The parties are set, the campaign is full swing, and Slippery Rock University students are now able to begin voting on who they want to represent them on the Student Government Association (SGA). Presidential candidates Katie Hill and Maria Montaro squared off in debate Monday night, representing their parties and describing their visions for Slippery Rock and SGA. The debate was moderated by the current SGA President, Buddy Clements.
“Pride is contagious. People with pride have motivation, they take initiative and they achieve their goals,” Hill said in her opening statement on behalf of the P.R.I.D.E. party. She explained that P.R.I.D.E. stands for both Proudly Representing Individuals of Diverse Environments and Passionate about serving our school, Reaching out to all students and the community, Integrating new ideas, Determined to make a difference, and Empowering students.
Hill’s platform focused primarily on better ADA compliance, more extended hours for the library, the creation of convenient store and arcade in the Old University Union, Greek life housing and creating a more transparent SGA.
Montaro, representing the C.O.S.T.U.M.E. party also emphasized better ADA compliance and included a late night study room, food venue in Building F (similar to Flatz in Watson Hall), and better sustainability efforts. Admitting it’s a very long acronym, Montaro said C.O.S.T.U.M.E. is short for Collaborating and Organizing Students to Transform our University and Maximize our Education. “If we do not provide the time and space for collaboration, it will not occur,” Montaro said.
Clearly an important topic for both parties, ADA compliance was discussed on multiple occasions throughout the debate and ranged from special sections of the campus shuttle for seeing-eye dogs to heated sidewalks and everything in between.
Hill’s platform examined heated sidewalks and more automatic doors for ADA compliance.
“The CSIL does not have automatic doors which is really tough because that’s the place we want people to go to get involved and they can’t even access it without someone opening the door for them or us having to prop the doors open every day,” Hill said. “[More heated sidewalks] would not only help with ADA compliance but it would help all of us to stay on our feet.”
Montaro suggested bringing back some trays to Boozel Dining Hall, saying “we think that [trays at Boozel] should still be an option.” She explained that it is especially difficult for students with disabilities to transport their food without trays and would like to bring back some trays to the dining hall. She also suggested sectioning off a portion of the Happy Bus for seeing eye dogs and checking the status of the Braille in buildings.
“The Braille is so worn down that you can’t see it,” Montaro said.
Montaro mentioned looking to Edinboro University as a model for ADA compliance.
“I think it would improve our enrollment rate. People who have handicaps sometimes specifically go to Edinboro because they are so ADA compliant,” she said.
Declining enrollment is the biggest issue facing the university in the coming years, according to Montaro.
“Enrollment isn’t down because Slippery Rock isn’t a great university,” Montaro said. She attributed to decreasing enrollment in local high schools.
“A lot of people don’t know that Slippery Rock is the only PASSHE (Pa. State System of Higher Education) school with a nonprofit program and we never market it. I think we really need to work closely with Caitlin Bauer and Admissions to say all the great things that are going on at our university to market us,” she said.
“I think its SGA’s responsibility because the enrollment is going to affect their budgeting to work with admissions and find out how to really market the university.”
For Hill, the big challenge for the university is the budget. “I think that budgeting is going to be a very tough thing,” she said. “I think it’s an important thing that student government would be collaborating with the executives of Slippery Rock to really work together to kind of discuss how we can work together to reach goals so that we’re not in that debt in the coming years.”
Within SGA, both candidates would make budgeting meetings mandatory for clubs and organizations. Hill mentioned also making the budgeting form accessible by all executive board members of an organization. Montaro described a collaborative effort for budgets and events between similar groups.
“If we do not provide the time and space for collaboration, it will not occur,” she said, adding that she would like to have meetings for collaboration in addition to budgeting meetings. “I think by having that club and organization collaboration meeting we’re really fostering those relationships.”
Finally, the candidates described some of their ideas for new initiatives at Slippery Rock University.
Montaro plans to examine off campus recycling and outsourcing student compost at dining halls as a fertilizer to make money while Hill spoke about returning an arcade to the Old University Union along with a convenient store for students.
While around 35 students were present for the debate, more than the previous year according to Clements, he admitted feeling SGA was unprepared for election season in terms of making students aware of what was happening.
“I feel that I as a president, as an election commissioner, really dropped the ball,” Clements said. “We tried something new and it was more social media stuff that kind of got the word out and more word of mouth. I hate to say it, but it did not work that well.”
Part of the problem, according to Clements, is the SGA constitution. “It’s in our constitution to hold elections at this time of the year and we were so busy with other stuff going on so elections kind of came upon us very quickly,” he said. “If we could have had election week next week, we could have had a lot more prepared and ready, but we’ve just had so much with the issues of stipends, the restructuring and all that.” Clements said that the constitution is currently being looked at by the Parliamentarian to try to create a less restrictive timeline.
Voting for next year’s SGA senate began Thursday and will run until Monday at 4:00 p.m. Ballots can be cast online using CompassLink.