SGA: Students talk safety, transparency in candidate debate

SGA: Students talk safety, transparency in candidate debate

April 01
19:40 2016

Alexandria Reeves | Staff Writer

@alliereeves23

 Chelsea Watkins | Copy Editor

@chelloo

Students took to the stage Thursday in the University Union for discussions on campus carry, student apathy and Student Government Association’s transparency during an undergraduate student body presidential debate.

Dr. Bethany Blackstone moderated the debate, and she allowed the candidates to question fellow debaters to clarify their plans for the coming year. Students sent in additional questions from Twitter, something SGA promoted the days prior to the debate.

Campus carry and how to educate the student body

A major question presented to candidates was to explain how they would educate students on the campus carry policy that will go into effect Aug. 1. Grant Hale and Makayla Barnes, current SGA executives, said while the campus carry townhall meetings in the fall were a good start, more needs to be done on this front.

“Campus carry policy is a big change coming in the fall and something students need to be aware of,” Hale said. “We need to be on all fronts reaching out to the student body, going in front of classrooms and meeting organizations and their members.”

Presidential candidate Sam DeLeon said getting student feedback is still important though the policy has already been enacted. John Andrews said he believed it was within everyone’s right to carry a gun, however, there should be limitations.

Accessibility to the student government

When asked about how they planned to improve communication between student legislators and the university community, all the candidates agreed the undergraduate student government needs to be more open and relatable to the population of students it represents.

“I think it’s pretty clear that SGA needs to be more transparent,” Hale said.

Alessandra De la Rosa said that SGA needs to reword its agenda transcripts and minutes so students can read and interpret them better, which the candidate said would drive more interaction between students and SGA senators.

Andrews said as president he would go to every student organization on campus to hear their concerns.

“I don’t really like the word transparency,” Andrews said. “I want to be able to be your friend, your guide, the person you can actually come to.”

Candidates were also asked him UNT students lacked pride and how they would try to cultivate pride across campus. DeLeon said students didn’t, but said rather they do not know enough about what is happening around campus.

Popularity contest?

During the second half of the debate, candidates, an American Flag image added behind them, answered Twitter questions from hashtag #SGADebate, wherein some students asked of this election is a popularity contest among the candidates and their closest peers on campus.

DeLeon took this head on, and first said the the perception of popularity can be mistaken for what he called successful networking. Later in the debate, when Hale asked him to elaborate on this point, DeLeon said popularity is merely being visible, but successful networking is about making real connections with your peers throughout the student body.

“We didn’t do this for the popularity,” Andrews said. “You should see us on our qualifications.”

Hale reminded viewers (it was also broadcasted on Periscope via the SGA Twitter account) that presidents and vice presidents in SGA get paid through student fees, and he said students should look at this election as the process of hiring a new leader.

Gender neutral restrooms and student safety

When prompted with the question of gender neutral restrooms, candidate Hale said it’s important to poll students to see if they are for or against gender neutral restrooms on campus.

De La Rosa pointed out that there is one gender neutral bathroom in the Union and said they should be spread out throughout the university.

“We also need to establish that they have safe spaces,” Barnes said. “We need to make sure these students feel safe in wherever they want to use the bathroom and live.”

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