SGA presidential candidates debate changing student body, challenges with administration
The three students running for the presidency of the 52nd Student Government Association administration presented their platforms at the SGA Presidential Debate hosted by The Cougar Thursday night in Rm. 144 of the Law Center.
REDvolution candidate Shaun Smith, The “We” Party II candidate Elisha Diaz and independent candidate Sam Perez discussed issues such as mandatory freshmen housing, UH’s growing population and SGA’s cooperation with the UH administration.
During the debate, moderated by Faculty Senate President Wynne Chin, questions from The Cougar Editorial Board were asked, as well as questions submitted on Facebook and Twitter using #UHDebate.
The following key issues were presented to the candidates by The Cougar Editorial Board. Continuing coverage on candidate platforms and analysis will be available in the coming days at thedailycougar.com/news.
Students can cast their votes March 3 through 5 from at one of six locations: the Student Center, the Student Center Satellite, the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center, the lobby of the M.D. Anderson Library, the Science and Engineering Classroom, and the Classroom and Business Building lobby.
UH’s rapid changes
In terms of UH’s rapidly growing campus and population, all three candidates agreed that emphasis on serving the students was essential, but each had different ways of going about it.
Diaz said on-campus residents should have more late-night dining options because many of the dining halls stop serving food when students are still studying.
Smith rebutted that while UH was becoming increasingly residential, every past candidate has campaigned on changing parking and that that needed to stop.
“(SGA) just can’t go to the administration and say they want to change parking,” Smith said. “It doesn’t work that way.”
Perez attested that while Houston is a great city and the University was doing its best to accommodate that, growing pains such as parking and increasing on-campus food options were issues that needed to be dealt with.
Mandatory freshmen housing
While one of current SGA President Charles Haston’s biggest platforms throughout the 51st administration was mandatory on-campus living for freshmen, REDvolution candidate Smith said he is against it because UH is a “university of opportunity.”
“‘The University of Houston must always be a college for working men and women and their sons and daughters. If it were to be another rich man’s college, I wouldn’t be interested,'” Smith said, quoting Hugh Roy Cullen.
While Diaz said he has acquired around $15,000 in debt so far, if he did not live on campus, he said he would hate going to school every day.
“Living on campus is part of the college experience,” Diaz said. “I would love for every freshmen (attending UH) to live on campus.”
Perez said better progress and higher GPAs are the best reasons for mandatory freshmen housing on campus.
“The university has a high dropout rate for freshmen,” Perez said. “(This is) something that we need to address so that we can keep the freshmen here.”
Communication between SGA and the UH administration
Independent candidate Perez said he believes SGA has done a good job of handling the recent strife between the Division of the Administration and Finance and that the key issue was the lack of communication between the students and the administration.
“We don’t need people in the administration who don’t put students first,” Perez said.
Diaz mentioned a petition that was started by a UH student in support of SGA and the vote of No Confidence against Administration and Finance Vice President Carl Carlucci, saying that he signed it and supported it fully because “those little fees, those little increases in fees – it affects me.”
“(When it comes to having loans), you have this little cloud of darkness that’s like, ‘Hey, I owe money,'” Diaz said. “It’s awful.”
Smith, the only candidate with SGA experience, said he disagreed with the way SGA handled the situation with Carlucci and that a formal disapproval should have been voted on because votes of No Confidence should be used against organizations themselves.
“(Carlucci) wasn’t acting illegally,” Smith said. “However, I feel like (he) was acting lazy.”