Candidates discussed a multitude of topics at last night's SGA debate. The elephant in the room, however, was never addressed.
There are no women running for president, vice president or treasurer. In fact, a woman hasn't run for a major position besides Miss Auburn since Harrison Mills defeated Chelsea Crooks in the 2013 presidential election.
SGA encouraged students to tweet their questions for candidates using #SGADebate throughout the day yesterday. Most — if not all — of those questions went unasked and unanswered at last night’s debate. Instead, a white man asked seven other white men vague questions about “diversity."
The only women who spoke at the event were Miss Auburn candidates. They walked on stage, one-by-one, and politely presented their platforms to the audience.
There was no debate. There were no questions for the women.
Several Twitter questions referenced gender equality specifically.
“There are only men on the stage debating tonight,” one user wrote. “How do you plan to increase gender diversity in the future?”
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“How do you intend to use your position to advocate for the advancement of women on campus?” another user asked.
I asked Caroline Holmes, director of elections, why specific questions weren’t asked.
“We incorporated most of the questions asked on Twitter into the debate, and combined similar questions to ensure that the debate covered a wide range of topics while remaining in the appropriate time frame,” Holmes said in an email. “We added questions into the debate and decreased the amount of time each candidate had to speak to incorporate the Twitter questions that were asked and ensure the candidates spoke on what students were asking.”
I then asked why gender-specific questions weren't asked.
"Questions were determined to reference gender as well as all other types of diversity," Holmes said in an email.
I’m sure the Elections Board and Council members did what they thought was best and most convenient. But it wasn’t right. Half of Auburn University was ignored last night. By ignoring the topic entirely, SGA told women they’re not important enough to mention.
When Miss Auburn candidates weren’t given a chance to participate in an actual debate, they were told their opinions don’t matter as much as men’s.
I urge future SGA members to change the debate format next year. Ask specific questions from real students. Don’t combine and rework them until they’re vague, easily digestible and unrecognizable.
Better yet, open the floor for questions. The candidates should be prepared for anything, after all.
Only two women in the 94-year history of Auburn's SGA have held the title of president. Maybe next year, if this administration shows a greater respect for the other half of the population, a woman will be on stage debating real issues with the men.
*Note: Many Twitter questions that mentioned other marginalized groups, such as “Do black lives matter?” were not asked at the debate. This column refers specifically to questions that reference women. To see all the questions students asked, search #SGADebate on Twitter.
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