Debate focuses on cuts, guns
The three candidates running for president of the Student Government Association debated for over 90 minutes Wednesday afternoon in the University Center Houston Room.
Each candidate provided input and resolutions for problems that face the University, especially regarding the main topic of discussion, budget cuts.
When asked which programs or services each candidate would vow to protect in the midst of budget cuts, each provided different answers.
Current Education Senator Michael Harding wants to make sure that student success is the most important priority of SGA.
He told the audience about his friends who had recently dropped out of college because they were “not equipped” to handle the rigorous work at the University.
“We have to keep graduation rates high,” Harding said. “As president of SGA, I will make the free tutoring programs we have on campus more accessible. I want to make sure programs like these are on your doorstep.”
When asked the same question, former senator Michael McHugh said that he would protect the Health Center and athletics.
Candidate Jared Gogets took a slightly different approach to the question.
Gogets did not list the programs or services that he would protect, but rather a solution to minimize damage to all programs through prioritizing and reorganization.
UH can do this, Gogets said, by following examples of other universities in other states who have gone through similar problems that UH is facing, such as the University of California at Berkley.
“UC Berkley was able to save $75 million through reorganizing certain aspects of their university’s own budget,” Gogets said. “Through following this model, I do not believe that the University needs to focus on what to cut at this point in time so much as (what) we need to reorganize.”
In light of the Texas Legislature possibly passing a bill that would allow people with gun permits to bear arms on university campuses, another topic of discussion was concealed firearms.Each of the candidates said they opposed the bill.
Harding, who has a gun license himself, believes that if the law passes, campus police must be aware of who is armed at all times.
“We should instill plans that would make those students who decide to bring weapons to school notify police,” Harding said.
McHugh is strongly opposed to the bill, and said that his time living on campus in the Quadrangle has made him more aware of the crime that occurs everyday on campus.
“In one semester while I was living in the Quad, 16 bicycles were stolen,” McHugh said. “I am afraid that this bill will only increase the crime rate on campus.”
Gogets said that his opinion on the bill did not matter, but rather the collective student body opinion is what is important. Questions that will come up because of the new bill are what worry him.
“The bill is most likely going to pass,” Gogets said. “What will now arise from the bill are questions regarding storage of weapons in resident halls.”
Prince Wilson, current president of SGA, has yet to throw his support towards any one candidate but is confident that any one of the candidates will be successful in office.
“Upon leaving office as president of the student government, I am leaving my successor a lot of responsibilities in the face of the budget cuts,” Wilson said. “The new president will be making a lot of decisions on what to prioritize during their administration.”
McHugh, who said that he runs on the platform of school spirit, is optimistic that the cuts will not impact the University.
“I was admitted into every university in Texas that I applied to out of high school,” McHugh said. “I chose the University of Houston over UT and A&M because I know one day in the near future it will be the best school in the state.”
Wilson encouraged all students to follow up on each of the candidates before the elections begin.
“I urge all of the voters to find out about the candidates, and make sure you know what they are about before submitting your ballot,” Wilson said.
SGA Director of Public Relations Mila Clarke live-tweeted from the debate through the SGA’s Twitter account.
The 150-plus tweets of both questions and answers, and even “commercial breaks” are available at twitter.com/uhsga.
SGA elections will be held Feb. 28 through March 3.