SGA Debates: The Final Stand

The SGA elections are approaching, and candidates are rallying for voter support. In an attempt to gain voter turn out and to make the candidates known to students, SGA added debates, such as the one on Thursday in Cook Commons. However, instead of attracting students to the area, the podium and loud speakers somewhat cleared out the cafeteria. Needless to say, I did not have trouble getting a front row seat. After a brief opening from each of the candidates, the panel was opened for questions from students. Presidential candidate Dave Laman was asked about Police Services because it is a major component of his platform. Laman stated, “Police Services needs to be trained to work with students specifically.” Laman does not want officers to target students in the dorms without proper cause. For example, he does not want officers to randomly ask students carrying backpacks to open them. Likewise, presidential candidate Bryant Jones advocated for a change in the procedures for campus police.

Jones “would like to see them focus on helping students out.” Jones mentioned the example of letting students into their dorm rooms when they are locked out. And Laman mentioned the possibility of campus police escorting female students from their cars to their dorms if they are seen walking alone. Lee Souter, a presidential candidate, believes that “college is a place where you should learn and grown on you own,” and the “police should only be around when the issue is over the RA’s head.” All in all police services is a major theme for the candidates this year. Food services was another issue that was brought up at the debate. Bryant, who is campaigning without a running mate, wants to improve daily life for students by resolving meal plan issues. Although he did not state how he was going to do this, he mentioned food cost, hours of operation, and the taxation of food. Bryant wants to create a “healthy and frequent dialogue” with Sodhexo, the dining service used by UVM. This vague answer was characteristic of all of the answers given at the debate. The next question that was addressed was voter turn out: What are the candidates and SGA doing to get more students to vote. All of the candidates wanted to express to students that SGA is not just for people involved in clubs. Souter wants to “get students to realize how important SGA is to the university.” The problem with this issue was specifics. Most of the issues addressed only targeted students who live on-campus, however, Emily Berliet, a candidate for vice president and Laman’s running mate, did mention extending on-campus and off-campus bus schedules. In general, the debate was poorly formatted. All of the questions were left completely to the students in attendance. This resulted in about four or five (probably fewer) students asking the questions. In addition, the poor public speaking skills of all of the candidates detracted from their campaigns. This was disappointing because some of these candidates would make excellent SGA officers. Each of the candidates has been involved in many good clubs and organizations throughout their college careers. They express an interest in the welfare of the university and students. Unfortunately, it was hard to see these things clearly at the debate.