The Montclair State University Student Government Association (SGA) candidates gathered in the Student Center Ballrooms on Tuesday to discuss their platforms in the annual SGA Debate.
Doors opened at 6:30 p.m., and for an hour, students had the opportunity to speak to the candidates individually. Tables were set up around the ballrooms giving the candidates space to discuss their platforms in detail. After an hour, the official debate began.
Although it was a debate, there were two recurring themes all of the candidates seemed to agree on: the importance of social justice and the need to reorganize the SGA. Issues that were addressed included the lack of a strong relationship between the SGA and the larger student body, the possibility of the SGA becoming more politically involved and increasing representation for students from marginalized communities.
When asked how the SGA can represent all students without getting involved in political actions, presidential candidate Serafina Genise had a different view on the role the SGA should play.
“I think it’s the SGA’s responsibility to speak up in the face of hate, discrimination and exclusivity,” Genise said. “I don’t think that they should remain silent on those issues.”
— The Montclarion (@TheMontclarion) March 27, 2018
While most of the candidates addressed issues with how the SGA currently functions, Genise was perhaps the most vocal on the topic, suggesting in her opening speech that the SGA is currently “all about money” and stating her plans to make the role of the SGA about addressing issues raised by the student body.
Emma Rush, the unopposed vice presidential candidate, agreed with the need to focus on social justice, promising to use her experience from being in the SGA and other campus organizations as a way to better address campus issues during SGA meetings.
“You really need to know the system in order to fix it,” Rush said. “You need to know what works and what hasn’t worked over the years.”
Krupa Vekaria, a junior who is also running for president, focused on the need to improve campus life as a way to strengthen the student community. Vekaria promised more SGA outreach to the student body and to organize more events, especially on weekends.
The two candidates for secretary, Jillian Royal and Maggie Evans, had detailed platforms emphasizing the need to support students from communities that often receive less consideration.
Evans, who is non-binary, hoped that their campaign would inspire other transgender students to pursue activism.
“I hope that at least one person on campus will see me up here, looking the way that I do, and just say, ‘Wow! If that person can do it, maybe I can make a difference in my community also,’” Evans said.
Royal agreed with the need to emphasize inclusivity of all students and address social justice issues on campus.
“I’m very passionate about social justice and human rights issues, and I see the need for it to be discussed a little bit more,” Royal said. “Through my campaigning, I’ve heard the concerns of so many students, and I want to be a person they can come to and tell me about their concerns so I can voice these concerns to the higher-ups.”
Voting for SGA candidates will take place on HawkSync starting Monday, April 2 and will end Wednesday, April 4.