UH SGA presidential candidates bare their Cougar claws
Students running for presidency in the 51st administration of the Student Government Association presented their platforms to the student body in a moderated debate hosted by The Daily Cougar Thursday night.
The four presidential candidates represented an array of ages and experiences in student government. They framed their vision for the University, brought their goals to the table and jabbed at their opponents’ arguments to promote themselves in the best light and win student votes. Eight questions were presented by the moderator, instructional professor Simon Bott, and each candidate was given only two-and-a-half minutes to answer and one minute for rebuttals. Students were also able to send in their questions via Twitter with the tag #dailycougarSGAdebate.
Students can cast their ballots from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. February 25 to 27 in polling stations across campus. Permanent locations include the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center, the University Center, the University Center Satellite, the Arts Quad and the M. D. Anderson Memorial Library, according to Section V of the SGA Election Rules and Regulations.
Shane Smith — Cougar Pawlitics
Shane Smith drew from his experiences as former SGA attorney general, his involvement on campus and his personal experience moving to the University and living on campus as a freshman.
Smith said the cost of meal plans for resident students, as compared to commuters, was much higher. He specifically cited the Lifestyle 160 meal plan, which cost $1700 for the 2013-2014 school year. He felt that this penalizes residential students, though the administration has been pushing for a stronger residential community.
But residents weren’t the only population Smith addressed; parking, especially for commuter students, was also a point of contention. With increased campus sprawl, parking has decreased. His involvement in the Transportation and Parking Advisory Committee has given him insight into the issue. He hopes to push for more effective student parking.
Campuswide involvement in student government was pressing for Smith. He shared his disgruntlement with the current state of SGA and felt that more could be done to reach out to students.
“Senators are required by bylaw to hold regular town hall meetings with their constituents, but that doesn’t happen anymore,” Smith said. “That never happens because the senators — at this point — are not working for the students. We can all agree that the role of SGA is to represent the students. We just disagree on whether or not it’s happening.”
Though Smith is a freshman, he does not see this as an obstacle. Rather, he believes that this can be beneficial for SGA in the long run because it will provide long-term stability, he said.
“Continuity of leadership is something that has to be in place because, let’s face it, most presidents only have one term,” Smith said. “If I’m elected, I’m going to be around for the next couple years. Being young is not a disadvantage. It’s an advantage, because it means I’m invested in this University and its future, and I can provide that continuity in leadership that it takes to get major initiatives done over the next several years.”
Charles Haston — REDvolution
Charles Haston is currently a graduate senator-at-large and sits as the chair of the SGA Student Life Committee. He has sat on the Student Fees Advisory Committee, which decides on funding for student organizations across campus.
He expressed interest in improving the state of academic advising, increasing the budget for student programming — concerts and other campus events — and continuing to collaborate with administrators to reach Tier One in all categories. He focused on his current position in SGA, saying he would be able to focus on student concerns and not on developing relationships with University administration, because he has already developed those relationships.
“The student body president doesn’t have enumerated powers; they’re not commander-in-chief. The only power we have is access to administration, and they have to respect you,” Haston said. “If they don’t, then you’re not going to get anything accomplished. The key to SGA is that the Senate works together with all the students and then reports to the student body president. You can then be the liaison between SGA and the administration.”
Though Haston put goals on the table to improve student involvement and success, immediate results may not be apparent because of the nature of government.
“It takes so much time to do anything that sometime you just run out of it. … It takes time to get things done, and it’s unfortunate,” he said. “We need to make sure that, as an administration, that we have continuity of leadership that will follow us up right behind us, make sure that they can carry on what (current SGA President) Cedric Bandoh has done so well, helping us assemble this great team of student leaders from all across campus.”
Haston is running under the same party name as Bandoh and has received Bandoh’s support during the election.
Andrea Segovia — House of Red
Andrea Segovia expressed her sentiments about the current state of SGA affairs, saying that the organization had “lost its purpose” and was no longer a forum for students, citing dress code bill SGAB-50006, which she said she sees as frivolous. She personally attested to students who didn’t know who their SGA representatives were and were oblivious to the existence of Senate meetings.
“The role of SGA — what it should be and what it isn’t at this point — is to be the voice of the students. What I can do to help that is make sure people know who their senators are … to make the students aware of what is offered here at the University. Yes, we are the voice of the student, and we need to remember that we’re the voice of the student.”
Segovia believes that her experience as a resident assistant and former special adviser to Bandoh has given her the experience to deal with everyday student challenges. She hopes to push for campus safety, student involvement and academic success.
“I understand what the little people need to improve and be a part of this Tier One community, to have all of our University be Tier One,” Segovia said. “We want the students to be so connected to this campus that when they graduate, they come back and are proud alumni. This isn’t a pit stop along the journey to where we go; this is the monumental time, and should you have a place in your heart, this University should become your home.”
Naeem Abdullah – The “We” Party
Naeem Abdullah has worked with organizations on campus, including serving as a student leader in the Urban Experience Program and as a College of Technology senator in the 48th SGA administration.
Abdullah hopes to take a firm stance when collaborating with administrators in pushing his platform.
“Any obstacle is the fact that the administration has a hand on everything that we do. We are no longer students anymore. They tell you what to do, and then we do it. And that’s how they operate; they have an elitist-type attitude,” Abdullah said. “We will not bow down to the administration, but we will walk cohesively with them.”
Abdullah said that the current SGA administration has been ineffective and that he will push for more job opportunities for students and increased campus security. He also hopes to work on cultivating stronger ties to the surrounding community that the University is situated in, namely the Third Ward.
“At the end of the day, change is coming, and change is here. And we need to get a better administration in that’s actually going to do something for the University.”