SGA candidates debate, share stances on student issues

March 07, 2017

Jasmine Nelson

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     Students gathered on a Wednesday evening to hear what their peers had to say about the future of UCCS.

     On March 1, around 100 students gathered in the Student Life and Leadership office for free pizza, and to listen to candidates debate and share what they would do for UCCS if elected into their potential roles.

     The Student Government Association candidates spoke on reduced parking fines, increased student safety and new dining options.

     Of the total 32 candidates running, six are current SGA members and two are former members.

     The first half of the debate consisted of the three president and vice president candidates answering questions and rebutting answers.

     In response to the first question, presidential candidate and former SGA justice Devon Johnson promised to abolish parking tickets on campus after 5 p.m.

     “If you have a student who is in the library, they’re going to have to walk to wherever their car was or wherever their dormitory was. That means they’re walking in the dark where it is unsafe, and I don’t think this should be something we’re doing,” he said.

     Opposing vice presidential candidate Ashley St Clair proposed instead to extend operation hours for the shuttles.

     “Only six percent of our $3.8 billion budget is from state funding, which means we have to come up with other ways of revenue, and parking is a big one,” she said.

     Kennedy Watson, current senator-at-large and vice presidential candidate, currently serves on the Parking Advisory Committee.

     “In reference to Devon Johnson’s platform,” she said, “(Jim) Spice, said that it’s an impossible platform and it will directly impact the revenue the university depends on to maintain our current equity stance.”

     To increase safety on campus, St Clair and presidential candidate James O’Brien proposed to install security cameras outside dorm halls.

     “I find safety in dorm life to be a focus, and I think some of our funding should go to that,” O’Brien said.

     Johnson’s running mate, Patrick Calhoun, in response to O’Brien’s security camera proposal, said, “That is actually outside of SGA’s jurisdiction.”

     “The cost of implementing security cameras would be so incredibly outrageous; that would deplete the Student Government’s budget rapidly,” Johnson said.

     Joey Vijayam, presidential candidate, proposed alternative safety measures such as lighting for trails to the residence halls, and more emergency call boxes on campus.

     Johnson and Calhoun were prompted to discuss their plan to invite small businesses onto campus to replace Dining and Hospitality Service s, with the support of a new chancellor, they hope.

     “This monopoly over catering and dining services on campus…this is what it’s for,” Johnson said.

     “Things like Café 65— we give them their produce directly from our greenhouse,” responded St Clair, adding that she wants to expand the greenhouse to supply all dining locations on campus.

     “We believe we could just create more internal dining options from UCCS, that not only increases our revenue, but also increases more opportunities for students to put input in on the kind of dining options they want, and where they want them and the prices they want,” vice presidential candidate Watson said.

     Finally, O’Brien and St Clair were asked to speak to their qualifications as the only freshmen running for president and vice president.

     “We both look at things from different points of view, and are able to listen to other people and implement our own ideas,” St Clair said.

     In response, Johnson argued for experience as a crucial component of qualification, citing the SGA’s governing documents as an area in which he has had more experience than his competition.

     “I actually wrote them; they’re very good,” he said, adding that O’Brien and StClair have not read them.

     “These documents are huge. They take time.”

     St Clair rebutted, “I believe the documents are important, but I believe what’s more important is not being condescending to other people.”

     “It’s not a difficult read,” O’Brien added, referring to the governing documents, “I will be able to read it.”

     Watson and Vijayam, both juniors, agreed that experience on campus and in student government helps them know what the campus needs.

     With an invitation extended to audience members, the presidential candidates were asked to address ROTC and veteran students, the theater department on campus and to address their campaigns.

     Johnson also addressed an impeachment trial he, among one other SGA member, faced in SGA last semester.

     “(The chancellor) said that SGA didn’t have the authority to do what they were doing when they tried to impeach me,” Johnson said.

     “They were exercising authority that they did not have, and I had no problem telling them that they were doing so.”

     Calhoun added that the Office of Institutional Equity found the claims of harassment reported against Johnson to be unfounded.

     All candidates expressed support and praise for ROTC and veteran students.

     After an hour of debate between the president and vice president candidates, and the director of finance candidate, students ate free pizza as candidates running for the senator positions prepared to speak.

     For the remaining hour, students running for senator of sustainability, education, multicultural affairs, Letters, Arts, and Sciences, business, nursing and senators at large spoke on why students should vote them in SGA office.

     Students can vote for their favorite candidates March 13- 17.