Campaign supporters filled the student center ballroom Monday night for the much anticipated SGA debate. While two of the three elected SGA positions are running unopposed, the SGA president position is highly contested this year with five candidates running.
Current SGA President Jacqueline Keck moderated the debate. Keck prompted candidates with questions on a variety of topics, but the main issue all candidates addressed was student involvement in SGA.
“I am a strong believer that things need to start from the bottom up,” said senior Mike O’Key. “They need to start with the 27,000 students we have. And then those are the things we should use to base our ideals and initiatives off of. … We’re elected because of our strong passion and insight. They’ll still never compare to all the insights and experiences everyone on this campus has.”
Each candidate stressed the importance of student feedback in SGA because without knowing what students want, it will not get done.
“Student unity is a mindset shared by all,” said junior Dane Block. “It is what brings us all together. Because if it’s one thing we have in common here, it’s that we’re here at Auburn. To promote this conversation, I’ve always talked about clear communication and consistent relation. … You have to constantly pursue these relationships. You have to build these relationships from the ground up because if you just start talking with somebody, it’s not going to be as beneficial unless you have that foundation of a relationship and friendship.
Many of the candidates have experience in SGA and explained what programs they used this year to improve student involvement in SGA and how they would like to modify those programs for improvement.
“Serving as the executive vice president of outreach this year, I’ve been able to see that outreach does need work, but I want to share with you a few accomplishments from this past year,” said junior Bri Thomas. “In my transition materials for the next person that does this, I’ve suggested two directors of international relations. I’ve suggested five directors of concourse hours, specifically. … So while I do think that outreach is a branch that does need to grow because it’s the newest, I do think outreach has a firm foundation to spring board off of.”
Candidates went on to explain that diversity in SGA is key to getting a better understanding from students of what they want.
“A lot of students might not have the time, might not be able to come to different town halls or whatever it may be to talk to SGA about their problems,” said junior Porter Kennedy. “In SGA we need to have more diversified. We need to have people in all different organizations, and we’ve done a good job of that so far. … The thing is we need all these ideas, we need all the students represented by SGA and that’s why we need SGA to be a very diverse organization and one that is very flexible.”
Throughout the debate, diversity in mindset and organization was stressed. Candidates want to expand SGA to reach all corners of campus from Langdon Hall all the way to Dudley.
“One challenge involved in my platform is getting more people involved in SGA,” said junior Patrick Starr. “Some people on this campus simply, honestly don’t want to be a part of SGA but really they need to have their voice heard and really portray that to them and let them know that their voice matters. We’re going to reach out to people from all walks of campus, from ag from business to engineering and really give them a part of SGA. We’re going to bring them in, we’re going to increase the numbers in cabinet and have more committees to help us decide things.”
Junior Dixon Simmons is running unopposed for SGA treasurer. At the debate, he presented opening and closing statements and answered a few questions proctored by Keck.
“SGA is just one of the ways that we can strive to better this University and as an executive officer I want to be as approachable as possible,” Simmons said. “I want y’all to know I’m here for y’all and that you can trust SGA with your voice and your concerns this next year.”
Junior Schyler Burney is also running unopposed for her position, SGA vice president. She presented statements and answered Keck’s questions.
“My goals for this upcoming year can really be summarized by my tagline for the week, which is ‘Reach for the Schy,'” Burney said. “To me, that means not settling and becoming complacent with routine, but building on the work done and really reaching for the sky and seeking to set a standard of excellence for the legislative branch.”