The SGA presidential debate Monday night further established the two candidates’ separate positions as students heard the two tickets at length for the first time.
Both candidates criticized the other’s approach to the presidency. Center Line graduate student Jonathan Schuler is running without a platform and said it was his job to emphasize student wants and not his own.
“We’re not here to promote just one group, one center, one platform item,” Schuler said. “We don’t have platform items, because we don’t want to push them on you.”
Saginaw junior Marie Reimers, who is running on a specific platform, said not having a platform is an inefficient approach.
“I don’t think having projects and serving students are two different things,” Reimers said. “SGA electorates have to do both. It is our job to do both.”
The debate took place in Anspach 161 Monday night, in front of the SGA general board. In contrast to previous elections, where the two events were held separately, the vice president and presidential debates were both held Monday night.
Reimer’s running mate, Crosswell senior Patrick O’Connor, and Schuler’s running mate, Westland graduate assistant Darby Hollis, debated first before the presidential candidates took the stage.
Reimers said her ticket’s platform and extensive experience within SGA clearly made her the one better suited for office. Her platform involves several goals, though Reimers has said multiple times that her most important goal is the establishment of a Women and Gender Center.
She is also enforcing multiple environmental policies, including the formation of a bike-sharing program and strongly encouraging the university to stop their support of companies with policies detrimental to the environment.
“If you’re in the position of SGA president, you have a little more power to work on these projects,” Reimers said.
Schuler questioned whether these goals were truly in line with student wants.
“I don’t know if they want a bike sharing program; maybe there’s something more important to students,” Schuler said. “What about lowering tuition rates? That might serve the student body better.”
Schuler said his focus when getting into the presidential office is to talk to as many people and groups as possible so he can clearly understand students’ needs. He also plans to increase SGA surveys toward the student body so SGA can continually stay connected with students.
Reimers said her ticket won’t wait until their first day in office to begin accomplishing tasks. With 30 meetings with different organizations in the next three weeks and the majority of their platform coming from student surveys, Reimers said her ticket will already have a clear grasp on student opinions before the election.
“When Patrick and I get into office, we can start working on day one,” Reimers said. “We don’t have to wait for student results; we have student results. That’s important.”
Yet, Schuler said his platform is about more than just representing student opinions, it is about changing the SGA culture as a whole.
“My biggest criticism of SGA is that there isn’t always a diversity of opinion,” Schuler said. “It’s an exclusive few. I don’t think the opinions they have represent the student population as a whole.”
It was this distinction, Schuler said, that made the SGA inefficient in the past, allowing it to either fall in line with the university outright, or cause an adversarial relationship with the university when pushing its own projects, both of which are detrimental to the student body. It was the distinction between who the SGA represents and the student body that separated the tickets, Schuler said.
Schuler said his administration would make neither of these errors.
“Darby and I are representative of the student body as a whole,” Schuler said. “(Reimers and O’Connor) are more representative of the SGA itself.”
“Many of you are not going to like what I’m saying,” Schuler said to the audience in the debate, which was predominately involved in SGA.
The prediction held true, as many of the audience members sided with Reimers’ ticket.
“I think that Marie and Patrick are a lot more qualified,” SGA Parliamentarian Chelsea Green said.
Green said she didn’t believe Schuler’s lack of platform was acceptable for an SGA presidential candidate.
“I think that’s the lazy way to do it,” the Cass City junior said. “That’s an answer for someone who hasn’t thought things through.”
Jason Robertson, who is on the SGA Governmental Affairs Committee, disagreed with Schuler with his stance on SGA’s culture.
“I think the SGA is very open. Anyone can come in here; it doesn’t matter who you are, you can show up in person,” the Mount Pleasant senior said. “A lot of people are just apathetic … it’s not a question of the SGA excluding people, it’s that people aren’t willing to be involved.”