The Newman Student Government Association (SGA) is an important component of campus. The members of the SGA represent the voices of all Newman students, advocating for their concerns and passing along their needs to faculty and administration.
An SGA 2017-2018 presidential and vice presidential debate was held in the Mabee Dining Center on Wednesday, April 12. The setting was convenient as it was during the lunch hour and allowed for an attentive audience.
Kristi Edwards, assistant professor of criminal justice, moderated the debate, asking preformulated questions along with questions that students asked using notecards as the debate was taking place.
This year's candidates are Vivian Hoang (President) with running mate Marisa-Nicole Zayat (Vice President) and Joel Sponsel (President) with running mate Christopher Luschen (Vice President).
The debate started with introductions and opening statements, then moved into the question and answer portion.
The platforms included diversity, progress, and service (Hoang/Zayat) and reducing student fees, giving the voice back to the students and empowering students (Sponsel/Luschen).
Sponsel explained to the students, "I think the biggest issue is student involvement, or students not feeling like they are able to be involved. One of the biggest ways that we can change that would be to post our senator hours, our SGA hours, when we're available to meet with students, so they can feel their voices are heard. So my office hours will be posted in a public place, so any student that has concerns, wants to voice their opinions, we can address that."
When asked what experiences she's had to prepare her to represent the student body, Hoang answered, "Currently I am president of Multi-Cultural Leadership Organization, as well as the president of the Newman Musical Arts Club and Vice President of the Chemistry Club (...) so I have to section out my time very well and focus and prioritize to accommodate for each of those groups as well as possible, and make those executive decisions. So that has helped me greatly in becoming a great leader, and it helps me find my way to lead people in different ways."
The students had an opportunity to ask their own questions such as, "How would you address the problem of SGA senators not attending meetings?" and, "What are your thoughts or ideas on improving the opportunity for students who live off campus to participate in on-campus events?"
Hibah Ullah, the current SGA president, attended the debates as a supporter. Ullah said the event is important because voters can hear more about the candidates' platforms and assess their public speaking abilities.
"This is the time they get to see who their potential candidates are, but also to hear their platforms," Ullah said. "It's very important to realize what each ticket is offering. Also, it helps people understand how the candidates will act in high-stress situations. That's what it is, being able to handle stress as it comes and trying to find an answer that works."
Dean of Students Levi Esses said that there haven't always been debates on campus. "This is the third year we are doing the debates. The major reason is to give exposure to the SGA election, but it's also to allow the candidates to talk about their platform," he said. "It gives exposure to SGA, which is important because the SGA is the strongest and most important group on campus, because they are the ones making the important decisions."
Online voting will be available to students on Thursday, April 13 from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. The winners will be revealed at an announcement party on Thursday, April 13 at 5:30 p.m. at Applebee's located at 320 S. Ridge Rd.