Student body presidential candidates hold debate to discuss the future of EMU

Candidates for student body president Jessica Howell, Sabrina Ford, Aimee Frey and Steven Cole participated in the Student Government 2015 Candidate Debate on Tuesday night in the Student Center.

Candidates had one minute to introduce themselves and explain their platforms. Professor Perry Francis, Student Government adviser, then asked them rounds of general questions targeted at their campaigns, follow-up questions and audience questions. Candidates were given one minute for closing statements.

Francis said the debate gave students “opportunity to understand what really motivated the candidates.”

“Now it’s up to the students to take charge of this election and vote,” he said.

A member of the audience posed a question about how the candidates would deal with the environment at Eastern Michigan University in relation to bullying and the recent controversy over the app Yik Yak.

Cole said he would “follow existing avenues as they are.” He said it is essential to put offending students though the Student Code of Conduct Policy and isolate where the issues are coming from.

Howell said she would start anti-bullying campaigns and programs to educate students about bullying and that “we need to start at the root of the problem.”

Ford said faculty feeling support from the student body is important.

“We need to support our teachers, our faculty, our staff,” she said.

Frey said, “ultimately it comes down to respect and responsibility,” and that she would have seminars about bullying.

Another question from the audience used EMU’s continued relationship with the Education Achievement Authority as a way to ask about how the candidates would stand up to administration to voice student concern.

Ford said standing up to administration is a “key point in Student Government.” She said she wants to “host a dialogue” to work with administration.

Frey said the Student Government should be “the leading point in rallying the students.” She said she would use petitions, social media sites and websites to let administration know what the issues are.

Cole said he wants to make sure “the end of the EAA is next December.” He said he has met with the Board of Regents about the issue and will continue urging them to end the relationship.

Howell said she would use social media and meetings with the Board of Regents to remind them that they are here for the students and they “need to do things to protect the students.”

Francis asked candidates questions specific to their campaigns.

Cole was asked about where the funding would come from for his Tuition Rebate Program and running the College of Business bus every 10 minutes rather than every 20 minutes.

He said he has already met with the contractor of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority about increasing the number of times the bus makes the route.

“As for the tuition rebate incentive, the funding with that, we’re still working that aspect out,” Cole said. “There is evidence to show that universities that do that actually increase attendance and increase retention, so more or less it pays for itself.”

He said beyond that, he does not have a plan for paying for it; however, he said, “before we set the program in place we would make sure it is sustainable.”

Howell was asked about how advocacy for sexual assault victims fits into Student Government and what she feels is missing.

“One thing that we’re greatly missing is sexual assault prevention and it’s highly underfunded,” Howell said.

She said Student Government could collaborate with groups on campus like the Women’s Resource Center and Feminists United.

Ford was asked about how she plans on impacting EMU’s advising program.

She said she would make sure every student gets “one adviser that is tailored to you” and that one adviser will ensure that “there will be less gaps where you can accidentally take a class that you may not need or a class that you could be taking that could apply to multiple sections of your education.”

Frey was asked about how she would provide consistent leadership when being “pulled in so many ways.”

Frey said that she is actively involved in multiple organizations and is “able to give 110 percent” to all of them.

“I believe being a good leader is being able to multitask and assess the needs of multiple organizations and multiple needs of students at once,” she said.

Student Body President Desmond Miller said two candidates stood out to him as students who would be responsible leaders.

“Obviously some were out of touch with the student needs and the Student Government policies, which is concerning, but I think there is a clear ticket the student body should vote for,” he said.

Senior Tess Heuer, a political science major, said she thought all the candidates did well.

“They all spoke very passionately about their different platforms,” she said. “And I thought it was interesting to see what everyone stood for.”

Frey said the debate was informative for her.

“It was great to hear a lot of these ideas that I hadn’t heard before from some of our candidates,” she said. “The things you can’t get off their website.”

Senator Nate Pyle said the candidates that don’t win should work together to fix the issues concerning them.

“A lot of the issues that were talked about by Steven, Aimee, Jessica and Sabrina, they were all great issues that need to be addressed,” he said.

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