Student Government Associatoin 2016 Spring Elections
Big Three candidates debate campus issues in forum
The Student Government Association Big Three candidates discussed issues within SGA and throughout campus during its debate in the Teche Room of the Student Union at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 16.
SGA president-elect Wil Perkins’s opening statement noted that each member of the Big Three ran unopposed and addressed student involvement, which would become the center of the debate.
“I feel like SGA isn’t what it needs to be for a university this size,” Perkins said. “If you ask somebody, ‘Oh, what does SGA do?’ They might mention the 24-hour library and they might mention appropriations and then it stops. Not only do we do more than that, but there’s so much more we can do.”
The lack of student involvement played into the Big Three candidates running unopposed for three years and, consequently, a lower voter turnout, with only 1,633 students voting in the spring 2015 elections.
“Voter turnout is probably at the lowest it’s been in awhile,” Perkins said. “If we go back three or four years, there would be like two or three major parties running and not exactly going at each other’s throats, but actively campaigning. We can look at LSU’s spring elections, and they had two big parties actively campaigning with full tickets.
“It’s sad,” he continued, “because we don’t even have enough applicants to fill a senate in some colleges versus others.”
To increase student participation, vice president-elect Mary McMahon and treasurer-elect Thomas Schumacher said they agree that vigorous social media promotion and setting up SGA tables on Rex Street may be one solution.
“Honestly, (I think it’s just) tabling and just getting out there and gaining a presence on campus and listening to any grievances that they may have,” McMahon said.
The Big Three ran under the Seek ticket and also touched on their platforms.
“We’re in a high time of growth here at UL,” Perkins said. “We’ve opened our new Student Union, redesigned our Quad and welcomed the largest freshman class at this university this past summer; and yet, I feel like the Student Government has not seemed to grow with the university. We, as a party, are seeking a new direction for this new organization.
“We’re seeking a new take on an old establishment,” he concluded.
The candidates were asked questions pertaining to recent finance committee and appropriations changes. McMahon said because SGA can no longer provide funding for travel and housing at conferences, the Big Three will look into hiring a graduate assistant or funding food.
Pressed about transparency issues, Schumacher said the executive budget should be more transparent.
“Students pay enough as is, and they should definitely see where their money is going,” he said. “I know the Big Three can’t always explain exactly what they’re doing and why they’re doing it with their money, but there definitely should be more transparency.”
Schumacher noted that the executive budget, which covers some university employees’ salaries, events and emergency funds, can not be precisely monitored and reported.
“There can’t be a total knowledge of what we’re doing with the budget at all times because sometimes we quickly need it,” he said.
From the topic of SGA, the debate moved to hypothetical questions. Each candidate was asked a different question about how he or she would approach a situation on campus. One topic was vapes and e-cigarettes on campus, which Perkins said should be dealt with following further enforcement of UL Lafayette’s tobacco-free policy.
“Before we can handle the vape question, we have to hunker down on actual smoking on campus,” Perkins said.
“I’d just like to see progress in the university as a whole,” said Karl Johnson, a junior business management major who is running for College of Business senator. “That’s basically what we’re here for: to see that the university improves in all aspects.”