SGA Presidential Debate Sheds Light on Candidates

Hannah Bercovici, Maroon-News Staff

On Tuesday, March 31, students gathered to watch the Student Government Association (SGA) Presidential Debate between juniors Kegan Thompson and Jessie Sullivan. The debate was a chance for the two candidates to discuss their tickets and for students in the community to ask the possible future leaders questions. A large number of students attended the debate to understand what each ticket would provide the Colgate community. The discussion began with a one-minute statement from each side. Thompson stressed his intention to be open to all students if he was elected. Sullivan and her running mate, Vice Presidential candidate junior Greg Brea, repeated their slogan, “Approachable, Resolute, Mindful.”

Thompson and his running mate, Vice Presidential candidate junior David Kim, projected a ticket focused on bringing members of the community together. They believe that transparency and openness should be the main policies of a new student government. Thompson and Kim want to send out monthly reports about SGA affairs, giving students insight into their government. They promoted the Residential Learning Communities (RLC), which are currently being established at Colgate, with the hope that these will foster participation in other communities as well.. Both Thompson and Kim are in fraternities, Theta Chi and Phi Delta Theta respectively, and supported using previously-established communities, such as Greek associations and clubs, as references for building the new RLCs.

Sullivan and Brea made school spirit their main objective throughout the debate. They believed that RLCs help create a sense of community that Colgate students are searching for, but they said that more information about RLCs needs to be articulated before Sullivan’s campaign could support them whole-heartedly. However, they discussed how creating events and spaces where students could participate in school spirit-oriented events, would make students and other community members feel as if they were all on the same team. By doing this, they felt that the SGA would be able to create a more inclusive environment around Colgate, rather than having an abundance of separate groups.

First-year Collin McCarty was one of the students at the debate who responded to the discussion about RLCs.

“I really don’t know a lot about the RLC’s so it was nice to get more information on that, especially since both tickets had similar standpoints. It was good to see that they were united on that issue,” McCarty said.

Thompson and Kim are both Link Leaders, and part of their ticket included reworking First-Year Orientation to aid first-years throughout their first two semesters, rather than being confined to a a couple of days before school starts. Thompson and Kim said that they want to create a better program for transfer students, hoping to make integration into the Colgate community more seamless. By doing this, and adjusting funding to areas where they believe money would be more effective, they hope that incoming students will feel more included while also saving the SGA money that is overspent at events like inclusion dinners.

Sullivan and Brea briefly mentioned transfer student orientation during the debate.  Brea spoke about this specifically after the debate.

“We understand that transfer students are coming in disadvantaged to everyone else because they’re not getting the same opportunities as regular students. It’s definitely something that we want to work on,” Brea said.


Current SGA President senior Sarah Rende spoke about the importance that a position like SGA President holds.

“Sometimes the student body doesn’t realize how much power that the SGA president has in terms of access to administrators and faculty. A person in that position is really looked to as a voice of the students,” Rende said.

This pertains to the idea of inclusivity on campus. Thompson and Kim believe that inclusivity must begin with the students. They said how they want to run more programs to create inclusive environments at Colgate but that inclusivity ultimately comes down to the student body. Sullivan argued that the SGA has to be the first to begin inclusivity.

During the questioning after the debate, the Fall 2014 sit-in was addressed. Sullivan was abroad during the fall semester, but she said that as soon as she returned she began asking students in the Association of Critical Collegians (ACC) and those involved in the sit-in about their experiences. She said that if she had been present at the time, she would have immediately gotten involved and attempted to work with both the administration and ACC to make everyone feel included at Colgate. Thompson agreed with Sullivan’s decree but added that change begins with first-year students and that the best action to take is to teach incoming students about inclusivity from the beginning.

Sullivan and Brea also mentioned their support for the divestment project currently active. The divestment project involves removing Colgate’s investments from non-sustainable energy and moving them to more environmentally friendly companies. They want to create a more sustainable Colgate, stressing the need for students to realize and support the plan to divest.

Students at the debate expressed positive opinions about the event.

“I think that Jessie and Greg are focused on changing the atmosphere of Colgate. It’s very idealistic, which I think is something that we need—a hope for a better tomorrow. If we see Kegan and David, we’re going to see a lot more focus on intergrade interactions. Their campaign hopes to do more groundwork and get more liable policies rolling, which would also be great,” senior Cameron Costa said.

“Great evening, a lot of information put out there, I think Kegan and David did a great job. Jessie and her running mate did alright also. Overall I think it really helped my understanding of what’s going to happen during this election. I think it was a great event,” junior Matthew Quinan said.

Both campaigns hope to fix the problems that are currently seen on Colgate’s campus and agreed that the SGA needs to talk to the public more and work towards a more inviting environment. Overall, the candidates thought that the debate went successfully.

“I think that the debates went well. We want the president and vice president to speak at more events because we don’t want that transparency to only be online interactions…I just really love answering everybody’s questions. I think that it reminded me why I am doing this and how passionate I feel about these issues. It was a really positive experience for me,” Sullivan said.

“I think the debate went well. We got to showcase our platform and what we’re about, what we want to do at Colgate if we’re elected. I think that one thing we could have touched a little bit more was our program for transfer students. Jessie brought it up a bit, but I think that’s definitely something we looked into a lot and that we’re really passionate about,” Brea said. “We understand that they’re coming in disadvantaged to everyone else because they’re not getting the same opportunities as regular students, so it’s definitely something that we want to work on. Along with groups on campus such as Link Staff.”

“I would like to encourage everyone to vote on April 2 through 4 on Get Involved. I thought the debate went phenomenally. Dave and I had a good prep team. We practiced a lot together; it was a lot of fun. We also were a little bit nervous before but then we got pumped up.  I thought we did well. I want to thank everyone for putting on this event and for coming who came to watch it. I would also like to thank Sarah Rende and John Lee for their expertise in their encouragement along the way for both tickets,” Thompson said.

Voting will take place from April 2 to April 4 on Colgate’s Get Involved site.