SA Presidential candidates debate before polls open

Nic Taylor, the SA election commissioner, hosted a presidential debate in Curtiss 100 on Monday, April 1, at 6 p.m., an hour before polls opened online.

SA presidential candidates Hunter Koch, Denver Milam and Ryan Silvestri answered questions audience members submitted to the candidates. The audience could vote for submitted questions, and the questions with the most votes were asked.

This was different than past debates, as previously all questions had been chosen ahead of time.

Throughout the evening, Taylor chose candidates in a random order.

The debates began with a two-minute introduction from each candidate.

Silvestri spoke first and emphasized growing community engagement on campus.

“The biggest problem I see is a lack of engagement,” he said. “That’s why I want to start a spring concert.”

He also said he wants to bring scooters on campus, which many other universities have.

SIlvestri wants to increase safety measures on campus as well.

“We have students getting robbed,” he said. “Just a few years ago, we had students being impacted by gun violence on our campus.”

Milam spoke second and said he was the only campaign that did not use fliers.

“I’m the only candidate who’s run a completely eco-friendly campaign,” he said.

He said he would focus on physical and mental health.

“About 50 percent of students are impacted by some form of mental illness,” he said. “I want to push for more [mental health] resources and for spreading more awareness of the resources that exist.”

Hoch’s introduction focused on creating a “21st-century SA” and finishing initiatives SA has already started.

“We’re going to work with SVSU administration to make SVSU carbon neutral by 2030,” he said. “[The second initiative I will continue] is making sure folks on our campus have access to feminine hygiene products.”

He also wants to continue SA’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

“We need to make sure SA’s commitment to diversity is an active role and not a passive role,” he said.

Taylor asked the first question to give audience members time to submit their questions.

He asked the candidates about their plans for Battle of the Valleys (BOV).

Milam answered first and said he would want to see BOV continue with Northwood.

“(BOV) isn’t going away,” he said. “It’s philanthropy. Everyone likes to go out and help charities.”

Silvestri agreed Northwood was the best option.

 “I know some candidates think it’s impossible to start a partnership with Northwood next year … but we can’t take a year off BOV,” he said.

Hunter said he was not opposed to Northwood but expressed doubt about a partnership developing by Fall 2019.

“While I am open to Northwood, it seems absurd to say it’s the only clear choice,” he said. “Under my leadership, SA would come in and reach out to other schools to find a new partner.”

Audience members asked candidates about how they could use the SA budget to benefit students’ lives.

Hunter answered first and said he would increase the allocations budget.

“Believe it or not, we’re one of the few universities that allocates money to individuals to go to individual conferences. Making sure that availability is there and also increasing our ability to support our individuals and our RSOs on our campus is extremely important.”

Silvestri said he would use his SA salary to fund events that benefit students directly.

“I am the only candidate who is willing to donate their entire salary throughout the year to funding their initiatives,” he said. “A lot of the money is used for events that don’t take off. We’ve currently donated over $1,000 to Mental Health Awareness Week. Very few students have benefited at all from it, though.”

Milam said he wanted to increase RSO allocations and fund more student events.

“Getting RSOs involved and getting money out to those RSOs is one really (important) thing that I would want to do,” he said. “Additionally, [my goal is having things on campus where students see their money is actually being used.”

Other questions pertained to increasing awareness of SA events on campus, how candidates would advocate for their ideas if they weren’t elected president, increasing diversity in SA and more.

The debates closed with a final two-minute speech from each candidate.

Koch spoke first about complacency within SA.

“Our university is an amazing place … but ending complacency with the expectations I have for this association to move forward is something I’m super passionate about and I know is an issue that our returning association members are also passionate about,” he said.  

Milam spoke next about transparency.

“One big thing that I’ve mentioned a lot is the word ‘we,’ not just, ‘I want to do’ or, ‘I want to be,’” he said. “It’s the students. It’s we. It’s the campus. … It’s part of (student) tuition dollars going to our budget. So, we need to be transparent to (students) … and ask what we can do to make campus better for (students),” he said.

Silvestri discussed his commitment to SA and SVSU.

“My commitment to SVSU and its students is greater than that of any other candidate,” he said. “It is my intent to forgo any compensation associated with this position of Student Association president. I am willing to use that money and the entire salary to benefit students and the initiatives I am proposing.”

The candidates were available after the debate to answer additional questions.

Polls are open online until Thursday at 4:30 p.m. Results will be announced immediately after in Doan 103.

Kaitlyn Farley

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