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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

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SGA 2022 presidential candidates debate student rights, previous recall election


Presidential candidates Brett Bonneté (left) and Joshua Martin (right) are asked questions about the rights of students and recent news events at the 2022 SGA presidential debate. | Katrina Kujawa/The Cougar

The Student Government Association presidential candidates faced off in the 2022 presidential debate Friday night, with two of the candidates attending in-person, and the candidate of THE BLACK COUGARS submitting an online statement as to why Micheal will not be attending the debate.

In a debate lasting less than 45 minutes, Brett Bonneté of Conscious Coogs and Joshua Martin of ForTheStudents #ChangeSGA had chances to tell the student body their goals and concerns if they were to be elected.

Opening statements

After a moment of silence for the current events in Ukraine, a video of vice-presidential candidate Derek Layne of ForTheStudents #ChangeSGA was shown, as the vice-presidential debate planned for Thursday was canceled.

Alexis Boehmer of Conscious Coogs gave a statement regarding her time at UH and how it has shaped her views through SGA, noting that she also wants to improve the infrastructure of the University.

Introduction

Bonneté, current SGA chief of staff, stated they have been preparing for this moment throughout their entire college career. Bonneté hopes to light the same spark in students that he had when entering UH.

Bonneté also explains how their party includes members from all backgrounds, including being the only party with two graduate students.

Joshua Martin began by commending Bonneté for their previous engagement and commitment in SGA, as well as continued to say he aims for this debate to focus on issues as opposed to insults.

Martin briefed the audience on his policies and actions and elaborated on how he wants to raise the University’s graduation rates and improve sexual assault resources on campus.

A haiku from Micheal of THE BLACK COUGARS was displayed in the placement of an opening statement.

Planned questions

In the first question of the debate, Bonneté explained how they plan to complete the lighting project that has been going on for multiple years.

Martin explained how he plans to represent marginalized groups, stating how he believes all LGBTQ+ students deserve rights. Martin aims to work with members of the Texas legislature to show support to the community.

Bonneté answered how they plan to push for diversity in their administration.

“Numerous people have cited that you and other people in SGA strategically said not to vote for me,” Martin said in rebuttal.

When Martin has asked students if they can name what SGA has done, most of them come up empty-handed and this is something he wants to change, he said.

“We want to invite students to the senate chamber so that they can know and voice their concerns about what’s going on in the student government,” Martin said.

The recall election last semester called for questions regarding the transparency of SGA.

“The recall elections shaped me because we need to understand that you really need a platform that is united in their morals and values, and that is exactly what Conscious Coogs stands for,” Bonneté said.

General questions

Bonneté began by naming what the current administration has completed that he helped work on, including the addition of free menstrual products and his plan to remove strobe lights in the arcade for students who might have visual impairments.

Martin wants to introduce a point system, where students will be rewarded for becoming more involved in the University.

Bonneté describes what he believes the average student looks like, citing the amount of diversity he sees around campus on a daily basis.

“Your average student comes from multiple, different sources of diversity,” Bonneté said. “We’re the second most diverse university in the nation and I believe that’s what makes SGA and our campus so incredibly interesting.”

When asked about the recent lawsuit against the University, Martin explained although he condemns hate speech, the First Amendment gives students the right to express their opinion.

“It’s relatively alarming that you don’t take a more functional stance on the fact that those students are being attacked, students like your fellow cabinet member,” Bonneté said in rebuttal.

In Bonneté’s next question, they name groups of students who they believe have been attacked recently and state how they find it disheartening that some people believe transgender and LGBTQ+ people do not have a place in the University.

Martin wants to create unity between SGA and the students, something that he believes his administration will achieve.

Bonneté rebutted the statement, detailing student involvement seen between the SGA and other members of the University.

Crowdsourced questions

In a student-asked question, Bonneté said the goals he hopes to achieve are for not only minority groups but also the entire student body.

When asked about the current legislation surrounding transgender rights, Martin wants to work with the student government in Texas and the Texas state legislature to show that they will protect trans rights.

Closing remarks

Ending with their closing remarks, Bonneté applauded Martin’s party and team for showing their support for him tonight. They also voice how knowledgeable the debate was for them and how they are grateful for the chance to speak.

Martin urges students to vote for him and his party if they haven’t been satisfied by their previous campus experiences.

Voting

Voting begins Feb. 28 and is lasting through Mar. 4 on GetInvolved. Three students who vote will be randomly chosen to win a Nintendo Switch.

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