SGA candidates debate

Ashlee Clark

The potential future leaders of the Student Government Association became more than just faces on campaign posters last week.

SGA executive officer candidates on Thursday debated issues facing the university, including plus/minus grading, budgets and the organization’s new constitution.

The candidates urged student involvement at Western, continued opposition to plus/minus grading and promised to help SGA transition into its new constitution.

The debate lasted about an hour and was held in the Downing University Center lobby.

The presidential candidates discussed different areas of the university that could possibly be trimmed to fund budget cuts.

Henderson junior Nick Todd, who is running for president, said the athletic department should be considered for future cuts.

“It’s actually a hard time and a hard place to cut,” he said.

Bulan junior Jessica Martin, who is also running for president, said programs that have been proposed, but not implemented, could be frozen.

She also said money that is being saved for later should be spent because it may not be available in the future.

Candidates also discussed ways to get more students involved in SGA elections.

Louisville junior Anna Bisig, who is running for executive vice president, said flyers and posters can help promote more student involvement in SGA elections.

Radcliff sophomore Katie Dawson, who is also running for executive vice president, said that events like the debate and word of mouth help students learn about SGA.

“I think it’s important for people to know that we care,” she said.

Todd said it is important to get more knowledge out about Western to prospective students to help counter decreased enrollment projections.

“I want to see that not happen now, in the future or forever,” he said of a possible enrollment decrease.

Plus/minus grading came up often throughout the debate.

Martin said there are still a lot of questions remaining about the proposed grading system.

“Plus/minus is not necessarily a dead issue,” she said.

The ad hoc committee for academic quality has recommended putting pluses and minuses on student transcripts, but not using them in grade point averages in a two-year trial.

Bisig said that plan is just a gateway for a more permanent plus/minus grading system.

“I feel they think if they can get this passed, they can get anything else passed in their favor,” she said of plus/minus grading supporters.

Dawson said cooperation between faculty, administrators and students is important in solving the grading system issue.

She said students should have equal voices in university government “like a senate, not like a congress.”

“If we all could come together and make some common ground on some decisions, they can’t ignore 18,000 people,” she said.

Most candidates said SGA’s opposition to plus/minus grading last semester is one of the most important things the organization worked on last semester.

“This event was incredible for student government history,” said Evelina Petkova, a junior from Bulgaria and candidate for administrative vice president.

Jackson junior Josh Collins, who is also running for administrative vice president, said the rally opposing plus/minus grading was the “clearest, most recent event that was SGA working, making our voices be heard.”

Collins said SGA needs to clarify for students what university policies are and how they are enforced.

He said he would also like to create a searchable database of past SGA legislation.

Petkova said she would focus on creating SGA’s budget next semester and giving out organizational aid if elected.

Dawson said getting addresses removed from the online student directory is another major accomplishment of SGA.

Most candidates agreed that the university has increased campus safety after the attack last year in Hugh Poland Hall that led to the death of Pellville freshman Katie Autry.

“Students have to understand that it’s part of the university’s job to care about their safety,” Petkova said.

Bisig said the attitude of campus police still needs to undergo some changes.

She said students should feel “less like a burden and more like someone who is protected.”

Students stopped by the debate on their trips in or out of the DUC Food Court to listen to the candidates.

Louisville sophomore Christy Kayrouz said it was a good idea to have the debate in DUC lobby.

Kayrouz, who is running for a senate position, said some of the candidates’ answers were somewhat vague.

Katie White, a junior from Evansville, Ind., said the candidates did a good job even though they didn’t have that much time during the debate.

“I kind of would have liked to see a little more diversity in people running,” she said.

The debate was moderated by Herald editor Brandy Warren.

Reach Ashlee Clark at [email protected].