Candidates field questions at unilateral debate

Candidates field questions at unilateral debate

While the United States is in the midst of one of the most riveting presidential elections in recent memory, the Student Government Association’s (SGA) executive board election is garnering very little student attention. The lack of student participation with SGA was illustrated on Monday, the evening of Feb. 22, as the unopposed executive board candidates, running on ticket ‘Ignite,’ discussed their platforms in front of an audience made up mostly by SGA senators and very few unassociated students.

The low turnout of students was commented on by the candidate for VP of Internal Affairs, Jamie Hardin, saying, “As you can see, the majority of the people here today have been in senate, so there aren’t a lot of students here.”

One of the moderators, Jonathan Smith, who serves as the special assistant to President Pestello for diversity and community engagement, asked the presidential candidate, Kevin Lynch, to address the concerns about the lack of outreach from him and his ticket to the larger SLU community as the election looms ahead.

Lynch explained that his executive board’s lack of engagement with students thus far has been due to their status of running unopposed, saying he wanted those running for senate to have the ear of the student organizations at this time.

“Campaigning has been kind of awkward for us since we are unopposed. The senate races, some of them are very competitive,” said Lynch. “We do want to reach out with student groups after the election ends and we can hold open forums with student groups so that they can inform us of what they want us to do as the new E-board.”

Lynch’s current role as the VP of Academic Affairs affects his platform for president in that he says students should be at the center of the every decision made by SGA and the administration.

“I think this is something that SGA has struggled with internally,” said Lynch. He continued that his solution to ensure that the student voice be heard would be to work with Hardin to make sure that the senators felt empowered to speak with their constituents and relay those concerns to the association.

The rest of the candidates on the ticket detailed their platforms, which generally followed from the work that the respective members of the current executive board are doing now.

For instance, Lynch planned to piggyback off the current president, Jay Bryant, and his MetroLink pilot program and extending it so that all SLU students have access.

Hardin believed that his predecessor, Luella Loseille, has already lain down the foundation for organization by creating an internal affairs committee, although he did say one of his goals was to get senators excited for some of the topics that would be discussed in senate.

Additionally, Devon McDaniel, candidate for VP of Student Organizations, said she wants to continue the current VP Mike Degnan’s work of reevaluating SLU Groups and its value for students.

After describing their platforms, each candidate was asked three questions specific to their position. Some candidates had moments of uncertainty.

Specifically, Amanda Pekau, the candidate for VP of Diversity and Inclusion, spoke to the importance of bringing attention to funding and awareness for mental health. However, she was unable to go into detail on the OccupySLU movement.

In response to Smith, who asked about if and how well the Clock Tower Accords are being implemented at SLU, Pekau responded, saying, “I am aware of the Clock Tower Accords…but I can’t give you this detailed opinion of mine on [them] because I’m not completely educated as to what SLU has done for it yet but I definitely plan on doing that obviously before I take office.”

Similarly, Hardin was at a loss of what could be done when asked about how he plans to retain senators within the association. “I’m going to be completely honest, I wish I had the answers to getting the retention rate up. That’s tough,” said Hardin.

He thought one reason that senators might be skipping out on their SGA responsibilities, as well as not returning to serve for another term, might be that the senate meetings are longer than other group meetings that students have to attend.

Hardin explained that he would try to combat this issue, saying, “I think just implementing new things and seeing how that works. And then not being afraid to try new things, and if that doesn’t work then try something else.”

However, McDaniel and Ismar Sehovic, the candidate for VP of Finance, were well versed on how they will fund the student organizations during this financial crisis that the university is facing.

McDaniel and Sehovic were aware of their need to collaborate on these issues, as well as working with the student organizations, in order to determine the best way to use the money accumulated by the student activities fee.

“I think the biggest thing is listening to student organizations and their needs. Just sitting down with student organizations with those concerns and have realistic, honest and candid talks about what the organization needs versus what the organization wants and try to work with those organizations that don’t get enough funding for what they do need in order for them to grow that organization,” said McDaniel.

Sehovic added to McDaniel’s statement, saying, “The nature of the student activity fee is to reach the most amount of students as possible.”

But he hesitated before speaking on whether the two were in favor of raising the fee. Sehovic said that he was not sure if raising the student activities fee would be necessary.

“I feel like we have to go through the efficiency aspect and make sure that everybody’s using their money properly. If everybody just asked for money and we just gave it to them there would be a lot of money that would just go to waste.”

In the end, Lynch said that his ticket’s message of “Ignite” was meant to ignite an overall excitement and pride in the SLU student body.

Elections will be held on Monday, Feb. 29. Students can vote for the executive board, as well as for the senators in their respective colleges, by using their SLU Groups account.

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