SGA presidential debate takes center stage as race heats up, voting opens
Presidential candidates for the Slippery Rock University Student Government Association defended the campaign promises they’ve made over the previous weeks during a debate on Monday night.
Zach Hall, David Wolfe, David Matsuzak, and Alex Hiller fielded questions from Mike Madden, who served as the moderator for the SGA election committee, as well as from the public in attendance on topics widely talked about through each of their respective campaigns.
The candidates answered a series of questions from the moderator pertaining to shared goals each had previously campaigned, including campus parking, the SGA budget, the Happy Bus schedule, and the culture of SGA.
Among the debate of the parking system, the candidates weighed in on possible lottery systems and reduced parking for incoming freshman to help commuting students.
“We all know that parking is the constant issue that comes up on this campus,” Wolfe, who represents the T.O.G.A. party and advocates a need-based parking application for freshman, said. “The solution at this point is the same solution that Residence Life has to start offering because of their overcrowding as well, and that’s either create a lottery system for the people going for parking or limit the number of freshman for need going for parking.”
Hiller, representing Party Rock, said that the school has sufficient parking now but needs to focus on the future of a rapidly growing university. Hiller also gave the idea of a tiered parking system.
“The way that I see to address the problem now would to maybe do a tiered system for commuters where the further away you live you get a parking permit that allows you to park closer, and maybe reserve some of those parking permits for students who live closer and want to buy into that specific tier that allows you to park closer.”
The issue of funding for clubs and organizations was also high on the priorities list of all the candidates, with talks of a merit system replacing the seniority system currently in place for organization funding.
“There is definitely a huge concern with funding and there’re multiple reasons for this,” Hiller said. “We aren’t consistent in what we fund—in some situations we fund food, in others we don’t. We need to go back and look at the Co-Op rules and policies and determine whether we can fund food for every situation and if not give a specific reason why not. And as for the actual funding process, we need to go back and look at whether seniority is a good basis for the amount of funding you get, or whether a merit based process is better.”
Wolfe feels there is too much turnover amongst people making the money decisions from year-to-year in SGA, and stressed for a re-examination of the current rules in place.
“The students need to take a long look at the rules and policies of Co-Op and see are they in there because maybe one time ten years ago someone got screwed over with a money request and now there’s a rule in there making everything more difficult for everyone, or do these rules really need to be there,” Wolfe said.
Each of the candidates agree that the Happy Bus schedule should be fixed, with Hiller and Hall both requesting that the buses be on staggering times, while Wolfe wants to wait to do research over the first month of next year to collect qualitative and quantitative data to make a better schedule for the students’ needs.
Matuszak leaned more with Wolfe, saying that he wants to fix it while following the point of his campaign of bridging the gap between SGA and the student body.
“This can’t just be up to the senate, this can’t just be up to SGA—everyone has to be involved in this process,” Matuszak said.
The candidates also spoke about the culture of SGA and whether it was welcoming enough to the student body. Each of the candidates expressed concerns about better connecting with the student body through various means.
“I believe it’s a huge problem that students aren’t knowledgeable of what SGA does,” Hall said. “SGA members need to take the time to figure out ways of ‘how can I get students involved?’ and ‘how can I show them that we exist?’”
Candidates also answered specific questions regarding aspects of their individual campaigns. Party Rock’s pledge of a wet campus gained the most attention on the night, with questions from the moderator, various members of the audience, and even Wolfe at one point.
Hiller stood behind his campaign promise to begin a process to introduce a plan to permit alcohol on campus despite the numerous challenges to the agenda.
“I claimed I wanted to have a wet campus before I went to the students, but after talking to students, I’ve received an overwhelming majority of support from the students,” Hiller said about his controversial platform.
Wolfe defended T.O.G.A.’s stance that SGA is currently in the hands of faculty.
“We need the students to know the rules and understand the rules and why they’re in place,” Wolfe said. “And specifically we need to make sure my finance guy, Ben, is educated on why they’re in place and if they need changed he’s going to justify the reason they’re changed, and he’s going to show the faculty advisors at the Co-Op meetings why they’re going to be changed. It’s not going to be the other way around where faculty is telling the finance person why things are how they are.”
Matuszak emphasized a stronger relationship between SGA and Greek life on campus in order to give fraternities and sororities a better public perception during his campaigning, and reiterated his stance at the debate.
“The perception I think Greek life has now is people stereotype a fraternity or sorority based on things like ‘Animal House’—the kind of things like sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, where not much good comes out of it besides wild, crazy parties that you don’t even remember the next day. To fix that SGA needs to work directly with the executive boards of the fraternities and sororities on campus.”
Hall defended criticism of the Mario Party’s lackluster campaigning in comparison to Party Rock and T.O.G.A.’s efforts.
“I think as a party we may not be the best at campaigning or advertising our name out there,” Hall said. “But at the same time I believe we are well known as individuals as kind of grouped within a large amount of the student body, whether that be the athletics department or other organizations that we are involved with.”
Voting for the candidates is currently going on and runs until midnight March 30. Results of the election will be announced during common hour on April 3.