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Sunday, October 1, 2023


SGA election party platform breakdown

There are four parties each represented by a presidential and vice presidential candidate competing for your vote in this year’s Student Government Association election.

The following columns will analyze each party and the initiatives they plan on undertaking as well as the feasibility of the initiatives. For the sake of fairness and from the perspective of a typical student, all information was gathered from social media and the vice presidential debate that was hosted by CoogTV on Thursday. The presidential candidate debate will be on Wednesday.

What follows are my own personal opinions about each party in the election and issues that I see with each platform and their candidates.

Jordyn Chaffold | Jasmine Davis/The Cougar

The House of Innovation party is spearheaded by presidential candidate Jordyn Chaffold and vice presidential candidate Farah Islam.

Right out of the gate, Islam is a vital asset to the success of this party. She has extensive knowledge about fee-funded organizations due to her time as the vice chair of the Student Fees Advisory Committee. That knowledge proved to be essential during the debate, especially when she corrected REDvolution VP candidate Seth Crawford multiple times.

Another positive quality, while also potentially negative, is that the party is composed primarily of members that have not had an affiliation with SGA. Chaffold currently holds the post of Special Adviser for Campus Diversity. This allows the party to have an outsider’s perspective to the entire campaign and also stand out as a party of common students.

The party’s weakest point is its platform. Instead of having initiatives to focus on, the party has ideals that it wants to apply to their administration if elected. As Spirit RED vice presidential candidate Adrian Hernandez said in the debate, “Attributes aren’t going to affect the student body; it’s the projects that we work on.”

House of Innovation needs to have more ideas for its administration than just to improve student-SGA relations if elected. Their main goals are to change the way SGA interacts with the student body in an effort to draw more students into the organization, as well as have students become more involved and knowledgeable about it.

On social media, the party does a decent job. It replies quickly to inquiries, according to Facebook.

Islam barely snagged the lead in The Cougar’s poll asking followers who they thought won the debate. Chaffold will have to use his knowledge from the four committees he is on in order to maintain his party’s position as a front runner in the debate poll.

Shawn Bhatia | Jasmine Davis/The Cougar

REDvolution, led by presidential candidate Shawn Bhatia and vice presidential candidate Seth Crawford is focusing its platform on affordability, accessibility and diversity for the student body.

Both candidates are heavily involved through multiple facets of the school and its organizations. However, as Farah Islam of the House of Innovation party showed them during the vice presidential debate, perhaps the party is not as familiar with the school and the way it operates as it should be.

The platform chose to stagger the release of its platform as the election draws nearer. A better tactic would have been to release the entire platform when they started and then focus on specific details of it and explaining them as the election nears. That way, students who wanted to know more about it would not have to be searching for an entire picture and only get fragments of it.

The party is also advocating freezing or reducing mandatory student fees. The bulk of mandatory fees go back into student organizations. Reducing the amount fees come in would only make it harder for student organizations to secure funds for their endeavors.

A better idea may be to make some fees — for example, the recreation fee — optional. That way, students who wanted to use the Rec would pay for it, and students who did not want to use it would not be forced to pay for something that does not benefit them.

REDvolution has a lot of potential with Bhatia and Crawford at the helm. They cannot afford to squander any of it. In The Cougar’s poll asking followers who won the VP debate last week, Crawford was trailing Farah Islam of the House of Innovation party by a mere 3 percent.

Winni Zhang | Courtesy of SpiritRED

Spirit RED is headed by presidential candidate Winni Zhang and vice presidential candidate Adrian Hernandez. The party’s main initiatives are to improve parking, health services and textbook prices.

These are all good things to want to improve upon (especially health services). However, there are no actual plans outlined for them anywhere on their social media that explain how exactly the party plans on taking care of any of those initiatives.

The party website contains explanations of the things Zhang and Hernandez want to improve, but has no real description of how the changes are going to be made. For example, the website states that the party wants to move CAPS from its current location “to a nicer facility.” Where is this facility? Is it already built? If so, is it vacant? These are all important questions that must be addressed.

The only information found on any of their social media was about textbooks, and it was about something that SGA has already been doing: lobbying the state government for open source textbooks. Lowering textbook prices will most likely not be something that the student body will ever be against in the future.

The party and its members do bring several strengths to the table. Zhang and Hernandez, along with several students running in their party, are incumbent members of SGA. Zhang is the current Deputy Chief of Staff and Hernandez is the senator for the Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management. This is important because it means that they are already familiar with the system as well as all of the committees overseen by it.

One potentially unethical quality about the party is that they inherited and repackaged former party Project Red’s Facebook page, and with that, all the people who were subscribed to Project Red’s page.

According to the poll hosted by The Cougar on Twitter, Hernandez was the third best performing candidate from the vice presidential debate hosted by CoogTV.

In the presidential debate on Feb. 22, Zhang must hold her party down against SGA Chief of Staff and VoteforMeme candidate Robert Comer.

Robert Comer | Julia Araica/The Cougar

Right out of the gate, VoteforMeme has the best social media and outreach presence out of any of the parties it’s running against. The memes are dank and also hit close to home for many students at the University.

Robert Comer has experience as the Chief of Staff in the current SGA administration. This means he has extensive experience with SGA and how it does business.

However, his vice president, True Furrh, shows inexperience. This is understandable because he is a freshman. Because of this fact, Comer will have to put in extra work to support his party.

Back to the memes that the platform is run on: the platform is composed of 16 initiatives. Of those, some are feasible, like playing more Houston rap during football games. The rest, like filling the currently empty fountain in Cullen Family Plaza with Jell-O…not so much.

However, the memes make the platform very appealing to students because it is something with which students are able to relate. The memes about parking and the fountain are especially accurate about the issues they portray and how many students feel about them.

This gives VoteforMeme a lot of power with its outreach among students. While it is evident that the party means well for students, they most likely will be unable to follow through on many of their initiatives.

Of their realistic initiatives, some are very good. They want to incorporate student design into the new housing that is scheduled to replace the Quadrangle. They also want to have subsidized Metro fares for students. Students would no doubt most likely end up paying more in student fees for free Metro. However, it is something that could really benefit students and make it an incentive for them to utilize that resource.

According to The Cougar’s post-vice presidential debate poll, Furrh’s performance brought up the rear out of the four candidates. It will be crucial for Comer to make up the lost ground in the presidential debate.

Opinion editor Thomas Dwyer is a broadcast journalism sophomore and can be reached at [email protected].

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