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Student issues focus of SGA debate

Submitted by Ryan P.C. McQuen on March 18, 2011 – 11:55 amNo Comment
The Student Government Association presidential candidates debated student issues in the upper concourse of the Donaghey Student Center Thursday, March 11.

The Society of Professional Journalists hosted the debate which included opening and closing statements, as well as questions from attending students.

Simone Lewis, incumbent SGA president and senior information science, mass communication and liberal arts major, opened by listing the accomplishments of SGA. Over the past two years, 30,000 items were raised for the Arkansas Food Bank and the Chancellor leadership group was founded.

Michael Fascio, current member of SGA and junior undeclared major said SGA has done a lot “but I feel as though we could have done more.”

Ricky Harris, current SGA member and senior journalism and political science major said “it’s not about us, Solomon [his running mate] and I are two people of over 13,000 students… it’s about all the students.” Harris wants to address issues of commuter students and establish a working relationship with Sodexo.

Zandra Carroll, the only candidate who is not a current member of SGA and senior criminal justice, psychology and Spanish major, said 30 percent of students are minorities who need to “work on campus, utilize the facilities, and eat the food here.” Carroll wants to extend these opportunities to increase minority student retention.

The first question asked what specific steps would be taken to meet goals.

Fascio proposed an anonymous student drop-box, the release of all his contact information, resolving parking and security issues, and increasing voter turnout.

Harris proposed “town hall” meetings all over campus, including buildings besides the DSC which are not always reached.

Carroll proposed improving X-period and the Sodexo dining experience as well as allowing a better drop date option.

Lewis is working on a 24-hour study center, and has already worked with DPS on parking from student input. Currently she is working on bringing a presidential council of all student organizations together. Lewis said “the drop date is in the twelfth week, by the twelfth week you should know if you’re going to stay in the class or not.”

The second question asked what candidates would do for non-traditional students.

Harris proposed discounted childcare services for students. He added that if we could not implement it on campus, we should work with off campus businesses.

Carroll wants to increase retention and graduation, and provide a fall break. She said, “people are more stressed out during fall, because you don’t have a break… I believe that we could increase retention [with it]“.

Lewis wants to work with Sodexo to solve meal plan issues and extend cafeteria hours. She also said tuition issues with Sodexo should be addressed.

Fascio wants to work on financial issues, and decrease student fees beyond tuition. He believes tuition is expensive enough, students do not need to be “nickel-and-dimed” by parking and other fees. Fascio also said security could be improved.

Candidates were then asked what made them good leaders?

Lewis hosts a president’s blog taking a picture each day with a different student to increase involvement (http://www.notlikeyouraverage.blogspot.com/). Lewis said she spends more than 30 hours every week working on SGA.

Fascio said he knows when to lead and when to follow, and is willing to go through “hell” for students.

Harris said he has experience as a leader through high school and as a resident assistant at UALR. Harris said he is proud to be a Trojan.

Carroll said she is heavily involved on campus and has been a volunteer of “Big Brother Big Sisters” for four years. Carroll said she focuses on campus-wide progress, not individual progress.

All candidates proposed more social media advertising to help with off- and on-campus student involvement.

Each candidate ended with these encouragements.

“Get out and vote Monday and Tuesday,” Lewis said.

“Make your voice heard,” Fascio said.

“As long as you vote your voice is still heard,” Harris said.

“You matter, you can make the difference,” Carroll said.

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