. Marine Corps and recent leadership involvement in SDSU’s Student Veteran Organization. Instead of spraying the crowd with a rapid-fire list of titles to justify his presence at the podium, he focused on what makes holding a position meaningful: “I don’t think that leadership is about the titles that you’ve held, but the people that you’ve changed when you held those titles.”
Stewart also quickly established himself as a challenge to the institution, citing a history of critique and conflict with A.S.’ bylaws and the Modern Space vote last year. Without administrative experience in A.S., his initial ability to manage the organization and implement reform may prove strained if elected. However, by remaining a critical outsider looking in, his perspective may prove far more valuable than that of another groomed replacement.
When asked what the main goals of his vice presidency were, his answer was a bit less concise than the uniform delivery of Jeff Plourd. However, by highlighting the fact that a mere 10 percent of students vote in the A.S. elections, and that members of the A.S. Council sit on the boards that are intended to provide oversight of their own council positions, Stewart did manage to offer critiques of A.S. that made his diagnosis for reform appear intelligent and convincing.
As the single non-Greek outsider answering on the high levels of Greek representation in A.S., Stewart stood as the only contrast to the other V.P. candidates. He supported the Greek community in principle, admitting it provides community and builds networks that allow students to achieve higher goals, but he also cited how off-putting it is to see a organization with a small minority of representation dominate student government. Stewart’s response: Level the playing field for democracy by getting more students involved, which in turn will prove there is true benefit in doing so.
As the moderator of the event, I witnessed the crowd’s most positive and audible response to Stewart’s final answer of the debate. He began by stating: “You don’t have to be in college, but you want to be here. I mean, I know McDonald’s is hiring, but none of us want that for ourselves. So if you’re going to be here, at least involve yourself to the end of making sure that you are being represented.” Stewart then claimed he was no politician, assuring students that his candidacy had no strings attached to maintaining the status quo.
While there were no details of how he would manage taking on a new university president and the construction of Modern Space, Stewart made a strong case for why the student body and A.S. should embrace a reformer on the inside. His vice presidency could provide exactly the kind of shake-up A.S. needs to remain legitimate and responsive as an institution.
—Tom Hammel, Opinion Editor
***As Joe Stewart’s editor, I am obligated to inform you he is a staff columnist in my section. After working with him and getting to know him on a personal level, I admit I have an inherent bias in his favor for this election. Nonetheless, this analysis is based on the content of his debate answers alone.
While listening to Darin Ruiz speak to the College of Arts of Letters student council for an endorsement the day before the debate, I watched the individual taking notes next to me write “Toots his own horn.” By citing his role in naming more than half of the rooms in the new Modern Space building, he immediately established an air of inflated self-importance that mirrored my colleague’s conclusion.
As the former president of Sigma Phi Epsilon, recent member of Associated Students, and SWAT promoter, Ruiz appears to be an ideal poster child for Greek culture at SDSU and fitting as a faithful lackey to his more articulate counter part, Cody Barbo. Together, however, they are the very definition of keeping the status quo: Barbo and Ruiz’s three goals — sustainability, leadership development and communication — have been copied and pasted directly from A.S. bylaws. Beyond that, they plan on “pushing for this LEED Platinum student union” and “to keep the (Modern Space) initiative going,” though that momentum has supposedly been in place for years.
Though guilty of recycling campaign goals, they have posed further ways to make the SDSU campus greener. Barbo and Ruiz have proposed converting the Aztec Recreation Center into, effectively, a self-sustainable power generator, converting energy from treadmill and bicycle use. While imaginative, one has to question the feasibility, cost and overall appropriateness during a budget crisis — especially with issues such as Modern Space and the incoming president at the forefront. However, Ruiz did mention the importance of garnering a relationship with the new president toward the end of the debate.
Ruiz was very positive about the Greek system. “It gives us the tools we need to be successful and to make lifetime connections with people (we) wouldn’t have come into contact with if they would not have joined the organization,” he said.
But his approach to developing leadership outside of the Greek system seemed entirely outlandish. Ruiz’s strategy to find and instill leadership into non-Greeks fringed on grooming future candidates, insinuating he would use A.S. resources to seek out possible replacements from both within and beyond the Greek system. So essentially, rather than strengthening A.S. and making student involvement more attractive, which would draw qualified and motivated students from every corner of campus, Ruiz plans to train a few select individuals of his choosing. By this practice, A.S. would remain an inflexible and unchanging institution — end of story.
In finishing up his speech, Ruiz provided a valuable contrast of campus voting apathy with a first-hand account of a Nepalese student who couldn’t understand why students wouldn’t vote. Although it may have been relevant advice for students, he doesn’t sound convinced of his own advice himself; his statements seem like more of a façade than an actual representation of his true motives. Of the three main candidates for A.S. executive vice president, Ruiz appears to be the least qualified for office.
—Tom Hammel and Chris Pocock, Opinion and Assistant Features Editors, respectively.
*Opinion’s endorsement. ***The views expressed in this analysis do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.