SGA candidates share goals, plans at annual debate

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    Candidates running for student body officer positions in Student Government Association shared their thoughts, concerns and goals for the upcoming academic year at the 2013 SGA Debate Wednesday. This year, students were invited to participate in the debate on social media and as live audience members.

    This year’s candidates all bring with them previous experience in various positions within SGA, which allowed for insight into SGA's strengths and weaknesses. About 15 students, including two former SGA members, attended the debate to review the candidates.

    President

    The race for student body president heated up between the current Student Body Treasurer Cody Westphal and Graham McMillan, the current vice president for external affairs.

    In contrast to the debate last semester, there were no talks from either candidate about the $50,000 bronze SuperFrog statue. However, responsible spending and transparency remained a common theme.

    In response to moderator Taylor Prater’s questions on improving the diversity on campus, both candidates held that SGA was moving in the right direction. Westphal said as president he would continue to integrate the recommendations made by the current diversity commission. He added that his experience as treasurer would help to allocate funds for the program.

    McMillan’s answer focused on improving not only diversity within the student body but also among faculty. He did not, however, address how the university would pay for those added faculty positions but clarified that SGA did have the budget to do so itself.

    Sophomore political science major Jake Bartel tweeted a question during the debate asking the candidates to explain the inspiration behind their campaign slogans.

    Westphal said his slogan of “Your Voice, Your Vision, Our TCU” signified his intention to translate students’ ideas into actions and solutions by SGA. He said the “Our TCU” of his platform was the inspiration behind his decision to run for president because he shares a passion with all of the TCU community to improve and lead the university forward.

    “Do Justly, Love Mercy and Walk Humbly,” McMillan said is a bible verse that exemplified his view that as president and leader of SGA. He said he would not assume the role as a domineering position but to serve for the students to lead and have a voice.

    Vice President of Operations

    Candidates for vice president of operations, Lauren Sharp and Nick Daigle, emphasized their intentions to strengthen communication with students and develop initiatives based on student needs.

    Sharp, who is running for re-election, said she has worked hard during her previous term to reform SGA’s image by improving communication. She contested that SGA still had a long way to go in improving its communication with student organizations.

    A database, which Sharp created while serving as vice president of operations, is one way she said she has already improved communication. She said she planned to expand on and improve the database to allow student organizations on campus to partner up with SGA on projects.

    Daigle, who currently serves as an AddRan College of Liberal Arts representative, said if elected, he would strengthen the use of social media to communicate with students.

    He said the strength and ability to instantly communicate with the TCU community through social media provided the best way to give students a voice and improve overall transparency. He said it is where communication is going today and that SGA needed to make the social media transition, as well.

    Audience member and current Academic Affair Committee chair Ryan Tiglas asked what each candidate’s first initiative would be if elected. Sharp said she would first tackle the testing supplies initiative, which she began this year. The initiative’s plan includes the ability to supply professors with scantrons and testing booklets to pass out in their classes. She planned to begin on this during the summer by communicating with professors to figure out what materials they would need.

    If elected, Daigle said he would begin a safe-ride program for students during “high-risk” times to avoid putting student’s in dangerous situations. He said he had already begun talking with other SGA members about how to fund the program and that the idea of a shuttle system was in progress.

    Vice President for External Affairs

    Hillary Shepheard, who is running unopposed and currently serves as a College of Communication representative, addressed how she planned to define the role of vice president for external affairs.

    Shepheard said she plans to expand on current SGA goals and initiatives she worked on serving in SGA this year. Those plans included improving the internship pool for students, creating more service opportunities and uniting communication between organizations on campus and businesses and key officials in the TCU area.

    Treasurer

    Current chairman of the finance committee Zach Madel is also running unopposed for student body treasurer. He was unable to attend the debate but released a statement on his behalf.

    "I appreciate the opportunity to run for the position of student body treasurer and share my ideas and goals with the student body. Due to the extraordinary leadership of the current cabinet, SGA is a stronger organization and more responsive to the needs of the student body than ever before. I would like to continue the excellent work of my predecessor by implementing the three components of my campaign platform. First, I would like to explore reducing the $90 student body fee. Our recently approved budget for the upcoming fiscal year has an amount in excess of $100,000 simply allocated to a residual savings fund, which yields no benefit to the student body. I believe that we have a responsibility to provide our constituents with a strong return on their investment in SGA, and I will strive to accomplish that. Secondly, I will seek to improve the way SGA provides funding to student organizations while pursuing my ultimate goal of using SGA money to maximize the quality of campus life. I will use my experience as finance committee chairman as well as data from previous years to reward organizations that have produced excellent events and projects in the past with additional funding. Finally, I will work to simplify the Activities Funding Board process. Many students are unfamiliar with the AFB process, which annually allocates $100,000 of SGA funds to student organizations. This funding is essential to many student organization events and projects on campus, and I will work to make sure it is distributed as efficiently as possible. Above all, I seek to serve the needs of the student body and welcome student input in every aspect of the student body treasurer position."

    The polls open at 8 a.m. Tuesday, April 23, and students will be able to vote on my.tcu.edu until 8 a.m. on Wednesday, April 24. The winners will be announced at noon on Wednesday, April 24.