As SGA Elections Draw to a Close, Candidates Showcase Plans, Stress Improvements in Communication

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From left to right, seated: VP of Student Relations candidates Barbara Viegas, Oscar Cortez and Vernay Snow

By: Joseph Oliveri

Student Government Association candidates discussed issues and aspirations for future semesters during an Election debate on Wednesday, April 4th.

Parlimentarian candidate Arusha Waheed addressed the issue of time management and constraints for SGA members. “I think that people sometimes cannot get in SGA because of their time conflict, because the meetings are at [11:30 pm] and I think that has been an issue for a lot of students,” Waheed said. “And, that’s kind of a deal breaker.”

Waheed defended her choice to run for the position when challenged by an audience member, incumbent Vice President Ryan Hawley, who questioned her credentials, citing that she had never sat on the rules committee or the judicial board.

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Parlimentarian candidate Arusha Waheed

“I look forward to spending a lot of time with the current parliamentarian [Vonda] McKeithan, and her and I will be working very closely to make sure that I know the rules of my job and know all the responsibilities that come with being the parlimentarian,” Waheed said.

Waheed continued, “If I was in a situation where I could not be biased in any way, I would have to put my emotions to the side and do what’s best for the senate and its senators which is important when dealing with government.”

Vice President of Finance candidate Danny Men expressed concerns that “the communication between the finance and the clubs are not very good.” Men said that he hopes to work to change that. “I think the next best thing is to use personal phone numbers. I think that would eliminate one of the communication issues.”

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VP of Finance candidate Danny Men

Men, who is a member of Yale University’s ROTC program and an US Air Force aspirant, addressed the conflict between the Finance committee and university clubs over negotiating budget amendments, expressing a simple solution.

“I do believe that limiting the revision of their budget [to] once a semester or twice a semester will eliminate that process where people come in three or four times a semester,” Men said.

Samuel Cournoyer, candidate for Vice President of Internal Affairs, said he wanted to prioritize changes to SGA guidelines.

“I would also like to help in revising and paring down the governing documents of the SGA and also sort of reconcile the differences between them,” Cournoyer said.

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VP of Internal Affairs candidate Sam Cournoyer

Presidential candidate Carlos Dos Santos, who cited his relationship with faculty from the Office of Institutional Advancement as credential for the position, echoed concerns about effective communication between SGA and the student body.

“I think a lot of the issues that happen [are because] students don’t know exactly who to go to, who the appropriate person to go to is, when wanting to voice their opinions, and that happens all the way from minor things such as day to day issues at Western to major issues like the class scheduling change that we just had this semester,” Dos Santos said.

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SGA President Carlos Dos Santos

Dos Santos defended his office and SGA as a whole when confronted by the issue of the scheduling changes that will take effect during the fall semester of 2018, which will add more course sessions on Fridays.

“We were, unfortunately, not given a voice by the Provost of our University.” Dos Santos said.

An audience member retorted, “And in a situation like that, you represent and you fight.”

“It’s not one of the things we were able to fight,” Dos Santos insisted. “You sometimes have to realize that it’s an un-winnable battle and have to try to adapt and make sure we still look out for the students’ interests.”

Dos Santos also emphasized his plan to focus on maintaining an atmosphere of inclusion at Western.

“We’re here to represent every student independent of their background,” Dos Santos said. “So, making sure that they can come to us and voice their opinions will be taken as seriously as possible.”

Contending for Vice President of Student Relations are Bharbara Viegas, Veray Snow and Oscar Cortez. All three candidates overwhelmingly agreed that inconsistencies in communication stood in the way of progress.

“In the past two years that I’ve been on campus, I’ve had a lot of difficulty working with some administration and some staff members,” Cortez admitted. He said that passion and honesty are likely to build better relationships between student representatives and faculty. Candidates Viegas and Snow also reiterated Cournoyer’s call for rethinking SGA governing documents.

To address the issue of communication being closed off after the cancellation of the Executive Council due to poor attendance among clubs, Viegas promised email correspondence with SGA would be timely and personable. “If clubs have different events going on on campus, they should send it to me. ‘This is what I have going on, let’s try to publicize it,’ that kind of thing.”

Cortez also called WCSU’s Black Student Union “such a player in the game,” urging that the group be accepted to SGA’s WestFest Committee.

“Some of those organizations are put to the side, and I think they need to be appreciated.” Cortez admitted.

Snow voiced support for students with financial needs. “One of my huge passions here was taking on the Student Philanthropy Committee because of the needs of students who were dropping out of school because they owe less than $500,” Snow said. She announced that the next couple of weeks will see a finalized fund for the Philanthropy Committee.

“If we start this fund now, within years to come, we can possibly have tens of thousands of dollars in this fund that can really help students that are in need and dropping out of college,” Snow explained.

Voting polls for this semester’s election closed on Monday, April 9th. Announcement of the election results is pending.