An SGA Debate

What are the presidential candidates standing for?

Ihsaan Fanusie, Writer - The Reporter

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As the Stetson Student Government Association Presidential race approaches its conclusion, three candidates and their running mates made their final pitches for why they should win the election in a debate Wednesday, April 3.

Until two weeks ago, there were three candidate teams for president as well as three candidates for vice president: Clyde Tucker (VP: Joe Francis), George Alderman (VP: Hannah Weary), and Troy Surloff (VP: John-Michael Liontas). Clyde Tucker and Joe Francis dropped out of the presidential race after the debate occurred, but will be included here nevertheless.

Due to a controversial SGA meeting immediately preceding the debate lasting about an hour beyond the scheduled ending time, the debate had to be pushed back from 8:30 PM to 9:30 PM. The meeting ran overtime because the SGA and members of the community took issue with divisive language used from one unnamed Senator to another member of the organization.

Because the debate started late, presidential candidate Troy Surloff and vice presidential candidate Joe Francis both were unable to attend. Their running mates answered questions in their absence.

The debate, which was open to the public and had several moderators as well as questions from the audience, was used to give the candidates a chance to define their platform and tell voters where they stand on SGA issues.

Though it was officially titled and marketed as a debate, the event took form as more of an open-forum, Q-and-A type town hall. Candidates were asked the same questions for most of the event and each ticket was given the same amount of time to respond. At the end of the segment one student created specific questions tailored to each candidate.

Very little disagreement occurred between the candidates, although they did give some different solutions to similar problems.

The first question asked students their thoughts on free speech in light of President Donald Trump’s recent executive order protecting freedom of expression on college campuses. Candidates from all three tickets affirmed their commitment to the principle of free speech, with Senator Tucker calling it a “hallmark of what we are as an institution” and Senator Alderman calling it the “incredibly important” and the “bedrock of our nation.” Senator Liontas praised the diversity of thought that is made available in a college environment.

The Alderman-Weary ticket was the only one to make a distinction between free speech and offensive speech.

“Free speech really helps as talk about issues and just learn what everyone has to say,” Senator Weary said. “However, I think it’s important to notice that there is a difference between free speech and, shall we say, hate speech. And I feel as though when we talk about free speech we also have to recognize hate speech in the same sentence, because those things do often coincide and run against each other.”

Senator Alderman similarly noted that, “there’s a difference between free speech and all of the things your allowed to say that crosses into obscenities and slurs.”

Another question that the candidates were asked addressed the outgoing of Stetson President Wendy Libby and the subsequent presidential search.

Each candidate voiced their approval of President Libby’s tenure and emphasized that they would attempt to have students be as active as possible in the selection of the new president.

“It wouldn’t just matter what I think, it would matter what the collective thinks,” said Senator Liontas.

On financial transparency, candidates came with prepared stances.

Senator Tucker said, “Financial transparency is essential in any type of government, and we need to ensure that the wool is not being pulled over our eyes.”

The Tucker-Francis ticket emphasized financial transparency as a method of raising student trust and thereby increasing the University’s retention rate.

Senator Alderman told the audience that, as president, he would answer students questions like “Where is my tuition money going?” and “Why do we keep having to pay more?”

Overall, though a fair amount of students attended the debate, only one student from the audience asked the candidates their own question, though this may be partially due to the time constrictions of the event.

The SGA Presidential election is today! Place your votes through the voting portal on HatterSync. The polls are open until six.