The Student Government Association Executive Board Debate between the commUNITY ticket and the Back to Business ticket took place in the Kelly Auditorium on Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 8:30 p.m.
The debate began with opening statements by the presidential candidates. Nate Klosterman of Back to Business stated his plans of uniting faculty and students, more student representation, diversifying the Saint Louis University community and taking further action against bias and hate crimes.
Vidur Sharma of the commUNITY ticket discussed his plans for academic advising, the chartered student organization financial handbook, the chartering process, meal plan options and housing issues. He emphasized how as a team, SGA must strive to strengthen campus.
The first question addressed the meaning of shared governance and how SGA could positively contribute to it.
Klosterman responded first by addressing plans to restructure relationships between faculty, students and the administration. He stressed the importance of maintaining an equal say at the “table” with administration and faculty.
“We need to work on getting ourselves back in those discussions,” Klosterman said.
Sharma responded by addressing the key components of decision-making at SLU, including the staff, faculty, students and administration. Sharma wants to make sure that input that is offered by the student body and SGA to the administration will actually be considered.
The next question discussed the changes each candidate planned to make that will directly impact SLU.
Sharma responded that he would address day-to-day needs. He stressed the importance of on-campus housing.
“It is more than a place to sleep,” Sharma said. “Housing is a place to build community.”
Sharma also plans to work on diversifying the meal plan options.
Klosterman agreed with Sharma that housing is an area that needs some improvement. He said he wants to continue to develop programs for disability services and continue to serve as the student voice at the University.
The first question for the vice president for internal affairs candidates, Becky Killian of Back to Business and Jay Bryant of commUNITY addressed the problem of senator retention and what the candidates’ senator recruitment plan entailed.
Killian responded with a plan to initiate a mentorship program for new senators, as well methods to put a positive spin on being a member of SGA in an effort to recruit more members.
Bryant suggested plans to provide hand-written thank you notes to senators showing excellent work.
“We need to keep them motivated,” Bryant said.
He believes that showing senators support will boost the retention rate. He also plans to promote SGA through word of mouth and with outside events.
VP of Diversity and Social Justice candidates, Amelia Romo of commUNITY and Nat Conner of Back to Business, were asked where they see SLU ranking in terms of diversity.
Romo replied that her experience as a member of Diversity Leadership Cabinet has taught her that diversity is not only ethnicity.
“We are very diverse,” Romo said. She also acknowledged the importance of reclaiming the word ‘diversity’ as a university and plans to initiate efforts to make DLC a more approachable group.
Connor didn’t have a specific rank either. However, he stressed the importance of recognizing someone for all their identities.
VP for International Affairs candidates Zeyu Haung of Back to Business and Garvaundo Hamilton of commUNITY responded to the question of what campus resources had been critical to their success in transitioning to SLU as international students.
Haung responded with his critique of current campus food. He did not think that the food around campus accommodates international students and plans to provide surveys in the dining halls. Haung also proposed an idea to provide food from international regions. In addition he mentioned his plan to collaborate with Department of Public Safety and Security Services to provide a walking escort service for international students.
Hamilton proposed a plan to overcome language barriers and cultural differences by installing a program where students who are interested in language and culture can work with international students.
The VP for Student Organizations candidates, Phoebe Heibeck of commUNITY and Josh Ferrante of Back to Business, were asked what they thought a major issue was for CSOs on campus.
Ferrante acknowledged the lack of communication between CSOs and students and illustrated his plans to fix that problem.
Heibeck stressed her passion about student involvement and her plans to provide more opportunities for CSOs to attend to provide a cohesive calendar of events across campus.
Academic VP candidates, Andrew McLaughlin of Back to Business and Ann Knezetic, were then asked if there should be a university-wide undergraduate core curriculum.
McLaughlin responded that he reached out to Ellen Harshman, interim Vice President of Academic Affairs, on the issue and does not think a core curriculum would be possible within the next year, but would be a good project over the next three to five years.
Knezetic believes that transitions between schools within the University would be easier with an installment of a core curriculum. She wants to maintain the voice of the student body and not impose anything they do not want.
Candidates for VP of Finance candidates, Perry Draper of commUNITY and Ian Paetow of Back to Business, were asked if they thought there were enough resources available to support all the CSOs.
Draper acknowledged that SGA needs to allocate money responsibly in order to provide for CSO groups.
Paetow said it is necessary to have resources to ensure more efficient and important events happen.
The debates concluded the closing statements of both presidential candidates. SLU students can cast their vote for either commUNITY or Back to Business on Feb. 26.