SGA executive board candidates participate in debate, take questions from audience


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Vice presidential candidate Lauren Hull speaks to the crowd, Moday March 21, in the UC Auditorium.

Three groups of candidates running for SGA's Executive Board competed in a presidential debate on March 21 in the University Center Auditorium.

The debate started with a moderated question portion. Then, the candidates accepted follow-up questions from virtual and in-person attendees.

President Rafael Garza and Vice President Lauren Hull

The first question asked about specific initiatives to strengthen the relationship between students and administration at Central Michigan University.

Garza and Hull said they want to reach out to administrators and encourage them to host office hours for open collaboration with students. 

"What I would like to see change about CMU, is where CMU officials are putting students first," Garza said. 

He spoke about fostering a community where students feel respected and can participate in town halls, forums and Board of Trustees meetings. Garza and Hull want to advocate for town hall meetings to be set during more accessible times for the community. 

They also want staff to feel comfortable speaking out about issues at CMU without fear of losing their jobs.

Another question asked the candidates to describe what they liked about the current executive board and what they would have done differently during the 2021-2022 school year. 

Hull commended the current executive board for their collaborative efforts with administration.

“But that’s only one half of the equation,” she continued. “I think it's missing that student component. What are students saying? What do students care about?”

Increasing communication from CMU to the student body is an important part of their campaign. Hull wants to get in touch with Registered Student Organization’s (RSO's) who don’t have SGA reps. She said there is a variety of opportunities for students of all different niches at CMU, but campus is still very fragmented. 

"Hopefully, as President and Vice President, we can start bridging those gaps and really make us a community again," Hull said.

Hull and Garza talked about work they have done in the past including presenting legislation for CMU to officially recognize Black History Month. They also authored legislation to change the night-time check in policy to make dorm access more safe and accessible, and previously achieved a gender-inclusive housing initiative. 

President Taylor Idema, Vice President Natalie Brant and Treasurer Mary Demirkol

When asked about strengthening the relationship between students and administration, Idema suggests initiating a weekly presidential press release.

“In SGA right now, when legislation is passed, it has no backing. Just because we pass a piece of legislation doesn’t mean it has to happen,” Idema said. 

She believes that a press release would help to hold administration accountable for following up on legislation and also help to inform the student body about the status of legislation after it is passed. 

Idema's solution for the communication issue between SGA and the student body is to implement two town hall meetings per semester: one where students can ask the SGA executive board questions and provide feedback, and another where President Davies could speak. 

Brant said the Idema ticket is focused on lowering the costs of parking services and tuition for a more affordable college experience.

During the open questions, one attendee asked about her specific plans to achieve this goal. Idema said she wants open communication with administration and students.

“This is something that we are committed to facing head-on, even if it just means taking it piece by piece,” she said. 

When it comes to diversity, Demirkol said they want to offer better job opportunities and health care benefits for international students. Brant said she wants to continue discussions with inclusion assistants so that SGA can better understand privilege and diversity.

President Nolan Kamoo and Vice President Stephanie Venn

The Kamoo ticket suggested a president's conference where SGA could collaborate with RSO presidents and vice presidents. Kamoo also wants SGA to elect a representative to attend Board of Trustees meetings to offer input on behalf of the student body.

Kamoo addressed SGA’s communication struggle, which seemed to be a common concern for all candidates at the debate. He and Venn believe that SGA can better network with students through social media. Venn also stated that SGA could do a better job welcoming new members and helping them adapt to the association. 

Kamoo said if he could change one thing about CMU, it would be increased communication from administration to the student body. 

“We deserve to know why decisions are being made,” he said.

In achieving diversity, Kamoo and Venn are working with underrepresented groups to discuss racial issues, sexual orientation and gender discrimination on campus. 

“I ​​think it's extremely hard to understand the situation without exactly having to go through it every single day,” Venn said. 

Kamoo said he wants to better improve diversity, equity and inclusion and amplify voices of underrepresented students.  

Venn also said CMU could be more open and honest about helping victims of sexual violence and hate against marginalized communities. 

“I don't think they are in the spotlight enough,” she said. “I don’t think the pathways are there for victims enough.”

If elected, Kamoo and Venn want SGA to offer more socially-based events. 

“Every meeting we will have two or three RSO’s come up, talk about their RSO, what they do, how they affect the university and issues that are happening so that we can better educate the population that we're choosing to serve,” Venn said. 

They also want to make internal audits more accessible and comprehensive so that the community can see and understand CMU's budget spending. 

Rebuttal

An audience member asked the candidates to say something nice about each of their opponents. Heartfelt camaraderie was shared by the room before the rebuttals. 

They were asked to explain how their ticket will enact the most change of the candidates.

Idema said her ticket is the only one with a treasurer position and has the most collective experience. Idema herself holds many leadership roles, represents three RSO’s at SGA and is the only candidate currently serving on the Executive Board. 

Idema's vice presidential candidate, Natalie Brant called on Kamoo and Venn to explain why legislation takes as long as it does to pass through SGA. 

"I'm gonna be upfront about it," Kamoo said. "It's a hard job, it's a lot of work and a lot of people don't see it. Our job is to put the best legislation possible on the floor."

Venn also criticized Idema's point that she is the only candidate running with a treasurer. As Demirkol is the only current candidate for the position, she will serve alongside the winning presidential candidates unless she receives no-confidence votes.

Garza and Hull said their long track record of writing legislation, meeting with university officials and doing advocacy work is what sets them apart from the rest of the candidates. 

“We have been in positions where we do not have the most power, yet we have gotten the most results done,” Garza said.

Students can vote for the next SGA executive board at Engage Central starting Monday, March 28 at 8 a.m. The poll will close at 5 p.m. on the following Friday.

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