SGA Candidates Promote Their Platforms

On Sunday, March 29, three out of four candidates of the two tickets for the 2009-2010 Student Government Association (SGA) President and Vice President kicked off this year’s annual SGA Presidential debates. Dressed in suits, prepared with notes and fueled by ideas, presidential candidates Mike Schneider and Javi Diaz and vice presidential candidate Paul Kasabian explained their platforms and explained why their pair should be voted into power.

Junior Matt Muskin, Schneider’s vice presidential running mate and SGA’s former Speaker of the Senate, is currently in Europe and was unable to attend.

Sophomores and election commissioners Chris Schwartz and Hillary Olshonsky introduced the members of the two tickets and the moderator of the debate, SGA parliamentarian junior Phil Salvatore. Salvatore then took the podium and explained the structure of the debate: opening statements, moderator’s questions, the two tickets’ reciprocal questions and rebuttals, questions from the audience and final closing statements.

Schneider, SGA’s former Chief of Staff, gave the first opening statement. He spoke of his and Muskin’s three years of experience in SGA, and he detailed their past involvement in numerous SGA initiatives, including the installation of student Gmail, the redesigning of the Colgate meal plan and the release of textbooks’ ISBN numbers. According to Schneider, the team’s goals include improving communication on campus with a new, digital event management system and an online ride board; initiating a Good Samaritan program in which students will be able to call for help for a friend who has had too much to drink without penalty; creating a downtown meal plan; expanding wireless internet on campus; providing more 24-hour study spaces on campus and implementing more programs for environmental awareness.

“We support continuous, organic change from students on the grass-roots level, and we will work to enhance communication and bring students together,” Schneider said. “A vote for Mike and Matt is a vote for action.”

Diaz, an SGA senator, began his opening statement by addressing his personal initiation of the Colgate Creed, a civil rights document, and the extensive work with students and administrators that it entailed. He also spoke of his running mate Kasabian’s experience working on The Maroon-News staff and with the Athletic Department. He stated their goals of instituting a Creed Day in the future as a way of enriching diversity; providing more resources for victims of sexual assault and suicidal impulses; creating an upperclassmen mentoring program for underclassmen; posting revamped Cruiser schedules and more garbage and recycling bins around campus; making sure lights are turned off every night in the academic buildings; expanding the hours of the Hieber Café in the library and pushing for the library itself to become a 24-hour study space.

“We see the potential for student government to have a big impact on the lives of students,” Diaz said. “We are ready to make realistic and permanent changes.”

The candidates then answered three questions from the moderator regarding their involvement in the search for Colgate’s new University President, their opinions and plans for working with and improving Greek Life and their plans for continuing to build a relationship with the surrounding Hamilton community.

In response to the first question, Diaz said that he and Kasabian would take the responsibility very seriously, and would listen to other students’ opinions regarding the type of University President they would like to see. Schneider said that he and Muskin would serve as “the stewards of the students” by gathering a group together and taking their opinions to the search committee.

Both Schneider and Muskin are members of the Greek system, and Schneider argued that they feel it should be kept in place in response to the moderator’s second question.

“The system needs to be strong and accessible,” Schneider said. “We would also welcome the institution of student interest groups to promote communal bonds.”

Diaz said that he and Kasabian would work with the Greek system to strengthen it and dispel the negative stereotypes some associate with it.

“We would work to improve relationships between Greek and non-Greek students and the administration,” Diaz said.

In response to the final question, Kasabian said that he and Diaz would promote a Colgate athlete-mentoring program from Hamilton public school students, as well as expand brother-sister programs. Schneider, on the other hand, said that the institution of a downtown meal plan would promote positive relationships with the Hamilton community by allowing students to spend time at local venues and have conversations with store-keepers and residents during the day. He also said that the new event management system would help encourage students to get involved in community service groups on campus.

In their reciprocal questions and rebuttals, the candidates addressed what they saw as their opponents’ weaknesses with regards to SGA experience and range of goals.

The three questions from the audience addressed how each of the tickets would continue the projects carrying over from the current year, which of their proposed initiatives they saw as the most important and whether they would be more concerned with intra-government reform or social policies. Both tickets said they would work very hard to continue ongoing initiatives alongside instituting new ones. Diaz claimed that his and Kasabian’s most important goal would be to address diversity issues. Schneider claimed his and Muskin’s most important initiative was to improve communication via the institution of the event management system. Finally, Schneider said that enough intra-government reform has been made in the past to lay the groundwork for pursuit of student issues, while Diaz said that student government needs to focus primarily on finding ways to improve students’ lives.

The debate concluded with closing statements from both tickets.

“SGA needs leaders with experience and proven results,” Schneider said. “We know, and you know, that the most correct vote is a vote for us.”

Kasabian spoke about coming in as a first-year and being encouraged by peers to get involved.

“Students need people to reach out to them, and our platform stresses that,” Kasabian said. “We will reach out to people and form a better community.”

Each ticket has its supporters in the student body.

Sophomore Ian Schneiderman said that he will be voting for the Schneider-Muskin team.

“They are much more prepared and have more developed ideas,” Schneiderman said. “I have known about the event management website for a long time and I support it very much.”

Junior Cathy Reed said she will be voting for Diaz and Kasabian.

“They have better ideas and are more sincere,” Reed said. “Their goals are realistic, they know the administration and students and they will be able to affect change.”

SGA Elections will take place on the Colgate Portal from Sunday, April 5, through Monday, April 6. All students, including current seniors, are encouraged to vote.