By Duane Paul Murphy, Jimmy Cassidy
Student Government Association (SGA) presidential and vice presidential candidates discussed university policies in a Thursday night debate ahead of the April 11th election day. The debate, which took place in the Pryzbyla Food Court, was hosted by The Tower, and moderated by its current Editor-in-Chief, senior Jimmy Cassidy.
The two tickets involved were “Representing Catholic You”, made up of junior economics major Jimmy Harrington and sophomore philosophy pre-law major Weston Kirby, and “Smith-Maser ‘18”, composed of junior accounting majors Justin Smith and Abby Maser.
The debate began with the vice presidential portion of questions. VP candidates Kirby and Maser explained their qualifications for and excitement about the opportunity to serve the student body in this position. They also answered questions regarding the main role of the VP
being the President of the SGA Senate.
Maser emphasized the value in having a fresh, outside perspective of SGA without any previous experience in it, highlighting that the SGA’s efforts should all be “student-driven.”
“We think there should only be one requirement for serving in SGA — being a student,” Maser said.
Both Maser and Kirby agreed in saying the SGA needs to improve its transparency and better promote its legislation for students. Kirby harped on his ticket’s years of previous experience in SGA as one of the campaign’s biggest strengths.
The second portion of the debate brought the presidential candidates to the podiums. Harrington and Smith were asked about issues including the role of SGA, the rising university tuition, and the Academic Renewal proposal. In his opening remarks, Smith noted that SGA should be more focused on providing as much support and services to student organizations, so that the university community will, in turn, improve. Harrington brought up his previous dealings with SGA legislation in his emphasis of SGA’s chief role of advocacy.
“We do great events, but at the end of the day, SGA is your opportunity to speak to the administration,” Harrington said.
When asked about tuition increases, both candidates agreed that SGA cannot stop rising tuition each year, but small changes can be suggested to lessen the burden on students. Harrington brought up an idea to advocate for a cap on room and board costs, while Smith pointed to organizations like the Alumni Association and Student Philanthropy Council as fundraising groups that could help defer costs and help students pay for their education.
When asked by Cassidy about the Academic Renewal proposal to merge a few departments like Media and Communication Studies and the Music School into one new School of Music, Visual, and Performing Arts, Harrington supported the new school idea as long as the media department is not included, and Smith highlighted the help SGA can provide in getting more student input into these proposals.
Once questions from the moderator were done, students in attendance were given an opportunity to ask the candidates questions. Junior politics major Katie Hodgdon voiced concerns about the expenses and inconveniences associated with parking on campus. Harrington proposed a system where prices are clarified for each spot, and Smith wanted more affordable underground parking in order to reduce the amount of cars and congestion aboveground on campus.
Some students came to the debate knowing who they’d be supporting, and others came to learn about the candidates’ stances on university policies.
“I think the debate went really well,” said Elizabeth Erickson, a sophomore double history and philosophy pre-law major. “I definitely learned about what each side thought and I look forward to doing more research into both campaigns so I can make an appropriate decision come next Wednesday.”
“One candidate on the stage had a clear list of policy proposals and ideas for when they take office, while the other didn’t,” said junior Aaron Mackisey, who serves as an SGA senator. “Jimmy and Weston came here tonight ready to talk about their ideas on how to improve Catholic and successfully advocate for students.”
“Justin and Abby are the alternative,” said junior Hayley Johnson. “For students like me, I didn’t know what SGA did, I just found out we had a student government last year. So I think getting a student voice that is not in SGA is significant.”
The SGA Elections will take place next Wednesday, April 11th, with voting on the Nest or in the Pryzbyla Center from 9 AM – 9 PM.
The entire student debate is available on The Tower’s Facebook page — https://www.facebook.com/cutower/
Reporter Liz Friden contributed to this story