Note: SGA Vice Presidential Candidate Natalie Yaeger is employed by The Cluster as Lead Lifestyle & Opinion Writer. It doesn’t contribute to or impact our coverage of her regarding the race.
As the SGA presidential election approaches, the debate of the organization on Wednesday allowed candidates to answer questions about their ideas and policies. The debate also allowed students to submit questions to the contestants. Here are the highlights of the debate.
The format of the debate
The debate saw the candidates take turns answering questions from the moderator, editor-in-chief of the cluster Marie-Helene Room. Candidates were usually given three minutes to respond, with the opposing candidate then responding. The candidate who went first was chosen by lot before the debate.
All candidates were able to answer the questions within the allotted time. Here are their answers to some of the most important questions and issues of the evening.
What are your campaign platforms?
Rylan Allen and Natalie Yaeger talked about their three main campaign platforms: diversity, mental health, and communication and transparency. These three points for Allen and Yaeger led to discussions about the need for more diverse texts in the Mercer Integrative Studies and Great Books programs and to help students get better advice from counseling and psychology services. .
The four platform ideas for Ashton Bearden and Caleb Mills are transparency, sustainability, accountability, and health and wellness. The duo addressed issues around Mercer’s lack of recycling and created a way to raise awareness about mental, physical and sexual health by creating a committee to work with Mercer’s facilities and administration in these areas.
What does the job of SGA agent consist of?
Both campaigns answered this question quickly and passionately, broadly agreeing on the role of an SGA officer. Bearden and Mills emphasized the importance of communication and student body advocacy. Allen and Yaeger reiterated this point in their own answer.
“That’s our job: to help you all and represent you all,” Yaeger said. “We are only good if we work together (…) This is the only way to make Mercer stronger and the community stronger as a whole.”
Both campaigns aligned on this issue, stating that the job of SGA members is to represent the student body and solve problems within the university.
How will you communicate with the administration? What if you don’t agree?
A key part of the position of president or vice president of the SGA is to respond to student needs and issues in discussions with the Mercer administration. In response to this question, Bearden and Mills made their commitment to perseverance clear about the discussion with the administration.
“What’s really important is not just telling someone, ‘Oh, I want you to do this,’ but following up,” Mills said. “If they don’t really want to do something we’re suggesting, just ask, ‘Hey, do you have a solution’, just exhaust them to make sure we get a response and do something about it.”
Allen and Yaeger delved more into the communication part of the issue, focusing on keeping students informed. Allen mentioned the mural that was removed from Mercer Village last year as a clear example of the administration not communicating with students, as many students did not know why it was removed. Allen says acting as a link between students and administration will lead to better communication between the two.
“A lot of students didn’t know anything about (the mural), but the administration told us it was a contract mural and it wasn’t meant to stay,” Allen said. “But it would have been nice if the students knew that so they could express their dislike of it being removed. What we want to do is create clear communication channels between the administration and ourselves so that you feel that SGA represents you all.
How do we know you’re not just showing up to create your resume?
Both candidates acknowledged the office could be a resume booster, but said being president isn’t about the title.
“My intent for this job is not my resume. I was vice president last year,” Bearden said. “When I thought I was running for this job, I didn’t want to do it this year (…) but I had already spent three years on SGA. I felt that I had to use this experience to train new leaders and advocate on behalf of students.”
Allen had a similar response, citing his status as class president for the previous two years and his use of that position to connect with students in the past.
“If you’re a sophomore here, you’ve probably gotten dozens of emails from me, and I’m sorry, but hey, the reason I’m doing this is to make sure you know what’s going on on the campus and what’s going on with the administration,” Allen said. “I also make sure that under my email signature is my phone number, and I use social media a lot.”
What can you do that your opponent can’t or won’t do?
This question gave the candidates an opportunity to explain why they are unique, and both campaign teams took advantage of it. Allen emphasized the importance of his campaign team’s diversity, specifically citing his ability to connect with students of color and LGBTQIA+ students at Mercer.
“There have only been two black SGA presidents on campus,” Allen said. “I believe that when students elect the president, they want to make sure they elect the candidate for president and vice president who they think will be able to stand up for them, have the same life experiences them in order to understand what the students want. .”
Allen supported this point by emphasizing his ability to represent these groups.
“Being a black man, I am also a gay man. I believe that students on this campus who come from the LGBTQ and minority community are able to resonate with a larger view of the person, which means they think I can champion one as well,” Allen said.
Bearden and Mills emphasized their goal of representing everyone, especially women, by creating a more diverse staff of SGA members.
“You look at us, and you see two men. And you wonder where the representation of women is,” Bearden said. “That’s why we want to set up a board of directors so that the president and vice president are mostly women, as well as create a student cabinet that would have 24 different profiles on campus who would communicate directly with us.”
Bearden says the diverse student cabinet would meet once a month and speak to the president and vice president directly before meeting with university president Bill Underwood and dean of students Doug Pearson.
After the debate, it is clear that both campaign teams place great importance on the themes of mental health and diversity. Applicants also recognized the importance of communication and transparency, making sure to promise students that their concerns would be made clear to the university administration.
As the March 29-30 elections approach, students will decide which of these two campaign teams to vote for. Students can vote online through their MyMercer and CourseEval accounts.