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Claybrook, McNutt seek to distinguish themselves in final debate

Published: Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 21:07

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Matthew Wong — THE BATTALION

Thomas McNutt speaks as John Claybrook listens Wednesday at the George Bush Presidential Library Auditorium.

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Matthew Wong — THE BATTALION

John Claybrook and Thomas McNutt prepare to answer a question during the runoff election debate Wendesday night at the George Bush Library. Claybrook and McNutt touched on hot topics such as the move to the Southeastern Conference and outsourcing non-academic services.

Although Tuesday night played a significant part in the student body president election, the final debate Wednesday between John Claybrook and Thomas McNutt was a reminder that the final results are yet to be determined.

Students gathered at the George Bush Library to find two empty chairs on a dimly lit stage. The debate, scheduled to start at 7 p.m., was pushed to 7:15 p.m. due to McNutt's participation in a special session of the Student Senate. Claybrook arrived first, gathered his notes quietly, until McNutt entered with the entourage that is his campaign team.

The first question addressed Aggie values and how both candidates have exhibited those values through their campaigns. Claybrook opened the debate with a joking response when he commented that the moderator was dressed like him. However he quickly set the serious tone the debate would follow.

"We have respected the opinions of others, respected the idea that people are different. We have done a fantastic job of collaborating with all kinds of different groups across campus," Claybrook said. "This has been the main focus on everything we've done. That is what has gotten us to where we are right now."

McNutt began his response explaining his tardiness, and how his participation in the special session of the Student Senate, where he discussed whether or not certain services should be outsourced to private companies, exhibited some of the values of his campaign.

"This is possibly the biggest student services change in over two decades at Texas A&M, so I needed to be there and talk with Chancellor Sharp and represent our values. And I think that's a good example of exactly what we have done when it comes to the Aggie values — selfless service," McNutt said.  

The candidates also discussed the move to the Southeastern Conference and the challenges the move poses for A&M.  McNutt stressed the move will benefit A&M because of the similarities between the University and the SEC.

"I think it's a great fit to go to one of the [oldest] and established conferences in the country, when we are an established university; one of the most tradition rich conferences in the country when we are a tradition rich university; arguably the best athletic conference in the country, and we strive to be the best in that area," McNutt said.

Claybrook said he doesn't want A&M to change because of the move, and maintain the traditions and standards that separates the University from other schools.

"It's my hope, as student body president, that we will align as student leaders, align as a student body and say we want to continue to be Texas A&M," Claybrook said. "We must stick to those traditions. The student body president plays an incredible role in this in the upcoming year. It's my promise to make sure we continue to be who we are."

A question forced the candidates to address if outsourcing certain services would be a positive or negative change for the University. Claybrook defended the students' involvement in the administration's decisions.

"We wouldn't have as much of a say as students and what's going on with student services. This University is one that is students-first. We want to make sure that we maintain that level of accountability with administrators, we want to have a voice in everything that happens," Claybrook said. "We want to make sure the cost is low, it's affordable and that we make sure the jobs and benefits for our staff at this University are not hurt in anyway."

Looking at Claybrook, McNutt responded that there have been some discrepancies surrounding this issue. He assured the workers would be taken care of, but said that he is in favor of whatever ultimately benefits the students.

"This will not sacrifice the campus workers, the people that are serving us. If it delivers a better product to the students at a better cost then I support it," McNutt said. "We all know that the private sector encourages competition, it brings efficiency that can't be seen in other realms. If we get a better service at a better price for the students, and the workers are taken care of, I support it 100 percent."

Students in attendance included supporters for both candidates. Luke Williamson, freshman business major and McNutt supporter, said McNutt conveyed who he was and what the campaign had been striving for.

"I think his passion came across very clearly, especially in regards when he presented tangible ideas, and I think he presented his ideas in a way that wasn't taking Claybrook down at all, but rather building up the students," Williamson said.

Peter Rozanski, freshman civil engineering major and Claybrook supporter, said Claybrook represented who he was and stayed true to his campaign.

"I think he was very true to himself and spoke on his convictions, was very practical and did not shy away from any questions," Rozanski said. "He stuck to whatever plan he had beforehand that he and his campaign had outlined, and I think he did a very good job of that."

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