Candidates vying for the position of SA president and vice president presented their stances and values in a debate held by SA on Monday evening.
Moderated by Dean of Students Matthew Burns, the debate featured three competing tickets for president and vice president, respectively: current SA vice president junior Jamal Holtz and junior Anne Marie Cortes, junior Genessis Galindo and sophomore Lionel Kirenga, and juniors Vlad Cazacu and Kamel Awayda.
The event began with each ticket describing their goals.
Galindo spoke of improving mental health resources and Kirenga talked about accessibility, particularly in Wilson Commons, where they hope to have a lift installed on the second floor. Galindo said that their proposal to increase Hillside hours during short breaks has already been accepted by Dining Services, and will be in effect next year. The hours will be 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. next Spring Break, according to Galindo. (This past Spring Break, Galindo said, Hillside operated from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.)
Cazacu said he wanted to change the “culture” of SA from a “more reactive to a more proactive approach.” Cazacu said his and Awayda’s goals were to establish an SA hackathon and to improve publicity for the International Student Affairs Committee, to ensure that international students are “getting the resources they need, and also they’re aware of the resources they can get.” He also listed establishing a Presidential Advisory Council for around six to eight non-SA students to better inform SA decisions.
Holtz criticized Cazacu and Kamel’s Council proposal, pointing out that he and Cortes also propose a Presidential Advisory Council, “not of seven, but of 20.”
“Currently we have a senate that holds about 20 people, and I don’t think seven people can achieve the representation that Student Government needs and deserves,” Holtz said. He also spoke about his and Cortes’ proposals to give MERT an ambulance and hold monthly town hall meetings. Both Holtz and Kirenga voiced support for putting a student representative on the board of trustees, with Holtz specifying that such a representative would need a vote.
All of the candidates have had SA experience, except for Cazacu. Cortes is an executive cabinet member, Galindo is on the Administration and Review Committee, Kirenga is on the Student Association Appropriation Committee, and Awayda spent two years as a senator.
Holtz and Cortes emphasized their experience in their opening statements. Holtz listed SA achievements, like implementing the Safe Ride Home program and giving all undergrads 100 pages of free printing next semester. “We’re running on the basis of continuity,” Cortes added, then speaking about her own aptitude for listening to students, giving the example of her work on the all-gender bathrooms initiative.
Listening skills came up several times in the debate. When Burns asked the presidential candidates to discuss the skills they would bring to the office, Cazacu spoke about the disparity in experience, saying that his aptitude for “listening” and “empathy” makes up for what he lacks in SA experience.
“I want to be aware that I am not as smart as I think I am,” Cazacu said, adding that his decisions would be informed by “surrounding [him]self” with people from “groups” and “issues” that he is less familiar with.
Holtz also touched on the importance of active listening, citing his work on the task force for the Gender Waiver Working Group and position of co-chair on the ad hoc Public Safety Proposal Advisory Committee. (Holtz added that he does not support the current DPS proposal.)
As for the skills she’s bringing, Galindo spoke of an ability to “step away” from biases and “look at what the needs on campus are,” and of “being able to voice student opinions.”
“There’s a lot of marginalized groups that do not have a way to […] have their voices heard,” Galindo later added.
Burns’ final question concerned the candidates’ favorite campus animal: “Quad Fox, groundboi, or Albino Squirrel?” The yellowjacket was never mentioned.
Voting for SA president and vice president will be from 10 a.m. on Thursday, April 11 to 10 p.m. on Friday, April 12.