On April 10, 2013, the candidates for Bellevue College’s 2013-2014 Associated Student Government positions made their first speeches in the cafeteria. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., each of the 21 ASG candidates had five minutes to make a short speech introducing themselves and their qualifications for the job.
The two presidential candidates, Cameron Jones and Zawdie Stephens-Terry, were the last two students to speak. In his speech, Jones emphasized the importance of community, equating BC to a jigsaw puzzle where each piece is shaped differently but is equally important. “None of the pieces are the same; they’re all different,” said Jones, “but they all fit into this giant picture. Our end goal is to see this beautiful thing that’s broken up into many tiny pieces. Like this, BC is made up of many individual students. We’re trying to reach the picture and each one of you is part of [it]. The way to paint that picture is by problem solving.”
Stephens-Terry commanded the attention of the cafeteria, calling for attention in the back of the room. In his speech, he emphasized the power of student voice on campus instead of listing his qualifications: “With your voice, you can call for more cultural awareness for groups on campus. With your voice, you can call for awards for educators who are doing a great job on campus. With your voice, you can also call for more power to make policy on campus. This is where I come in.”
However, despite the fact that the cafeteria was packed to capacity, most students were not engaged. “Honestly, I think the first two rows [of tables] are listening and the rest are not,” said ASG Chief Justice Kevin Tu, who emceed the speeches and is a member of the election committee. The only important thing about the candidate speech is that the people in Student Programs pay attention. The main speeches and introductions will happen at the [ASG Barbeque], where the candidates have the option of going up onstage and introducing themselves while people are eating.”
ASG Campus Life and Events Representative Keturah Anderson said that the speeches are held in the cafeteria because the ASG wants to reach the “average BC student”, not just members of Student Programs. “I think that naturally students are not engaged in campus life,” she said.
ASG Associate Justice Sean Juel explained: “The reason we hold the speeches in the cafeteria is because it’s a place of high student congregation. We can’t promise that students will pay attention but it’s the best place to have any viewership at all. We’re trying to reach regular Bellevue College students because we want that to be the constituency.”
After the last presidential candidate spoke however, a student not affiliated with ASG who could not be identified took the podium: “You got candidates talking about jigsaw puzzles, but let’s get serious here. We’re promised lower tuition year after year, and do we see any changes? No. So I’m just being serious right now. Let’s vote for someone who’s actually going to make a difference and doesn’t just want the title. I’m not here to endorse any candidate whatsoever, but I’m just saying as the student body we have a responsibility to pay attention to the candidates and have respect for them. Choose wisely when you’re voting. Thank you.”
Juel had “mixed feelings” about the impromptu speech: “The main point he was driving at was a very good one. I want people to pay attention so they make informed decisions and they pick someone who will be the best person for the job. I think his reasoning for making that point was flawed because he was uninformed in what ASG has done this year. He made the argument based on the assumption that the current ASG or that ASGs prior never change things when he doesn’t know that we’ve improved the parking policy, extended library hours for students,” he said. He also disagreed with the way the student structured his argument, saying, “he took statements completely out of context and used them to delegitimize thecandidates.” “We wanted to express to him that it’s hard to change things,” said Anderson. “And we do, do stuff. People just don’t see it because they don’t come to any events or come to Student Programs. They don’t ask us for help.”
The first ASG candidate debate will be held on April 15.