This week, we heard Student Government Inc.’s executive board candidates for the 2017-2018 school year debate a number of topics at the annual SGI debate. Candidates discussed accountability, advocacy and increasing visibility, among other things.
But one thing the debate lacked was substance. It’s expected that in any type of debate, candidates might talk in circles or not directly answer a question–we saw it just a few months ago when Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton competed in the presidential debates.
For the most part, that’s what we saw from the candidates Monday. Many of them simply reiterated things that they mentioned in their applications, or in recent interviews with the Torch, rather than demonstrating how they’ll execute what they’re campaigning on.
It begs the question of what we want in our leaders within student government.
We heard from Frank Obermeyer, an SGI veteran and the current secretary for SGI, who is running unopposed for president. Of all the candidates, he provided the most clear answers, and even demonstrated why he deserves the position, drawing on initiatives he was part of in the past year, such as a student health initiative that the Torch reported on last semester. To us, he’s the definition of who a student leader should be.
We don’t want to tear down our fellow students who are running for the executive board–because many of them are very qualified. But we wish they had spoken in more detail while answering questions, so that students could get a clearer picture of what they’re going to do if elected.
The questions asked by the Torch’s editor-in-chief were broad, giving the candidates an opportunity to answer the question with confidence while making it their own to prove the strengths in their campaign and ideas.
What we fear now that the debate is finished is that St. John’s students will forget the proposed policies of the candidates and simply vote for the more well-known candidate. But this shouldn’t be a popularity contest. That is why it is imperative for candidates to answer as precisely as possible, so that voting is hopefully based off of the candidate they believe in, and not their friend, or fellow organization member.
SGI has a lot of responsibilities, and being on the e-board is an important job. Being a part of student government is not just an impressive title for a resume, it is a chance to represent the entire student body and implement change and policies to make St. John’s a better place, in all aspects, for students.
We wish there had been more substance in this year’s SGI debate about future plans, and less discussion about qualifications. We know that the candidates are qualified–but how are they going to use those qualifications to achieve their specific goals?
Without more precise responses, students can’t discern the answer.