Between polite jabs at their opponents and subtle self-promotion, candidates seeking positions in the Student Association executive detailed their designs on how to improve the University and defended their records at the third annual Hatchet-SA Debate Monday night.
The pool of 10 candidates – seven seeking the presidential seat and three vying for the executive vice presidential spot – criticized the lack of progress by SA President Vishal Aswani’s administration as some were forced to defend the roles they played in what many students call a failed year.
When asked how they would have spent the $50,000 used for the Unity Ball differently, presidential candidates engaged in a heated debate over whether the three candidates currently serving in the SA – junior Kyle Boyer and sophomores Julie Bindelglass and Nick Polk – did enough to curtail the spending for the event.
“Where was Kyle Boyer when this $50,000 Unity Ball was discussed?” asked presidential candidate Jordan Phillips, a sophomore. “I don’t think he stood up to it. He let it pass and let $50,000 disappear into an event that was mismanaged.”
Boyer, the executive vice president, said he was unaware the Unity Ball was taking place until he found a flyer advertising the event in his mailbox, but he added that he would not have been able to stop Aswani anyway.
“If the president wants to do something, he can,” Boyer said.
Candidates recognized that conflict in this year’s administration was rooted in communication problems between the president and the EVP, who leads the senate. Hopefuls for both positions discussed the importance of better cooperation between these offices.
“[The EVP] is more than just the senate chair. It’s not the senate and the executive. This is not two SAs,” said EVP candidate Jason Lifton, a sophomore.
Bindelglass said her platform focuses on communication.
“We need to make it easier for students to have their voice heard,” Bindelglass said. “I want to show students, ‘Look, we’re here, you’re involved in this, come talk to us.’ “
Several questions came from student group leaders on campus via video, including the College Democrats, College Republicans, Allied in Pride and Colonial Brass, who asked questions largely specific to their group’s interests.
But candidates also discussed ways they would work to improve the University overall.
Aside from his sustainability goals, Phillips said he would work to create a central campus calendar to improve communication, but Boyer said the University already has this plan in the works, adding that the SA lobbied the University on that issue this year.
Dining issues also took center stage throughout the evening.
Presidential candidate Sammy Lopez, a junior, mentioned numerous times that he would lobby to get microwaves placed in buildings around campus to help students save money if they have to eat on the go.
Junior Justin Hollimon, a presidential candidate, said he would advocate for healthier options at J Street while junior George Brunner, a transfer student running for president, said he would lobby for better dining – though he did not elaborate on the issue.
Though most of the candidates appeared to take the debate seriously, EVP candidate Arthur Goodland, a junior, looked for laughs from the audience. When responding to a question about how he would be a different EVP from Kyle Boyer, Goodland suggested that he would get rid of the Student Association bylaws.