SGA presidential candidates battle it out

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SGA presidential candidates battle it out

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Candidates for next year’s SGA executive board squared off at an open debate Monday evening, which focused on transparency, improving allocation of funds and amplifying the student voice in university-wide conversations.

A sparse crowd of roughly 60 students dotted the Anheuser-Busch Auditorium, most of whom came to support one of the four presidential candidates — a large number, considering that two of the past three student-body presidents have gone unopposed.

“It’s exciting that we have such a contested election this year. I’m interested to see how their platforms differ,” said Senior Public Health major Paulina Menichiello.

First to the stage was SGA Election Commissioner Luella Loseille who, barely visible behind the massive podium, strictly enforced time limits — candidates were given two minutes per question plus a one minute rebuttal — and pried into candidates with well-written questions from the election committee.

Junior Dan Carter, opened the debate by claiming that the most pressing issue facing the next president “is one that is not being discussed by virtually anyone,” the Magis Operational Excellence plan. Launched in February 2016, it is an institution-wide initiative designed to erase a multi-million dollar budget deficit and increase university revenue.

“It is going to have significant consequences for the Saint Louis University community,” said Carter. “There has been no student oversight over that issue.” Carter continually referred back to the plan, an issue with which other candidates seemed either unaware or unconcerned.

“I do think that students will have very little impact on the cuts that are going to be made, so I don’t actually think that will be the most pressing issue regarding next year’s presidency,” countered current Vice President of Internal Affairs Jay Hardin.

Sophomores Rita Passaglia and Dylan McCloskey agreed with each other that the biggest issues would revolve around the national political climate, the expression of beliefs and the pursuit of effective campus-wide discourse.

All four candidates believed that there were financial drawbacks to SLU designating itself as a sanctuary campus. “A sanctuary campus,” clarified Loseille “is any college or university in the United States that adopts policies to protect students who are undocumented immigrants.”

“It actually makes no financial sense to do so,” said Carter. “So no, I don’t think that we should, and I know that we won’t, because the administration won’t allow it.”

However, the candidates all held that SLU should continue to work to make sure that all of its students feel safe. “I think what’s more important than naming ourselves a sanctuary campus is acting like a sanctuary campus,” said Passaglia. “Our actions will speak louder than words.”

In their final thoughts, each of the candidates outlined the best improvement he or she hoped to make over the course of the presidency. Once again, Carter and Hardin were slightly at odds.

“It’s transparency, absolutely and 100 percent,” said Carter. Specifically, he would require organizations to turn in receipts and publicize their spending to erase any uncertainty over the allocation of the student activity fee. “We have nothing to hide,” Carter stressed.

Hardin disagreed, though only with the wording. “I don’t think it’s a problem of transparency; I think the issue is with the process itself,” he said.

Other suggested improvements included: increased collaboration between on-campus organizations, the implementation of carbon neutrality in residence halls, redistribution of SGA funding and the addition of a new dining option for Parks College.

The evening also included several shorter vice presidential debates: candidates for four of the six vice president positions, all running unopposed as a part of the EMPOWER SLU ticket, had the stages to themselves.

The two candidates for International Affairs echoed each other on nearly every point, stressing increased housing and employment options for international students, who currently make up about 7 percent of the SLU population.

Similarly, the candidates for Academic Affairs agreed that SLU students and administration must come together to design a more effective core curriculum. “We as a university community ought to work together to help. For example, biology students synthesize their studies with philosophy; aid English majors in better understand chemistry; give a future social worker the option to develop skills in music or painting,” wrote Sophomore Conor LoPiccolo.

In the end, this debate served more as a forum for superfluity than a rousing contest of ideas; the same ideas, in different words, resurfaced over and over again.  It may not be the diversity of opinions (or lack thereof) that engages student voters, but the diversity of personalities.

According to their bios, these candidates have on-campus support from Greek Life to RHA to the concert band. At a university with a measly 10 percent average voter turnout, having friends across campus could be the deciding factor, if not the only factor.

However, students like Menichiello are hopeful that a contested race will get students more excited about the political process.

“Each of these candidates appeals to a diverse group of students. I hope that their campaigns will encourage increased voter turnout and engage people who wouldn’t have voted otherwise,” said Menichiello.