Presidential and vice presidential Student Government Association (SGA) and College Council (CC) candidates discussed their visions for their respective governing bodies at the annual Wheel Debates in White Hall on Tuesday night.
SGA and CC elections open Friday, Feb. 26, and close Monday, March 2.
Throughout the event, members of the audience of around 30 students could also tweet questions with the hashtag #wheeldebates.
CC Vice President
CC vice presidential candidate and College junior Sheena Desai was the first candidate to answer questions from Editor-in-Chief elect Dustin Slade. Desai is running unopposed.
Desai previously served as freshman legislator and vice president of Student Affairs, and said in her opening statement that, if elected, she would work to “bridge collaboration between organizations on campus that wouldn’t necessarily collaborate.”
Desai said that she believed the biggest issue faced by CC is legislators’ tendencies to lose sight of their own initiatives.
“A lot of times, it’s hard to keep everyone engaged,” Desai said, adding that the Council’s budget often occupies much of the legislators’ attention. “The biggest challenge has been focusing on those smaller projects.”
In her closing statement Desai said that it had been her primary goal for the year to come was “to keep you guys well-connected to the administration.”
Next, CC presidential candidates College junior Goldy Tenreiro-Braschi and College junior Alyssa Weinstein took a seat on the stage.
When asked what she thought was the biggest issue on campus, Weinstein, who serves as CC vice president and was previously sophomore legislator, cited students’ tendencies to remain within their own particular club without branching out.
Students deeply involved in cultural groups and organizations “don’t often go outside the bounds of those groups” she said.
Tenreiro-Braschi, who previously served as CC’s vice president ofProgramming, said she thought the biggest problem on campus was “a lack of community and diversity.”
“Sometimes we get super involved in our own organizations, so there’s sometimes not an opportunity to get involved with other clubs,” Tenreiro-Braschi said. She added, citing the Indian Cultural Exchange as an example of a club that stays within its own cultural boundaries, “just because you’re [of] a certain ethnicity, like [those involved in] ICE, doesn’t mean that at the end of the day you don’t have the same motives [as other cultural campus groups].”
Tenreiro-Braschi added that, along with bridging the gaps between these groups, she would, if elected CC president, initiate improvements and find better uses for campus residential buildings like the Asbury House and Spanish House.
Residence Life and Housing recently renovated and repainted Spanish House, a themed residence hall on Peavine Creek Road that currently houses Spanish-speaking students. Asbury House, which served Xi Kappa fraternity last semester, is currently vacant, according to Residence Life and Housing.
Aside from plans for the Asbury House, Tenreiro-Braschi said she agreed with Weinstein in terms of Emory students’ apparent apathy.
“What you’re saying about apathy — yes, it’s true, but I wouldn’t necessarily say [students are] apathetic towards their organizations,” Tenreiro-Braschi said.
When asked why her candidate statement and platform did not focus on CC’s budget, Weinstein said she believed CC “did a great job of managing the budget this year.”
“I made sure as vice president that the VP of finance indicates in his minutes how much money we have,” she said, adding that the Council was faced with a “near financial crisis” during her freshman year and has erred on the side of financial conservatism since then.
When asked about how she would adjust to the position of Council president after spending a semester abroad, Tenreiro-Braschi responded saying that her experience abroad has “allowed [her] to come back to Emory’s campus with a new and fresh perspective.”
“When I was on the Council before, I thought things were a lot better than I do now that I’m on the outside,” she said.
She added that it is “imperative” to focus on CC’s budget, and to ensure clubs receiving money from CC are increasingly budget-focused as well.
“We need to be more transparent, but clubs need to be more transparent with us,” she said, emphasizing the importance of audits for CC-funded organizations and tracking money.
Tenreiro-Braschi also stressed the importance of “holding legislators accountable.” She said she had urged some outgoing CC executives to print out all of their emails so that incoming members could quickly be up to date.
Weinstein said she agreed, adding that the Council “needs to increase transparency” and improve its website.
“Applying for a budget [for a campus organization] can be almost impossible without the right technology in place,” she said, adding that student responses from a recent CC campus-wide survey recommended a better technological infrastructure.
In response to how each candidate would encourage clubs to spend more responsibly, Tenreiro-Braschi again emphasized the importance of club audits and money tracking, and Weinstein agreed, adding that Council money to clubs could be more restricted.
“The student activity fee just goes to food at an event, but how good is an event if you have to have food to get people to come?” Weinstein asked, adding that she planned to cease Council funding for food at clubs’ social events.
For her closing statement, Weinstein stressed the importance of the Council’s “active involvement on campus” and pledged to “build on the success of the last three years” she has spent at the Council.
“I also want to say that it’s really important for you to vote, whether you vote for me or not,” she said.
In Tenreiro-Braschi’s closing statement she said she plans to focus long-term goals in addition to short-term ones so that she can return to campus after graduating as a proud alumna.
SGA Vice President
SGA vice presidential candidate and College sophomore Max Zoberman, who is running unopposed, promised to “make a commitment to more openness between the student government and the student body” if elected.
He also pledged to have SGA regularly publish its meeting minutes and legislative changes and to create “a third party polling body to better inform SGA of what [the student body] wants.”
He also expressed his plan to increase lighting around campus for nighttime safety, institute “minority weeks” for cultural student groups, make on-campus printing cheaper and extend reading days before winter and spring final exams.
A joint Atlanta and Oxford Campus freshman orientation week was also one of Zoberman’s goals.
“From the outset we need to make sure [freshman students] don’t feel dissociated,” Zoberman said. “In reality, we are one Emory.”
Zoberman also emphasized that SGA-instituted changes to the Cliff shuttle system were not yet complete, and in his closing statement, said that SGA “has room to grow.”
“We need to make the student body feel like they’re part of the Student Government, not against us,” he said.
SGA presidential candidates and College juniors Raj Tilwa and Elyse Lee were the last of the candidates to answer questions.
Tilwa, who is currently serving as SGA vice president, discussed the importance of SGA’s dual role as “a facilitator for students” and a body focused on “student advocacy.”
Lee, who previously served as a College representative and chair of the Student Life Committee, agreed.
“In terms of representation, we have to represent what our students want,” Lee said. “As leaders, we need to take initiatives that perhaps students don’t know, or haven’t thought of yet.”
Tilwa then added that SGA needs to improve its communication with students, and Lee concurred, noting “a lot of students don’t know what we do, or what we stand for.”
When asked what she thought was the biggest issue facing SGA, Lee cited lacking representative attendance.
“We need to have more of an accountability system in place,” she said, adding that, at the beginning of meetings, it can take up to 20 minutes for members to find proxy representatives when they cannot attend.
“In the upcoming year, I want to do a lot of reform on accountability so we don’t waste valuable time,” she said.
Tilwa said he saw room for improvement in SGA’s use of software and technology and described his plan for a website to replace the Emory Bubble and other University communication platforms.
In response to an audience question asking Tilwa to be more specific about his plans for potentially leading the SGA, Tilwa said he planned to allocate 30 percent of the executive budget to student initiatives and to make members of SGA “facilitators of dialogue on campus.”
Responding to a question about facilitating integration of international students on campus, Lee said she hoped to create campus outreach liaisons and improve English teaching programs for those who are non-native speakers. She also described plans to push bills outside of the SGA’s jurisdiction by holding talks with campus divisions and members of the administration.
“I’m running for SGA president because after three years, I really want to take it to the next level,” Lee said in her closing statement. “There needs to be a fundamental change in how we address student needs, and I think I’m the perfect candidate for that.”
Tilwa wrapped up the SGA presidential debate by emphasizing the importance of a sense of community at Emory.
“When I came here and saw this diverse community, I was amazed,” Tilwa said. “There are so many ways to get involved. There are so many things for [SGA] to do next year, and just thinking about those things makes me really excited.”
College sophomore Hobie Hunter, who attended the Debates, said he wasn’t surprised by the low turnout of around 30 students, given the Wheel’s live-streaming of the event online. He added that he was surprised that two of the candidates, CC vice presidential candidate Sheena Desai and SGA vice presidential candidate Max Zoberman, ran unopposed.
As for the content of the debates, Hunter said, “Honestly, I think it was as informative as it was going to be,” but that he was very satisfied with what the candidates discussed and planned on voting again this year.
— By Lydia O’Neal, Asst. News Editor