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Preview: What to know about the SGA presidential debate


The SGA presidential candidates will battle it out Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Student Center Theater. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

Students can expect candidates to touch on what makes them the ideal choice to fill the role of SGA president in the 2016 Student Government Association presidential debate.

The debate will be held in the Student Center South Theater Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Presidential candidates John Fields, Edwin Mascorro and Shane Smith will discuss issues that affect students directly, such as tuition raises, student fees, parking, meal plans and student involvement.

Coog Radio’s Sebastian Troitiño, CoogTV’s Matthew Stell and Dr. Jason Casellas, associate professor of political science, will serve as questioners, while The Cougar’s editor-in-chief Glissette Santana will moderate the debate.

Current SGA president Shaun Theriot-Smith advises students to come be a part of the debate by listening to what initiatives the candidates propose and to engage by asking questions.

“People should look forward to how these candidates respond to questions, whether it comes from the moderators or the audience, to look at their ability to think on their feet and generate an authentic and relevant response important to the day-to-day operation of an SGA president,” Theriot-Smith said.

Students are able to participate by going to Twitter and using the hashtag ‪#‎UHDebate to ask the candidates anything during the debate.

The election for the next SGA president will be open from March 1-3, and Theriot-Smith said this year they managed to redevelop the voting process to include online voting.

Polling locations will be located in the M.D. Anderson Library and the Student Center, but students also have the choice to log into their AccessUH and vote through the Get Involved app.

“Through the Get Involved platform, it will give us more flexibility of how we present the ballot and ensure that every voter is a registered student,” Theriot-Smith said. “Before, we had issues several years ago with fraud pertaining to people that were able to vote in a platform that wasn’t necessarily secure.”

If elected, Mascorro aims to expand Greek life on campus and continue his support for veterans.

“(If) you support the student organizations, you will see a stronger student body,” Mascorro said in a previous article. “I know some of these student organizations (feel) discouraged. There are too many restrictions, and we need to make sure that’s not happening.”

Smith, who has been involved in several committees and organizations, hopes his experience will  allow him to contribute straight-forward plans to fix parking and meal plans for residential students.

“There’s nothing I can do by myself, that’s why you need a strong team,” Smith said. “(We have) the understanding of the problems; we have realistic ways to solve them and plan to carry them forward.”

Fields, who served as Speaker of the Senate for the fall semester, aims to embrace University affordability and improve student advising for all students.

“I want to make sure we are doing everything we can to be of service to students,” Fields said to The Cougar. “At the end of the day, we’re here for students, and we want to make sure everyone knows and feel they have a voice in SGA.”

As his term is ending this year, Theriot-Smith, who is graduating this fall, said it will need some getting used to as he leaves his presidential legacy behind him.

“I’m definitely going to miss the opportunity to serve people on a daily basis,” Theriot-Smith said. “It will be a culture shift, but I look forward to foster and give any advice I can to the future administration.”

The current president hopes the next administration carries on the torch further in programs like health and wellness.

“Being able to be an unbiased leader and knowing that the needs of the student are in the forefront of your decision making are vital,” Theriot-Smith said.

“You shouldn’t be serving yourself, but to serve those who elected you into office, to represent them. (This role) needs to be approached with integrity and determination, and I have great confidence in the three folks who are running to carry on the issues that matter to students.”

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