Candidates for SGA tickets debate Sunday
The Events Hall in the Commonwealth Honors College at the University of Massachusetts was at maximum capacity for the 2017 Student Government Association debate on Sunday night.
The debate organized by The Massachusetts Daily Collegian was between the Anthony Vitale/Lily Wallace ticket, Nathalie Amazan/Timmy Sullivan ticket and Lincoln Duong running for president. Candidate for student trustee Derek Dunlea also participated.
It was moderated by Dan Mahoney, a sophomore political science major and website managing editor for the Collegian.
Members of the audience and people watching the debate on the Collegian’s Facebook Live stream were encouraged to ask questions on Twitter using the hashtag #SGADebate17.
About an hour’s worth of prepared questions by the Collegian were directed first toward the candidates, until Mahoney transitioned to some questions submitted through Twitter and Facebook.
In the beginning of the debate, Amazan spoke for her ticket about why her and Sullivan are running.
“We do not believe that the SGA has been the representative body that it is meant to be, nor do we believe that the current administration has been taking the necessary and sufficient steps to achieve this responsibility,” Amazan said. “When we say representative body we mean that the student government has not adequately worked to address and solve the dire issues that exist on campus that are affecting our students and the improvement of our campus both in an environmental and social context.”
Some of the main questions addressed in the debate were regarding the UMass Land Use Policy, sexual assault on college campuses, the disconnect between a large portion of students at UMass and the SGA, and the sanctuary campus movement.
“I’m from a country that I never had the chance to vote and I’ve realized that students here take it for granted, their right to vote and raise issues,” said Duong on the issue of the lack of student involvement with SGA. “But students do not care to vote at SGA because they do not know what SGA represents, what it stands for, what initiatives we want to bring to this campus.”
“For the past two years I have served as an RA on campus,” Dunlea said when asked about sexual assault on college campuses. “We receive a lot of training on sexual assault and sexual violence and relationship violence and domestic abuse. But you don’t really know much about it until you actually talk with survivors about it…So the number one way that I myself can serve is to continue being a good friend, is to continue to be a good friend. It’s to talk to people who’ve had these problems and then use the position I am in to make it better.”
When the Vitale/Wallace ticket had the chance to speak on the Land Use Policy at UMass, Vitale said, the policy currently prohibits student activism to the steps of the Student Union.
“If you’ve ever seen the Student Union, there’s no steps there,” he said to laughs from the audience. “I’ve spent countless hours over winter break combing over the policy word for word for word…to completely rewrite this land use policy.”
Phillip Duarte, state board treasurer of MASSPIRG and junior BDIC major, liked the questions that were asked of the candidates at the debate.
“I think that all of the candidates could’ve done a better job of articulating tangible things that they would do to accomplish their campaign platforms, but I think it’s clear what the priorities are for each of the tickets and kind of where they stand on the issues,” Duarte said.
Erika Civitarese, a senior communication major present at the debate said she was not reassured by one of Duong’s answers. “I asked a question about rape culture in Greek life and the member from Theta Chi answered that there was 30 frat-members acting as security at their parties and I feel like that’s not the answer to solving rape culture,” she said. “I feel like as a woman that makes me feel less safe, knowing that there are men acting as security at parties that are historically at UMass not safe for women.”
“I think my biggest surprise in the debate was having one reaction while listening to the candidates give their speech, and then also I was looking at the Facebook live feed and seeing the emoticon stickers that people can click as somebody’s talking. As certain candidates are talking, there was consistently angry faces versus hearts,” said Patricia Murphy, a senior natural resources conservation and journalism major.
“While I was sitting here some of the candidates that were getting the angry faces…I believed what they were saying more so than some of the other candidates, yet the candidates that the general public outside the room seemed to agree with I felt were less substantial when listening to them face to face,” she added.
Polls will be open for students to cast their votes in this election from March 6 to March 8.
Hayley Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @hayleyk_johnson.