Candidates address student questions at Speech Night

Posted by Julia Leef

SGA President Sam Harris will run for the contested VP for Financial Affairs while two candidates will vie for his former position

Twelve of the sixteen student candidates competing for positions on the Student Government Association Executive Committee and the Inter-Class Council gathered at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 19 in Emerson Auditorium along with approximately twenty-five members of the Skidmore community. As is customary with Speech Night, students used this opportunity to speak directly to the candidates in order to better inform their decision for the elections, which will run for the entirety of Thursday, March 20.

Each candidate was given three minutes for a short speech, following by a question-and-answer session with the students in attendance. The event was organized and moderated by election coordinators Elizabeth Reisen '16 and Miles Calzini '16.

Of the thirteen positions students will vote on for this round of elections, only three are contested: the SGA President, the Vice President for Financial Affairs and the Sophomore Class President.

Addison Bennett '16 and Madeleine Kanazawa '15, who are running for the position of SGA President, have both had previous experience in working within SGA. Bennett

is the current Vice President for Club Affairs while Kanazawa is serving as the Vice President for Communications and Outreach and has also served on the Senate for two years.

Bennett answered many questions by citing previous endeavors and policies that he had been involved in, including his expansion of the Club Affairs Committee seats to allow for more direct representation by club members, his work with the committee on divestment, his influence on the College's review of the smoking policy and his involvement in the petition to raise the minimum wage of student workers.

"I do not accept complacency for the shutting out of student voice," Bennett said. "With proper communication and the opportunity to get involved, we can make a real change."

Kanazawa emphasized the value of viewing the student body as a community, stating that the two most important jobs of the SGA President are to advocate for the student body and to maintain a cohesive culture within that body, creating inclusive events that celebrate the racial, sexual, socioeconomic, geographical and cultural differences on campus.

"I want to encourage the student body to continue to get involved and to expand outside of the normal environment they are used to," Kanazawa said. She further stated that SGA representatives do not just stand for the clubs and the committees, but for everyone, and it is their job to look at the broader picture and figure out how to serve the student body instead of just themselves.

"This job is not a selfish thing. It is for the student body and at the end of the day I am the student voice in meetings and in various aspects of my work. Understanding that it's not me that's speaking, it's the students, will drive me on to push things the way that I think they should be pushed." Kanazawa said.

When asked about resolving issues of communication between SGA and the student body, Bennett stated that it is important to let students know specifically how they can be involved, instead of just sending out general email updates that most students delete without reading. To him, he said, SGA represents an empowerment that encompasses all students, regardless of their involvement in the student government. He stated that its purpose is to support clubs and student organizations while bringing student voice to the administration and the Board of Trustees.

"I believe that student input is crucial to ensuring success," Bennett said. "When people have an idea they should be willing to bring it forward and we should be willing to make it happen. Without students, there is no Skidmore."

Both candidates emphasized the importance of compromise, whether it ocuurs between the opinions of the students and the administration or in a conflict between a club's desires and SGA's policies. Bennett stated that he is willing to modify his original vision in order to find what works, while Kanazawa said that she learns from her failures but will fight for something if she truly believes in it, as when she brought back a policy change regarding Willingness-to-Serve that had been rejected by the Senate the previous year.

Another student challenged the candidates' desire for compromise by asking what the candidates would do if faced with direct opposition from President Glotzbach. Both candidates stated that they would continue to stand up for the student body, with Kanazawa stating she would refuse to back down if she felt that something was wrong, using facts to support her arguments.

"This is our lives for however many years we have left," Kanazawa said. "If we're here, we should be having this voice that if something is going wrong and is not for our benefit they [the administration] need to be told that."

Bennett said that he would use facts, figures, data and personal stories to create a strong argument in the context of a professional discussion that he felt he had experience with in his interaction with the administration.

The other contested position on the SGA Executive Committee is the Vice President for Financial Affairs, vied for by current SGA President Sam Harris '15 and Senator Anya Hein '15. Hein stated that she joined the Senate because she did not like SGA's relationship with student clubs, and wanted to understand it more and try to change it.

Harris said he missed interacting with clubs and wanted to focus on several economic-based projects that he was not able to as SGA President, such as addressing the inefficient and unsustainable allocation of club budgets by having Budget & Finance committee re-evaluate them every semester instead of annually as a way to detect money that goes unspent.

When asked what they would do if faced with a conflict between SGA policy and a club's best interests, the candidates had slightly different approaches to the problem.

"The larger, more important point is that our current policies are written quite well and when dealing with an issue of policy it's better to rewrite an issue or a policy that doesn't apply than to break it," Harris said.

"At the end of the day, what matters is that the clubs get to do what they want to do because their money helps supplement it," Hein said. "We're here to help the clubs. We exist to help them get what they need to further their education and potential careers. Just following the rules without any sort of compromise closes doors and restricts what they can do."

Several students questioned Harris about his transition from president to a vice president, asking him how he would feel going into Senate meetings with less power than he had as president and why he should be elected over the fresher candidate of Hein. Harris responded that he plans to bring his former experience on the Budget & Finance committee from his sophomore year as well as his work with the Institutional Policy and Planning committee and with the 2025 Strategic Action Plan to the position if elected.

On the Inter-Class Council, Thabang Maphothoane '17 and Madison Plummer '17 are both campaigning for Sophomore Class President. Plummer has had previous experience as the vice president of her class, during which she sat on the Communications and Outreach committee.

"I think I'm ready to take on that role of leading that whole council. I do have the potential to be president and I would love to have that responsibility over just being vice president," Plummer said.

Maphothoane has served as a Senator-at-Large but emphasized that his lack of experience on the council should not deter voters.

"How will either of us get experience unless we are voted into that council," Maphothoane said.

Charles Tetelman '16, who is running for Vice President for Academic Affairs, spoke about his involvement with the re-evaluation of the College's general education requirements, stating that his role is to keep students informed and to help create and structure a general education curriculum to present to the faculty that incorporates the students' voices. He also said he would like to see more out of classroom discussion between students and professors.

"Education is not only me and my views. The important thing is your [students'] views," Tetelman said. "We're here to learn. I think it's very important to get education out there and to encourage it because a lot of times education is lost in student life and it needs to be out there."

Dorothy Parsons '17 is running for Vice President for Student Life. Parsons has sat on the Campus Sustainability Subcommittee and would like use her inclination towards policies to open a larger discussion of where power should lie in the SGA. In response to a question about attracting more students to the town hall meetings, Parsons stated that she would ask groups such as Res Life to attend the meetings to answer student concerns.

"I would like to address collaboration between groups such as Res Life, Athletics and Dining services and include them in our town hall meetings," Parsons said, adding that she would like to add another event similar to Wafflefest during the second semester to draw people into the dining hall, involve Athletics in the club fair and address the lack of diversity within many clubs.

Megan Schachter '17, the candidate for Vice President for Club Affairs, joined the Senate last September and has sat on the Club Affairs Committee. She said she would like to establish a better relationship between the clubs and the SGA, and one of her first actions would be to elongate the trial period for new clubs and to prove them with a small budget allotted from some of the SGA's unused funds, allowing them to show how they may evolve and organize events before becoming an official club.

"These opportunities have made me realize that I want to take on more responsibilities in the SGA," Schachter said. "Clubs are an integral aspect of the Skidmore community and I would love the opportunity to help them thrive."

Soraya Attia '15, who is currently studying abroad in Florence, stated her campaign for Senior Class President through proxy Hannah DeGraaf '15. Attia has previously served as president for her class and said that she looks forward to coordinating events such as Oktoberfest, the 100 Days Dance and Senior Week.

Carmen Lin '16 is running for Junior Class Vice President. She stated that she would like to sit on the committee for Diversity Affairs and wants to use the Senate as an opportunity to become more involved on campus.

"The Inter-Class Council is about unifying a class and building a community as a whole," Lin said.

Kengthsagn Louis '17, who is the candidate for Sophomore Class Vice President, said she would like to get as close as possible to the rest of the student body and have the council get to know students personally so that they would feel at home.

"I have big dreams," Louis said. "I want to go out and change the world. And why not start here, with my community?"

Julia Elstein '17 is running for Sophomore Class Treasurer, and would like to help students understand where their money is allocated.

Noam Yossefy '15, who is running for Senior Class Vice President but currently abroad, Prince Tsabedze '16, running for Junior Class President and Bernice Langyintuo '17, running for Sophomore Social Chair, did not attend Speech Night.

Candidates' for the Inter-Class Council videos explaining their platforms are available for viewing on the Skids Scribner Facebook page. Students may vote either online or at voting booths in Case Center and in the Atrium of the Murray-Aikins Dining Hall.The results of the elections will be announced midday on Friday, March 21.

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