SGA annual elections heat up after riveting debate

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Student Government Association elections for new senators and an entirely new executive board are currently being held online and on campus to nominate next year’s SGA members.

All students are welcome and encouraged to cast their votes for class and department senators, as well as the positions that make up the executive board. Voting ends this Thursday, and can be performed online via the SGA’s Facebook page.

All of the members who currently make up the executive board will be graduating and turning their positions over to their successors in the fall.

“The reason we have the elections this early is there is a transition period,” explained Vice President Justin Blankenship. The newly appointed members, who will be announced at a party 4 p.m. Friday afternoon in the Bonnie food court, will have the opportunity to shadow their predecessors on the job for the rest of the semester.

A debate was held in Heth Hall last Thursday night to give the nominees a chance to introduce themselves and explain what they hope to bring to their expected positions. The debate between the two candidates for SGA president, Colby Bender and Rebecca Pinsky, was the main event of the evening, but was preceded by speeches from each of the potential new senators. The majority of next year’s candidates are running un-opposed for their positions.

During a well-rehearsed and slightly lengthy speech, current Senator-At-Large Lee Hicks expressed his high hopes for next year as the future senior class senator.

“Next year must be different,” he exclaimed. Hicks is running against Dillon Gilbert for the senior seat. Three current SGA senators are in a tight race for the position of vice president. Sophomore Class Senator Klement Camaj, College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences Senator Tiffany Goins, and Senator-At-Large  Wendy Viana all spoke on why they thought they would be best suited for the job. Camaj is a transfer student from New York and Goins is a double major in political science and sociology, with a minor in philosophy. Viana is the longest serving senator seeking vice presidency.

The debate between the presidential candidates was organized like a national debate, with President Zach McCoy and Vice President Blankenship acting as moderators and prompting questions to evaluate the candidates. Pinsky won the opening coin toss and began with a two minute introductory speech.

“My experience in this multitude of fields and my three years in student government has really made me feel that I am the best leader for right now,” Pinsky said.

In contrast, Bender opened by saying, “I am the innovator to lead this organization into its 100th year and beyond.”

“What I like least about SGA currently is the stigma that you need to pass legislation to get things done … I want (us to be) initiative driven. We go out, we come up with ideas, we have the student body come to us with ideas, and we work together with other organizations to get it done,” Pinsky said in response to what she would like to change about the SGA. “We have to get people paying attention, we have to get them interested, and then we go to legislation.”

Bender spoke briefly on initiatives he is currently working on, including “Do You Care,” which focuses on maintenance and safety around the various campus facilities, the Leg Up Foundation for students with disabilities and Virginia 21.

“I believe wholly and fully that I am ready to take on this challenge … I have the opportunity to take the time that I’ve spent in SGA, and all the experience that I’ve gotten this year to learn and grow with the position as student body president,” concluded Bender.

Both presidential candidates have run serious campaigns with posters and social media. Throughout the course of the debate they demonstrated mutual respect for each other, while each stating why they thought students should cast votes in their favor. Both are qualified for the position and excited to receive the results at the announcement party.

Other positions that will be taken over by new members include the two at-large senate positions, the Waldron College of Health and Human Services senator, the CHBS senator, and sophomore class senator, among others. The executive position of chief activities officer is being sought by Shadjah Hunt, who plans to enhance the homecoming event for next year and organize a forum where students will be able to ask RU President Penelope Kyle questions. The chief financial officer and chief of staff executive positions will see a change of face next year as well.