Communication, Diversity Addressed at SGA Open Forum
The Student Government Association (SGA) executive board nominees held an open forum in the C. Walsh Theatre Thursday afternoon in preparation for the upcoming SGA elections.
This forum was open for all Suffolk students to get to know the candidates better through brief debates and an open forum at the end where attendees could ask questions of any nominees about remaining concerns.
The positions that are open in this coming election are SGA president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer. The candidates running for the presidency are Sean Walsh and Jonathan McTauge. Candidates for vice president are Daniel Gazzani, Kim Ginsberg, and Caitlin Hankard. Running unopposed is Brianna Silva for secretary, and Cam Viola for treasurer.
The debate began with brief opening statements from all the candidates, in which each emphasized their passion for student government and their willingness to serve the students this coming fall – especially after the events this past month regarding the Board of Trustees’s attempted dismissal of President Margaret McKenna.
This created an important question for the presidential candidates: how would SGA work with the Board of Trustees in light of recent events?
Sean Walsh, currently Vice President of SGA, vocalized his desire to have a closer relationship with the Board and work together to avoid events like the one last month.
“A positive that’s going to come out of it is that we will have a stronger relationship with the Board of Trustees,” said Walsh.
Jonathan McTauge, a senator for the class of 2018, agreed with Walsh, emphasizing the importance of being on the same page with the board. He noted the importance of working with the students and bringing their thoughts forward to the Board of Trustees in order to create a good relationship.
“We need to find what is best for the majority,” he said. “We must listen to our students and bring that transparency to the Board of Trustees.”
Vice presidential candidates, while not directly asked about this issue, all stressed the importance of communication between the students, the Board, and SGA.
Kim Ginsberg, an SGA Senator, Student Affair Committee chair, and a member of one of Suffolk University’s sorority Theta Phi Alpha, stressed that her experience in the sorority makes her skilled in communications and problem solving.
“We need to be able to be approachable so that [the students] can come to us,” she said. “We need to be a voice for all the students on campus.”
Caitlin Hankard, currently SGA’s Public Relations Committee Chair as well as a senator, agreed with this ideal. She pointed out the importance of leaving her own opinion out of issues as vice president, letting the students have the real power in decision making.
“We’re the middle man between the institution and the students themselves,” she said.
Daniel Gazzani, an international student from Venezuela, emphasized his passion for creating a voice for students, as well as his role in speaking to students to get their opinions before the vote of no confidence for Board of Trustees Chairman Andrew Meyer.
“I went around asking my constituents what they believed I should vote as their senator,” he said. “All of them told me to vote no, and I did. A voice for all students is not just a slogan. I mean it.”
Brianna Silva, the unopposed Secretary, also called for an improvement in relations between students and SGA, and promised to be a voice for all.
Improvement in communication was not the only hot topic covered in the debate. Diversity was also addressed by all the candidates. Suffolk often prides itself in being a diverse university, but much of the student body, especially the cultural clubs on campus, have pointed out that the representation of minority and international students within SGA is far below what it should be.
“The lack of representation is a serious issue in a very diverse university,” said Treasurer Cam Viola. “I want to see more diversity within SGA. It’s what we need – getting them involved make it a better place.”
Gazzani even said that when he asked several international students if they knew about SGA, many didn’t know what the role of the organization was.
“SGA is a great organization that cannot properly represent their students,” Gazzani said. “Most of them don’t know who we are.”
Both Hankard and Ginsberg said they wanted to get more clubs involved in SGA, and especially get the commuters -who make up more than 70% of undergraduate students – involved. According to Hankard, SGA cannot deal with all the issues at hand without an accurate, diverse representation of the student body.
“I want to get [the students’] voice heard and their concerns heard,” said Ginsberg.
Presidential hopefuls McTague and Walsh also voiced the importance of diversity and inclusion on campus, something that McTague said “is awful right now.” Both highlighted their involvements in the past two Unity Weeks on campus, as well as the Multi Cultural Summits, which Walsh described as “the two greatest things [he’s] done while here at Suffolk.”
Vice President Walsh even acknowledged his unfamiliarity with these issues prior to coming to the university, but insisted his experience as senator and then vice president has boosted his knowledge of diversity and social justice.
“I still have a lot of work to do in the area, as most of us do, but I think I’ve got a great start,” he said.
McTague also noted the experience he’s gained at Suffolk, bringing up his trip with Suffolk’s Alternative Spring Break, and his participation in Unity Week this year. Diversity and inclusion would have to be improved in upcoming years, he said.
Voting polls open through SUConnect on Tuesday, March 7th at 9:00 am and close on Wednesday, March 9th at 5:00 pm.