Thursday afternoon, the candidates for the upcoming Student Government Inc. executive board election will face off in a common hour debate. Students will have the opportunity to ask the candidates questions about their platforms and goals; but before that happens, the Torch sat down with each ticket, SEED and PLUG, as well as the independent sophomore senator candidate Hannah Sesay to discuss their positions on a number of campus issues, including communication between SGI/faculty and administration and the student body, aiding student organizations better, and incorporating more initiatives related to diversity and inclusion. Here’s what they said:
Diversity and Inclusion
One major aspect of the PLUG ticket platform that aims to incorporate the theme of diversity and inclusion within the university is to advocate for the addition of two non-voting members of the student body to the board of trustees. This would include the SGI president, and a member of a marginalized community on campus. “Given recent events that have happened on campus, it is clear that the students do see that, unfortunately, at some point there is a cap on…your access to power on campus,” Atem Tazi, the presidential candidate for PLUG, said. She believes that adding two non-voting members of the student body to the board of trustees could change the way decisions regarding the student body are made when students are actually in the room. Carley Germain, the sophomore senator candidate for the SEED ticket said she wants to focus on bringing more diversity to SGI, while Alissa Santolo, the vice-presidential candidate for SEED, said they would like to ensure that SJU continues some of the initiatives it’s already working on, like bringing in more diverse hires.” “We’ve seen [diversity and inclusion are] such an important push from students,” Santolo said.
Sesay said one way she hopes to incorporate diversity and inclusivity into her role is by implementing more educational events on campus, as well as working with administrators to better inform the student body on what’s being done to address their concerns regarding diversity.
Sesay pointed to advertisement for events as a major issue student organizations run into, and said it’s one she’d like resolve through initiatives like a Twitter feed within the SJU app for cell phones that shows a listing of different events happening on campus. Torrent Cannon, the SEED candidate for treasurer, said one of his goals is to help students see where the SGI budget goes, and how it benefits them. “And thus encourage them to approach SGI with their voices and ideas so that the executive board can more effectively give support to said students, whatever their propensity for ‘leadership’ might be,” Cannon said. Additionally, the ticket said it would work to implement things like programming, fundraising and recruitment packets to better aid student leaders. “The programming packet would definitely be something beneficial to people like…a smaller org, that’s big on membership, but not big on programming, I think something like that would benefit them,” Roderick Jackson, the presidential candidate for SEED, said.
Meanwhile, Christopher Stephens, the vice-presidential candidate for the PLUG ticket, spoke extensively about reworking the way executive boards transition each year. To do this, he said he’s working to develop classes for newly-elected eboards to take, “that way they can hit the ground running rather than coming in for a semester, trying to learn everything and kind of reinventing the wheel all over again,” he said.
Communication and Transparency
Ensuring improved relationships among students, faculty and administrators is a major theme among the candidates’ platforms. Sesay said encouraging faculty and administrators to meet with SGI to discuss what they’re working on in regard to student concerns. “That will really connect the student body with them, and it’s not just two separate things,” she said. She added that town hall events with SGI from time to time is one way she’d attempt to better inform students of what the group is working on.
Meanwhile, the SEED ticket said one of its specific ideas to improve relationships would be through a bonding program that would allow faculty and students to get to know each other on a more personal level. “One of the reasons why I came to St. John’s was because of the sense of community, and after spending two years here, I believe that we could definitely help to improve the community and relations between each other,” Stefanie Bassaragh, SEED’s secretarial candidate, said.
The PLUG ticket said one of its goals is to institute a university-wide address to the student body each semester to update them on what’s going on at SGI. Additionally, the ticket spoke about ideas that would enrich the relationship between SGI and the student body, including a common hour session for students to come speak to the executive board about their concerns.
“I think that just letting people know that I’m one of you and you’re one of me…That’s what I want to do,” junior senator candidate Johnny Wiley said.