The five executive board candidates for next year’s SGA had their first opportunity to speak about their platform and plans for the future at Tuesday’s townhall hosted by The Rocket and WSRU-TV, moderated by Adam Zook, news editor of The Rocket, and Haley Potter, anchor for WSRU-TV’s “SGA Update.”
Nicole Dunlop, a sophomore homeland security major, is the sole presidential candidate and the only returning executive board member. The other candidates for vice presidents are Khalil Harper, a junior computing information technology major, for student and academic affairs; Kaitlyn Hazelett, a junior accounting major, for finance; Mia Graziani, a freshman psychology major, for internal affairs; and Kemoni Farmer, a junior psychology major, for outreach.
Harper and Farmer have not previously held any position on SGA’s executive board or senate. Dunlop said this will benefit the E-board as conversations about restructures within the senate and E-board continue.
“I think they will bring a good, fresh perspective into SGA, especially since we are looking at restructuring the E-board,” Dunlop said. “They will come in with that new perspective and will be able to look at it from a different perspective.”
Once elected as vice president of finance, Hazelett will be responsible for the biggest SGA budget to date of $2.5 million. Hazelett said her experience serving two years on the finance committee and as co-chair of the committee this year prepared her for this role.
“I am happy with how we allocated [next year’s budget],” Hazelett said. “I think it was very fair. There were no budgets that actually got cut, so I think that was great budgeting.”
Graziani served on the internal affairs committee this year under Vice President Dunlop and is seeking to lead that committee next year.
“I really do enjoy being able to work so closely with her,” Graziani said. “I’ve been able to learn a lot from her, even though just having come in last October as a freshman senator.”
Outreach is a priority of the candidates, as there are 13 vacant resident and commuter senator positions after the initial petition packet deadline and one unfulfilled executive board position. Donovan Ford, the only candidate for vice president of diversity and inclusion, dropped out of the race Monday night, leaving the ballot for that position empty.
Harper said that the position of vice president of diversity and inclusion, although only in its second year, is essential within SGA.
“The qualities we’re looking for are a willingness to take action, a willingness to promote and address diversity issues on campus and someone who’s willing to take the step forward in order to make these issues more known to our campus,” Harper said.
Dunlop added that voters can write in any student they believe is fit for the vice president of diversity and inclusion and remaining senator positions.
The candidates also discussed inclusivity in light of the discovery of a vandalized Black History Month poster in Rhoads Hall. Farmer, wh0 was one of the students who advocated for a “blackout” the day after the poster was reported, said that he appreciated that the community addressed concerns in a townhall hosted by SRU President William Behre and called for more connections between students and administration.
“I think bridging that gap between students on campus and the administrators…I feel like that’s something we need to focus on to ensure that every student on campus feels welcome,” Farmer said.
The candidates also discussed a recent controversy within SGA elections. The elections commissions determined that Elaine O’Rourke, a commuter senator, was ineligible to run for president after she submitted a modified vice president packet as a presidential candidate.
Both Graziani and Hazelett voted against reconsidering O’Rourke’s eligibility at Monday night’s formal meeting.
“I felt like if somebody asked what position she was running for, she most likely said vice president of internal affairs, and I feel like that’s misleading to anyone who signed her petition packet,” Graziani said.
Voting closes on CORE on April 10 at noon. The announcement of election winners for SGA’s executive board and senate will be April 11 during common hour. The announcement will be livestreamed on The Rocket’s Facebook page.