pictureLast night, a sizable and enthusiastic crowd gathered in JJ’s Place to see the three parties running for 2010 Class Council debate (and eat free chicken fingers). While Mark Modesitt’s reconstituted Alma Matters [Remix] Party has the advantage of incumbency, the other two parties, AJ Pascua’s Go Party and Maximo Cubilette’s TOGA Party, seemed to possess far more energy – and focused that energy on ways to improve upon Modesitt’s policies.

There’s not a lot of original stuff you can say as a serious student council candidate – everyone hit on increasing aid to study abroad programs – but debates are the time to make as many promises as possible, and they did not disappoint. Modesitt’s ticket (dressed, inexplicably, in somber black) focused on “class cohesiveness” and proposed a class email highlighting the achievements of class members, while Cubilette’s party suggested further off-campus programming and dinners with constituents at local restaurants, and Pascua’s promised to move back the CC Add/Drop deadline and throw another Winter Wonderland-esque party (Go VP candidate Sue Yang claimed responsibility for the success of the first-year formal).

For probably the first time ever, each party had a green plank in their platform. Modesitt promised to focus on environmental concerns in a second term, going so far as to question other parties as to their plans to reduce Columbia’s “anthropogenic effects” on the environment. The sitting president recommended awareness – “turning off lights when you leave the room” – in his opening statement, which TOGA largely echoed, while the Go Party (dressed in green!) suggested campus-wide dorm room inspections over winter break to ensure windows were closed and appliances unplugged.

Having covered saving the planet, candidates moved on to social justice. An audience question about Manhattanville prompted Modesitt and Cubilette to side with Team Columbia. “The area needs a lot of development; there aren’t a lot of residents who actually live there, only about 400 residents,” said Cubilette, a New York resident. Go Party Representative candidate Claytoya Tugwell struck a tone of compromise: “We are totally against gentrification or bullying, but we do believe in Columbia expanding experience for Columbia students.”

Issues aside, Go and TOGA couldn’t resist swarming the ailing incumbent. Go Party charged Modesitt (the only member of Alma Matters currently on Class Council) – with failing to make good on his pledge to cooperate with 2010’s grandfather class to open up internships (he claimed he had followed the terms of his promise, which was to provide networking opportunities for 2010 class members). The TOGA Party asked Modesitt why he has not “implemented the changes that would fix the inefficiencies [he had] noted.” Modesitt claimed success on all ideas in his previous campaign’s platform.

Unlike the notably vocal Go party, Alma Matters [Remix] didn’t celebrate after any of their speaking opportunities. Still, there was no clear victor in the debate – two elections insiders were overheard whispering, “The parties are pretty evenly matched in terms of support.” Go Party and TOGA both seemed to come out ahead, but Modesitt has had experience pulling out surprise victories.