This year’s presidential and vice-presidential candidates for the Student Government Association (SGA) and College Council (CC) discussed their goals to increase student government transparency and establish a sense of unity among the student body in a debate last Friday.
Candidates who participated in the debate include current CC President Ashish Gandhi, a junior in the College, and current SGA Executive Vice President Brian Fuller, a junior in the College, for the position of SGA president.
College junior Malika Begum, who serves as the SGA executive board secretary; College sophomore Bart Qian, the current SGA representative-at-large; College sophomore Matthew Willis, who serves as SGA co-secretary; and Nursing School student Danielle Zamarelli, who currently does not hold a student government position, debated for the position of SGA vice president.
Junior legislator and College junior Cassy Novick and CC Vice President and College junior Amitav Chakraborty debated for the position of CC president. Sophomore legislator and College sophomore Priya Datta and junior legislator and College junior Stephanie Llanes debated for the position of CC vice president.
Both candidates for SGA president agreed on what they viewed as the necessity of addressing students’ financial concerns. While Fuller suggested that SGA create a “student leadership scholarship” to aid students with unprecedented financial need, Gandhi emphasized the importance of reexamining Emory’s financial aid system.
“At the end of the day, financial aid needs external review to see why so many students aren’t able to come back to Emory,” Gandhi said. “It is very disappointing when people we personally know can’t continue [at Emory].”
Gandhi noted that he intends to alter the allocation of SGA funding to student organizations, “cutting back on SGA programming” in order to increase funding to student groups.
“[I want] to enable students and student organizations to be able to do what they do better,” Gandhi said. “That means giving them more money and more resources so they’re able to put on better and bigger events for the Emory community.”
Fuller, on the other hand, spoke of his desire to improve SGA programming in order to unify both SGA and the student body as a whole, creating what he considered a more cohesive campus atmosphere. As part of his platform, he suggested holding two tailgates each semester to “build a united community” around athletics. In addition, he said that he hopes to “[revamp] the attitude within SGA” to help generate more SGA and student body enthusiasm about SGA programming.
“[It’s instrumental to] meet with legislators and [talk] to them and [build] a culture within SGA,” Fuller said. “If [there is] a unified culture within SGA, people are excited. [SGA should be] excited about doing things around campus. [It was] not completely successful this year, and sometimes it’s hard to get people excited.”
During the CC presidential candidate portion of the debate, CC presidential candidate Novick also discussed steps to improve campus-wide unity by increasing “cross-divisional communication,” encouraging dialogue among student government organizations in different undergraduate divisions.
“We don’t do a lot of [cross-divisional communication] at all,” Novick said. “I want to increase cross-divisional relationships — this includes SGA as a whole with BBA and the nursing school, [and] even the reps on CC, [who] don’t get a chance to participate as much.”
SGA vice-presidential candidate Zamarelli also stressed the importance of encouraging collaboration amongst divisions.
This cooperation would, she said, improve efficiency in developing SGA initiatives.
“All the governing bodies need to be communicating together,” she said. “So, one of my ideas is really making sure that the [executive] boards of each of the governing bodies come together and collaborate on their different ideas.”
Novick added that she hopes to ease student concerns over CC’s distribution of funding to student groups by increasing budget transparency — a measure that would, she felt, better CC’s relationship with the student body.
Chakraborty, who is running against Novick for the position of CC president, said that he intends to change CC’s monetary policy so that CC can allocate funding to a broader range of student organizations. He noted that the current policy limits CC’s ability to give “gifts” to volunteer clubs.
Explaining that CC does not typically spend the entirety of its annual budget, Chakraborty said that he would use the supplemental funds for initiatives to “increase Emory spirit” through events such as an “annual campus T-shirt contest” where students would design funny T-shirts. CC would then adopt the winning design and distribute free T-shirts to students.
SGA vice-presidential candidates Begum and Qian shared similar goals in promoting increased communication amongst the SGA executive board, SGA legislators and the student body. Willis stressed the importance of basing initiatives off of student concerns.
“There’s a culture and mentality within SGA right now where we aren’t thinking about the concerns of the students,” Willis said. “People come to SGA and they ask for funding and we give it, but that’s not all we’re responsible for. We’re supposed to look at the student voice, and then we’re supposed to base our initiatives off of that.”
CC vice-presidential candidates Llanes and Datta also discussed their initiatives to address student concerns and improve campus life.
Llanes said she hopes to “[increase] readily available resources to students” — such as free printing and Ethernet as well as more Emory shuttle buses. Datta, on the other hand, said she plans to restructure the Class Comments LearnLink conference so that students have resources that will help them make decisions about courses.
Students will vote for candidates on Thursday.
— Contact Stephanie Fang.