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The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

2024 Student Government, Inc. Executive Board Debate Recap

The STARS and ICON tickets spoke on the University’s most pressing issues.
Photo Courtesy / ICON and STARS Campaigns

Student Government, Inc. (SGi) at St. John’s University hosted the annual executive board debate on April 4 from 5-7 p.m. in Bent Hall. 

Both tickets —  ICON and STARS — began the evening with their opening statements and continued to debate on their platforms. 

Biggest Issues Facing SJU Students

When asked about the biggest issues facing students in the University community, both campaigns spoke about a stark difference between the commuter and resident student population. 

ICON presidential candidate Paul Gaylor hopes to solve this by hosting more on-campus activities on weekends, like alumni tailgates and Carnesecca takeovers for basketball away games. 

As the current SGi treasurer, Gaylor believes he’s helped make an impact on weekend programming, but knows it’s a process. “It’s a stepping stone, I’m not saying this year alone will be a drastic change.” 

The STARS ticket believes in fixing a “disconnect” between SGi and organizations. “There’s no communication between commuter students. We want everyone to feel in touch with our Johnny roots,” vice president candidate Mackenzie Rodriguez said. 

STARS would combat this by requiring organizations to attend SGi’s bi-weekly assembly meetings for “campus dialogue.”  

“When I’m there, it’s the same people speaking about the same issues,” Rodruigez continued. “We want different clubs there to tell their own issues.” 

Budget Initiatives

Both campaigns debated heavily on costly initiatives, including STARS plan to provide free Metro Cards for students. 

“For 60 students to get unlimited Metrocards, it would be $6,600. I know it’s a lot of money for them but we plan to reach out to other organizations to help,” Rodruigez said. Presidential candidate Catherine Pascal hopes to implement an application system based on financial need. 

Gaylor and ICON treasurer candidate Howin Lin believe these initiatives are “not viable.” 

“Executive boards before me have tried this, and this money comes out of Student Activities fees that come out of our tuition,” Gaylor said. “It’s not financially right to do that.” 

The ICON ticket also carries initiatives like Canva Premium and Door Dash+ for students. Lin wants to focus on “providing for students” and fostering a “family-oriented” environment. The money for these initiatives would come out of Student Activities fees. 

“Allocating the budget correctly on my behalf will put us out of any financial issues,” Lin continued. 

STARS treasurer Martone Olsavsky plans to revisit the budget pool to ensure the budget is “evenly spread out.” They also plan to implement gender-neutral bathrooms in buildings that don’t provide them— Bent Hall, Marillac Hall and the D’Angelo Center (DAC). Currently, the only gender neutral bathroom on campus is located in the LGBTQ+ Center in St. John’s Hall. 

“A men’s bathroom is a gender-neutral bathroom,” Pascal said. The ticket hopes to turn these already existing bathrooms into gender-neutral ones. 

Gaylor says that after speaking with University President Shanley, “buildings that don’t have gender-neutral bathrooms make it really expensive to build.” He mentioned that with new buildings, their implementation is feasible. 

Staten Island

With SJU’s Staten Island campus closing at the end of the academic year, many students will integrate into the Queens campus.

ICON plans on creating a Staten Island Committee to welcome, integrate and hear the concerns of those students. Gaylor says they’ve been in contact with the campus’ SGi to execute this process. 

Vice presidential candidate Daniel Sanchez hopes to hold luncheons and other events for Queens students to meet students transferring from Staten Island. 

STARS secretary candidate Michael Aruta also hopes to hold networking events to not only help Staten Island students and their organizations network, but also networking with other organizations on the Queens campus. 

“I don’t even know about all of the clubs we offer, and I’d love to know about them,” he said.

Both campaigns also spoke of the integration of Staten Island clubs and Fraternity and Sorority Life and feel confident in the merging of these organizations. 

“I see it as an opportunity to allow the club or organization to grow, but it brings in new ideas,” Aruta said.

“I think this would be a fairly easy transition,” Gaylor said. “I don’t think anyone who has a duplicate club will say ‘you have to make your own club.’ It’s just a matter of integration. It makes them even better.” 

Campus Safety

While the SJU campus is located in the heart of Queens, rising crime rates spark uneasiness in the student body. 

STARS hopes to provide Narcan vending machines across campus. These would prevent drug overdoses and would be located in the new St. Vincent Health Science Center. 

“This would save a lot of students’ lives,” Pascal said.

The ticket also hopes to require routine tests of the University’s Blue Light System—stations scattered around campus that, when pressed, signals the attention of Public Safety. 

“I don’t know how many people can confidently push that button and it will work right now,” Aruta said. He said he’s heard from students that the system has not worked in the past. 

Gaylor believes in his opinion, “St. John’s is pretty safe so far.” He highlights the University’s gated campus and only solution is to add more Public Safety routes at night. 

Increasing Representation for Marginalized Groups

The ICON ticket plans on increasing more leadership opportunities for underrepresented groups, and has done so through the newly created LGBTQ+ committee, chaired by Pascal. Gaylor plans on experimenting with new opportunities for these groups and holding more events. 

Pascal hopes to hold peer listening sessions with trained students to help others navigate their sexualities. She plans on working to highlight LGBTQ+ students and donating to related charities and holding clothing drives.

They also hope to implement more accessibility initiatives on campus, like the push plates for all doors and updating elevators. They hope to do this through the LiveSafe app, where students can report outages, according to Senior Programming Coordinator candidate Nadia Serrano. 

ICON acknowledged Public Safety’s willingness to drive students throughout campus if needed and solve problems regarding their understaffing. 

Voting commences from April 7-9 through an email link sent to SJU students. Election results will be announced on April 10 in the D’Angelo Center Coffeehouse.

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Olivia Seaman
Olivia Seaman, Editor-in-Chief

Olivia is a senior journalism student currently serving as The Torch’s Editor-in-Chief. She previously served as Managing Editor for two years. She's also written for amNewYork, Bronx Times and QNS. Outside of The Torch, she is a student ambassador and an undergraduate writing consultant at the University Writing Center. She loves to watch St. John's Basketball, exploring New York City and matcha lattes!

Olivia can be reached at [email protected]  
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    AmberApr 6, 2024 at 10:51 pm

    This is very biased towards STARS and ICON made many more valuable points that were not mentioned