Student Government Association (SGA) President Joseph Gearon hosted a debate last night among the candidates for 2018-19 SGA President in advance of the election to be held this Thursday.
The three candidates are Shelby Lewis, Mark Sirianno, and Jocelyn Lucero. All three are juniors currently serving as SGA Senators.
Lewis’s personal statement highlighted her experience as SGA’s sustainability liason and her work with Food Justice, a program that distributes “snack packs” to food-insecure students at Harrison Elementary School. She said that as President, she will continue to work with the Transy Environmental Action League (TEAL) and promote ongoing sustainability efforts on campus. Lewis said the theme of her campaign would be to interact with the administration to get things done, and she emphasized past accomplishments, including the installation of bottle-fillers at water fountains and the addition of several trash cans and recycling bins around campus.
Lewis is the first Greek-unaffiliated candidate for SGA President in four years, a fact she acknowledged in her opening remarks. She said this would make her able to represent a broader majority of the campus. She suggested that efforts toward change be executed via committees composed of faculty, staff, and students. She stated she would hold more open forums than SGA does now to better solicit student views.
Sirianno stated his campaign is focused on representing the will of the students to the administration. He cited SGA’s effectiveness reversing the administration’s controversial decision not to offer summer housing and said that as President, he will fight for students to have a voice in final decision-making, beyond the advisory role SGA largely operates in currently. As Senator, he said he has lobbied successfully for the placement of staplers beside every printer and made other proposals as well.
Sirianno acknowledged the need to improve ties between SGA and the broader campus and said he would do so by asking Senators to approach students in class to solicit their views. He stated SGA’s biggest failure in the past year was not standing up for students often enough. On the subject of better engagement with the community, Sirianno spoke largely of forming ties with local businesses to offer discounts to Transy students who buy their products. To carry out his plans, he said that as President he would use his biweekly meetings with President Carey to discuss the issues most important to students. (Regardless of officeholder, the SGA President meets with President Carey every two weeks.)
In her personal statement, Lucero said the issues most important to her are transparency, both for the administration and SGA, and creating a campus that is both inclusive and cohesive. She stated that SGA needs to do more to reach out to students not already involved in it by approaching individual students and “smaller” campus organizations. To this end, she stated that student involvement, within the campus and with the surrounding Lexington community, was the foremost theme of her campaign and proposed that the ethos of connection with Lexington present in First Engagements be made a part of campus life in upper-class years as well.
Lucero was the only candidate to explicitly discuss the recent controversy surrounding ongoing campus issues of diversity and inclusion, which emerged dramatically in a campus forum held on April 5. Lucero said she was present for the forum and acknowledged what she saw as a widespread feeling that nothing changes, and she said that she wants SGA to be a voice for change representative of the whole community’s interests and repeatedly stated her intention to approach students personally to solicit their views.
In general, the three candidates agreed on what issues deserve SGA’s attention and on many of the solutions proffered. One area of clear divergence was in how each candidate proposed to resolve conflicts between the interests of SGA and those of the administration. Lewis said she would work to “compromise,” Sirianno said he would “choose [his] battles,” and Lucero said she would stand up and fight for what she believes in, because otherwise the SGA President is just a “puppet.”
Around seventy audience members were present for the debate. Voting will be available on Thursday, April 12, and Friday, April 13, with dedicated stations set up in the Caf and the Raf. The polls close on April 13 at 5pm and results will be announced Monday, April 16 in TNotes.