SGA presidential candidates debate diversity, qualifications
In an annual event hosted by The Cougar, four candidates for student body president met Wednesday in the Houston Room to debate diversity, their qualifications, student life issues, mental health, what they would have done differently in the administration and other topics relating to what they would do if they won the election.
On diversity and inclusion
Winni Zhang: The problem is not diversity, it’s the different groups that we have on campus are not communicating.
That is something that I plan on doing: really getting the message out there so students know what concerns there are and also bringing student concerns and spreading them and making sure that the administration knows there’s support there.
Robert Comer: Working towards diversity and inclusion is a growing pain that we are having. One of the thing that I would like to do is look at other colleges and see how they’re advocating for diversity and get students who are different from one another to discuss issues and inhibit the same space and bring that to UH.
Shawn Bhatia: The entire point of our campaign is bringing in new blood and new people. In order to be able to accurately represent the student body, you need to get more people involved. It’s a REDvolution.
Jordyn Chaffold: There’s all these diverse organizations – MSA, NSA, BSU, all these things – and they all work separately, and I said to Shane [Smith] that’s unfortunate because we’re one of the most diverse universities in the nation but all of our diversity is separated into cliques.
So what I wanted to do in my position as special adviser of campus diversity is work with all the student groups to come together and see if we can have collaborative events where NSA can have an event with the Muslim Student Association, and we can have inclusion of all cultures.
On transparency in SGA
Robert Comer: There are two big things here, being there in person one, you have to take the time to do the outreach but the outreach is hard. We are students, being in SGA there are a lot of other things that you need to take care of, so we need dedicated people for outreach.
I think it’s such a key component to an administration to know how students feel. Second memes. Students love memes and you can get student feedback through humor easily. If you stoop down to the level of a college student instead of being an SGA representative you can get in touch with students.
Jordyn Chaffold: Basically, what we want to do the first day in office — UH New Deal, the first 45 days — is get something called Shasta Chats, like fireside chats, where we update the student body on what’s going on in SGA monthly or bi-weekly, whatever we decide on in the end, through videos collaborating with CoogTV.
The next thing we want to do is go to classes and actually talk to classes once we’re elected and tell them that we’re here for them, and instead of telling them what we’re going to do for them, we’re going to ask them what they want to see from us. We’re also going to start sending out a bi-weekly newsletter to all the students so you guys can see what’s going on without having to go into the SGA office.
On student fees
Winni Zhang: I think what’s important is having students who are involved and aware of the campus first. There’s no way you can allocate or understand the importance of a fee-funded unit if you don’t even know what they are.
Robert Comer: I won’t put someone on there who specifically says that they won’t raise the student fee. I don’t think that’s the right mentality to have on that committee. I think they make important decisions and they should decide whether it’s worth it or not to have someone raise the student fee.
What I’m looking for are people who understand the impact of where student fees go, they understand the student organizations that receive it but also the departments on campus that receive money from student fees.
Shawn Bhatia: The one thing we want to do with affordability is place students on the Student Fees Advisory Committee and push for lower and frozen fees. We want to send out detailed tuition plans so students know where their resources are going.
Robert Comer: Legislation isn’t necessarily representative of work that’s been done, but I think that the sentiment is that the lack of legislation is indicative of a senate that hasn’t been as active as they could be.
I think doing what I can to set up meetings for our senators, making sure they’re educated, making sure they know who to talk to and giving them the tools and taking the time to give them the tools to do the most for the students they represent.
Shawn Bhatia: We don’t necessarily need to pass bills to see how the administration is going. Try to get the senators as involved as much as you can. They should pass bills the students want them to pass.
Jordyn Chaffold: I do not think that legislation is a definition of how successful an administration was, so in my administration I would focus on doing as many things for the student body as possible, and make sure that even if we aren’t passing legislation we’re doing things and that students know that we’re here for them and that we are doing things for them.
Winni Zhang: Our party is the only party out here that has the most qualified and feasible plans.
Robert Comer: I have the most experience being in SGA as the chief of staff for this administration. I know what is feasible and what is not feasible and I know who to talk to.
Shawn Bhatia: I’ve had experience interning on Capitol Hill, at DC non-profits, worked in fundraising, worked at law for over a year. Every person in our party we wanted to make sure had professional experience.
Jordyn Chaffold: I think that I’m in a unique position here because I don’t have a political background. I’m a business major. I have a business background, and I also have experience running a successful registered student organization of 150 members.
I’m also extremely involved on campus with the Student Center Policy Board, the Food Service Advisory Committee – I was just appointed – the Lease Operations Committee, as well as the Student Media Advisory Committee. I’m involved with Coog Radio, Frontier Fiesta, the Metropolitan Volunteer Program, the Council of Ethnic Organizations, and I have relationships with the student leaders who run those organizations.
Winni Zhang: Each year, a student spends $655 on average, as a college student, on textbook prices. That needs to go down.
Shawn Bhatia: One part of out campaign is affordability, the cost of tuition and student fees, struggle in us our team id adccating to place n sfac we want to rep the student that ins on financl aid 20 hrs a week.
On SGA relevance
Robert Comer: Ideally SGA is there to help motivate and inspire students to think that they don’t need to go through someone to fix something. In reality administrators are very receptive to something you have to say because they share the mentality that this is something you’re paying for.
Jordyn Chaffold: The situation with SGA is that most of the people on the cabinet know a lot of people in administration and their voices are supposed to simplify the voices of the 44,000 and give it to the administration.