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The Rice Thresher

Debbink and Leggett elected in highly contested presidential contest
By Daniel McDonald
February 21, 2003

Wiess College senior Michael Leggett and Wiess junior Bryan Debbink,
running together, won the Student Association presidency in a highly
contested election with six candidates for SA president, a number matched only once in the last 25 years.

Students cast 861 ballots in the SA presidential election, part of the
campus-wide General Elections.

Debbink and Leggett received 26.88 percent of the intial vote. Due to the preferential voting system, 11 rounds of voting had to be calculated before Debbink and Leggett received the majority vote necessary to win the SA presidency, although Debbink and Leggett lead after every round of voting.

Voter turnout is significantly higher than last year's total of 665 ballots
cast. A total of 1,009 ballots were cast in 2001 and 836 cast in 2000.

Voting was conducted online on the SA Web site.

Debbink said he hopes to increase student involvement on campus.

"I want three years from now the Princeton Review to say what's hot, and what's not and what's hot is that the students own the campus," he said.

Leggett said he agreed more students need to be involved on campus for student opinion on matters to have an impact.

"I think we need to walk in to the administration and be able to say,  'This is what we want, this is why we want it and here, look, 2,000
students want it too,'" he said.

Debbink and Leggett will be the second co-presidents in SA history; two years ago Jamie Lisagor and Gavin Parks were the first.

The other candidates had mixed opinions about the election results. Sid Richardson College junior Andy Weber, who finished fourth, said Debbink and Leggett have the potential to be very effective co-presidents.

"If [Debbink] and [Leggett] put in the same energy and enthusiasm into next year's presidency as they put into their campaign, I think we should be looking forward to a very eventful year and a very proactive
co-presidency," he said.

Hanszen College sophomore Parisa Azamian, who finished second, said
preferential voting does not work in this kind of election and that a
run-off system would be more effective.

"They could just want a candidate, but they see seven choices on the ballot so they might vote for someone that they don't intend to and knock someone else out of the possibility of becoming the person elcted," she said.

Azamian also said she is not a fan of a co-presidency.

"I think that it kind of puts the other candidates at a disadvantage," she
said. "They do get potentially twice as many voters as compared to people who are just running on their own so I think maybe co-candidates should not be allowed."

Leggett said co-presidents can serve as an effective SA president if they
learn how to work as one.

"It's such a huge job and it's a matter if you find two people who work
well together, who play off each other and have the same goals and the same vision, then it's a benefit," he said. "If not, then it's not a benefit,
then of course it's better to have one person because it's a matter of

Will Rice College sophomore Scott Selinger, running with Martel College junior Hubert Gorniak, who finished in last place, said he ran for SA
president with the intention of proving that "nobody gives a shit about the
SA," and he was proven wrong.

"I guess the apathy is not what I thought it was," he said. "People are
taking an interest. They actually voted for other people, they watched the debate on RBT, they read those little blurbs, and they actually cared about the issues and voted on them."

Other SA positions

Four other SA executive positions were determined in the election.

Will Rice sophomore Derrick Matthews defeated Sid Richardson sophomore Narayan Mulukutla for SA internal vice president.

Sid Richardson sophomore Clare Johnson ran uncontested for SA external vice president.

"This year the SA worked a lot on improving the committee structure, and one of the main jobs of the external vice president is to oversee the
university standing committee representatives," Johnson said. "Because
we'll be keeping closer in touch with the committees, we'll be more up to
date about what's going on with parking, calendar changes and anything else that goes on within the committees."

Wiess junior Phyllis Huang defeated Will Rice sophomores C.W. McCullagh and Ashley Friggel for SA treasurer in a close election that required three rounds of voting.

Wiess sophomore Brenda Arredondo defeated Martel freshman Noorain Khan for SA secretary in another close election.

Arredondo said she plans to get the minutes out to as many people as
possible by sending them to the college listservs and having college
senators read them at cabinet.

Other organizations' top positions

Students also cast ballots for top positions in a number of organizations.

Wiess junior Mary-Margaret Miller beat Hanszen junior Karen Finkelstein for Rice Program Council president.

"My primary goal is to revise the committees and strengthen them," Miller said. "Right now we kind of have a system where committee heads do
everything and theoretically have a committee, but no one on the committee does anything, so we have a lot of wasted resources in the terms of manpower, so I'd like to try to utilize the people that are in the
organization by getting them into committees."

Baker junior Ethan Varela defeated Sid Richardson junior Joe Elias for RSVP internal vice-chair.

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