SA E-board candidates debate platforms

BSU, CSA and LASU host face-off before Friday's elections

With elections three days away, Student Association Executive Board candidates defended their platforms to the public in a debate Monday night.

Franz Lino/Staff Photographer Ese Olumhense, president of the Black Student Union, speaks at the Student Association candidate debate Monday evening. BSU, Caribbean Student Association and Latin American Student Union teamed up to host the debate between the candidates for the 2014-2014 SA E-Board.

The Caribbean Student Association, Black Student Union and Latin American Student Union hosted the debate in which candidates stated their platforms, then answered two to three questions from group members. The audience also asked questions of each candidate.

The candidates for president are Louis Meringolo, Alex Liu and Ravi Prakriya. While candidates were asked to provide their background and familiarity with administration throughout campus, ensured accessibility for students and students groups to the president was a main talking point.

“I pledge right now that next year, as president, I will go to as many student-run events as possible and I’ll make sure that students know who I am,” said Liu, a junior majoring in philosophy, politics and law.

Meringolo, a junior majoring in management, said he believes that accessibility means more than attending student events. He stressed the importance of attending general body meetings of student groups.

“I can connect with you guys, get your opinion, in an informal setting, not just in an office,” Meringolo said. “I want to talk to you directly.”

Recognizing the size of the student body, Prakriya, the current vice president for finance (VPF) and a junior majoring in finance, said that it would be more practical to elect SA representatives from student groups to act as a conduit between organizations and the president.

“I’d really love to have an infrastructure in place where each group has a representative that can come to me,” Prakriya said.

Don Greenberg, Mark Ochweri and Dhruv Sehgal are the candidates for vice president for academic affairs (VPAA). Sehgal was not present for the debate.

A large part of the debate between Greenberg and Ochweri came down to which candidate boasted greater experience within academia. Greenberg, a junior triple-majoring in computer science, finance and math, referenced his personal familiarity with Harpur College, School of Management and the Watson School of Engineering.

Greenberg proposed the need for a student mentorship program in response to the disconnect that exists between students and advising.

“I think the advising problem stems a lot more from the lack of communication for younger students,” Greenberg said. “I think a freshman bio major coming in should have the opportunity to be able to be put in touch with a senior … who’s already navigated the curriculum.”

Ochweri, a junior majoring in economics, said he wants to ensure that VPAA programs and policies don’t die out from one year to the next.

“I want to start partnering with the VPAs of communities so that they can go and discuss and understand the importance of the program,” Ochweri said. “I want to work with these VPAs so that we have a sustainable platform. The problem right now is that the faculty who leaves … the problems that you were dealing with leave with you. I don’t want that to be the case.”

Nayemai-Isis McIntosh Green, a junior double-majoring in history and human development, is running for reelection as the vice president for multicultural affairs (VPMA). Her opponent, Jesus Raul Cepin, was not present for the debate.

During the question-and-answer segment, one audience member expressed concern with how the office of the VPMA was being run, saying that this year’s events were “superficial,” lacking substance and of little benefit to cultural organizations.

Green said collaboration is a large part of her platform. According to Green, by encouraging student groups to collaborate in their event planning, events will be able to expand and diversify their substance.

For the position of vice president of programming, candidates answered questions regarding event handling and the internal affairs of the Student Association Programming Board (SAPB). They were asked to outline their ideas on improving advertising for events on campus, as well as how they intended to conduct the surveys used for concerts.

All three candidates highlighted the importance of student involvement with regards to choosing performing artists for future concerts and events. However, Allison Drexler, a junior double-majoring in art history and political science, proposed an approach that involves eliminating the agent, or “middle man,” who helps SAPB book acts.

Both Stephanie Zagreda, a junior majoring in English, and Daniel Sherman, a junior majoring in bioengineering, supported the idea of bringing in several smaller artists within the budget of the SAPB.

Sherman said he would like to start looking for artists earlier in the summer in order to get an idea of what genre of music students want to see and then find acts that fit in the SAPB’s price range.

Only one candidate for the VPF position, Thomas Sheehan, was at the debate. Ethan Shepherd was not present.

Sheehan said that his experience separates him from his opponent. Sheehan served as assistant to the VPF for a year, and said he believes greater exposure to internal affairs in the office means greater performance if he is elected as VPF.

Sheehan, a junior double-majoring in political science and economics, responded to an audience member’s question regarding how he planned to improve in comparison to Prakriya, the standing VPF who is also a candidate for president and whose office has received criticism from groups who say it lacks accessibility.

“The office hours that I hold will hopefully make me more approachable to student groups because they know I’ll be there so that they won’t feel that they’re putting any pressure one me,” Sheehan said. “I’ve worked with plenty of student groups now so I’ve already introduced myself to a lot of faces … hopefully with that experience carrying onto next year, I’ll be able to help student groups.”

Running unopposed, executive vice president (EVP) candidate Chris Zamlout also addressed issues on how he would conduct his office differently from the current EVP, speaking particularly on his interest in going out and speaking more closely with student organizations.

“I’m a very nosy person by nature. I want to know what’s going on in your organizations,” said Zamlout, a junior majoring in philosophy, politics and law.

This year’s EVP, Samson Widerman, established a leadership roundtable where leaders from student organizations on campus were invited to bring issues to the SA and the EVP. This is planned to take place once a year. Zamlout said that he believed these meetings were highly effective, and that he would like to increase their frequency to once a month.

“I want to sit down on your E-Board meetings and hear what it is that you guys are doing as an organization, and I want you guys to sit in on my meetings and ask me what I’m doing as EVP,” Zamlout said.

Correction: In an earlier version of this article, the  deck contained the wrong date of SA E-Board elections. They are on Friday, not Thursday.