Yesterday, the UGA Chapel served a comfortably air conditioned host to saturated debate between candidates vying for new leadership of UGA Student Government Association’s executive branch. Both tickets, ‘Ignite’ and ‘Rise,’ were present for the debate. The two tickets argued their stance on important campus issues including mental health, sexual assault, and collaboration of organizations on campus.What follows is The Arch Conservative’s prompt debriefing of the debate. Attached throughout the piece, you, dear reader, will find commentary on the debate as well. We hope that it fosters insight and discussion about the upcoming election and the overall role of the SGA in university politics.
Moderators began by polling representatives about mental health on campus and how their ticket will help students struggling with anxiety and/or depression. ‘Rise’ answered with the suggestion of centralization. The combination of various mental health groups on campus, they argued, would create a more streamlined and effective way to combat this problem. Lobbying state legislators for more funds also emerged as a noteworthy and perhaps all-too-idealistic source for such a move. While it is a great idea to centralize these organizations on campus, it is a waste of time and resources to lobby for more funds. SGA has a budget for organizations on campus (hence the need for a Treasurer), there is no need to siphon the income of both students and taxpayers to assist in an issue that can be solved within a bump in efficiency at a more specialized level.
‘Ignite’ had a similar answer when asked about mental health, although they commendably emphasized neither lobbying nor funding increases as ‘Rise’ did not hesitate to suggest. They too suggested the centralization of various mental health groups on campus to simplify the process and aid students in the best way possible. It is important to acknowledge here that their answers were very similar, with a minor yet important difference: that one administration would first prefer to seek more funding rather than improve efficiency. In fact, other than this minor difference, the two tickets’ answers were consistently similar (if not absolutely concurrent on many an occasion) throughout the entire debate. It was not much of a debate, actually, since there occurred few significant disagreements and arguments between the two tickets. The Arch Conservative staff in attendance at the event was mildly disappointed in the debate’s lack of . . . debate.
Another significant aspect of the debate was when the moderators asked about how SGA can improve and foster collaboration between organizations on campus. ‘Ignite’ answered by suggesting an “Inter-Organizational Council” (or IOC) that works to connect all organizations on campus in order to improve and satisfy the goals of organizations as well as to encourage an environment of inclusivity on campus. ‘Rise’ echoed ‘Ignite’ by expressing the need for this sort of organization, though they lacked the specificity of their counterparts, of council as well as a “UGA day of service” in which all organizations on campus work together to complete a task or project that benefits both the University and Athens-Clarke County. While these are both great ideas that are beneficial to the University and Community, the two tickets fail to explain how they could possibly get even half of the 700 (as one candidate proudly reproduced from memory) organizations on campus to work together in a cohesive manner. Later in the debate, both tickets admitted that it truly is impossible to get every single organization to work together. That brings up the question – Which organizations will they include in these councils/days of service and will smaller organizations be at a disadvantage to organization superpowers like HEROs and Miracle? These contributors have a feeling that such a move will serve more to increase the nepotistic nature of the inner circle of SGA with only a few more loud voices to represent thousands. That said, perhaps an impressive post-victory campaign will create a community/council that truly represents all ideologies on campus.
The moderators also briefly touched on the subject of campus safety regarding sexual assault and the relationship between the student body and UGAPD. Both tickets vouched for educating the student body, specifically incoming freshmen, on the recourses provided to them by the University if themselves or someone they knew were involved in a sexual assault. In addition, both tickets commended UGAPD for their devotion to the students and their commitment to keeping the University Safe. The lone standout in this category was undoubtedly the ‘Ignite’ ticket, which was first to suggest the advertising of sympathetic and common sense legislation to students, so that they know what to do and where to go for help, etc. With such a cost-efficient and likely effective solution, however, would the ‘Rise’ ticket not simply implement a similar idea after hearing it, should they achieve election? Such theatre, such lack of a true ideological debate is the simple nature of SGA Elections, history tells us. If we trust these tickets in the genuineness of their motives, then we truly are looking at a popularity contest celebrated and hyped only by those most closely intertwined in its affair
Despite the “importance” of this election, the Chapel seemed far more empty than it should have been for an event such as this. With that being said, it makes perfect sense; voter turnout for these elections rarely reach double digits. The truth is, most students could care less. While many students involved in SGA strive to improve the University to the best of their ability, the cynic’s view here is too shrewd to ignore: there are undoubtedly also many who use their position for personal gain (i.e. the all-too-frequent student government tradition of ‘resume padding’). Overall, both tickets brought forth good ideas to improve the University as well as the community. A major flaw in the two tickets is prevalent in the details of their ideas. These ideas need to undergo further consideration in order to eliminate needless fee hikes, underutilized organizations, and the like.
Facile are the archetypes into which these two campaigns fall, upon further consideration. ‘Ignite’ is more the “establishment” ticket whose platform boasts experience, existent relationships, and more of the same overall (something more commendable than than crude promises of change via increases in funding, if you ask us at The Arch Conservative). ‘Rise,’ on the other hand, aims more for the image of being the “people’s” ticket with their passionate rhetoric, claims of intrinsic exclusivity on campus with promises to cure them via policy and fee hikes, and general talk of a rather arbitrary ideal of ‘togetherness.’ The University of Georgia has seen its fair share of bogus Student Government campaigns, elections, subsequent fiascos, and in some cases even the ultimate failing of its main goal to represent the student body (though that is more the fault of the students who choose not to vote). In perspective, this year’s candidates have at the very least played the game well thus far. They avoided multiple moderator questions that shamelessly and pathetically fished for political statements from each ticket as regards Trump’s unpopular executive orders and “how they would respond” to such a terrible threat to the university.
In the end, as wonderful as ‘Student Government Association’ rings in every bylaw, Red & Black article, or debate, it is worthwhile to refer to the general lack of power that the SGA itself holds. This undoubtedly bodes well for the UGA populous, as nine out of every ten students will not have a say in who is elected and the alternative to little power . . . well . . . is rather unconservative of an option. So perhaps our thoughts on the matter are already well-known.
Voting begins next week.
— Ian Lacroix is a freshman studying political science. He is a regular contributor to THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE. Nick Geeslin is Editor-in-Chief of THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE.