Candidates for student government give their last debate

March 22, 2018

As a part of the campaign process for the Student Government Association election, candidates running for SGA leadership roles answered questions and debated for the final time on March 21 in Bolin Room 100.

Around 50 students were in attendance as the four candidates answered various questions from the moderator Kyle Keel, lecturer of political science, and those in attendance. Those who hosted the debate restructured the event from the previous debates and gave more time for the candidates to take questions from the audience and less from the moderator. Since two of the candidates are running unopposed for their positions, most of the time for answering questions was given to the two candidates running for president, Ellie Gunderson, political science junior, and Steven Ehlert, criminal justice junior.

Those who asked the candidates questions covered a variety of topics, such as the campus forum regarding campus safety, diversity and inclusion and how candidates will engage the student body and its organizations.

Thomas Elvin, nursing sophomore, said, “The debate improved my knowledge on their stances and positions so I definitely have a better understanding of those candidates after coming here. I did not have any questions that I wanted answered, but I feel like the questions that were asked were answered fairly well.”

As can happen, students who knew the candidates running for the positions said they had to go into the debate with an open mind to not be biased. Karen Earle, mass communication freshman, said she shared this sentiment and felt like this debate went along smoother than the previous one.

“I know one of them [the candidates] more personally and I have tried to go into this open-minded, because I don’t want be biased just because I know them,” Earle said. “The first debate there was a lot of tension and not a lot of questions were answered very well and this time maybe they were more aware of topics to actually talk about. For the most part things were a little better at least, I think there are still a lot of issues that were going to have to see. Whoever ends up coming out on top, they have their work cut out for them. Whichever person comes out, they’re going to have a lot of issues to address and a lot of things they really need to stay true to.”

In today’s digital age, students can also look into candidates through social media platforms to get more perspective into who they are as people. Leah Slade, biology sophomore, said that the debate changed how she viewed one of the candidates for the role of president.

“Honestly, the way I look at it [the campaign] is through Twitter. I saw that she had a lot of support and so I kind of trusted the student body that they knew what they were talking about and that they knew who to trust,” Slade said. “But, now coming to this [debate], I realize that maybe I have made the decision for myself that I am not sure about her and that I don’t really know if her answers were good. Some of the things she said kind of made me think, ‘Why are you not more involved?’ She didn’t know to get involved and you should always be involved in your campus. I also think Steven said some things that kind of didn’t really [convince me].”

Is there something you think you could do specifically to help the other SGA members coordinate better?

“Just help them oversee the tasks they are assigned and make sure they are helped with problems and concerns that students have brought to them. [I would] make sure that progress is being made to the promises they made to the student body,” Jose Torres, bilingual education junior, said.

How would you strengthen SGA’s role as a conduit between students and MSU faculty and administration?

“[SGA] is actually an executive office because we are supposed to be that link between MSU students and faculty. One way that I could strengthen that is making sure that students have the opportunity to express their voices,” Preston Busby, criminal justice junior.

What does diversity mean to you?

“Diversity to me is different people, cultures and ideas coexisting together as one. My idea to make a more inclusive environment is to embrace and promote the different people and cultures and ideas on this campus, and that way we are all more aware of who we are as a student body and having to work together,” Gunderson said.

“The first example is an idea that I had: what if we had flags of all the countries that are represented on campus somewhere on campus so when people walk by they can be like, ‘Oh, I see my flag.’ MSU is very diverse so start with that. And then we’re going to progress to, let’s say, basketball at half-time, other organizations Carribean, PRIDE or whatever and they’re promoting not just who they are, but also the organization at the same time. So I believe it takes steps to do that and it’s going to take communication between different people, different organizations about how they do that,” Ehlert said.

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, it said Steven Ehlert was a senior. The Wichitan regrets this error.

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