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SGA debate disappoints in crowd, not in content

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The SGA election progressed another step closer to next week’s vote for candidates Allan Daly and Courtney Kampert during the annual debate on Mar. 20 in Gavle 3. The debate, due to the lack of opposition, drew a low turnout and was formatted with only the candidates responding to questions from Observer Co-Editor-in-Chief Ryan Jenkins and the audience.

The current SGA Executive Board, led by President Charlie Bentley, planned and organized the debate, hoping that students would still be interested in learning more about the platform Daly and Kampert were running on.

“The debate, in the past,” Bentley said, “has been really great to get a lot of students engaged in SGA.”

Unfortunately, the debate this year still only pulled a crowd of roughly 30 to 35 people.

Daly and Kampert referenced the unopposed nature of their campaign as reason for the sparse crowd, saying that students may not know why the SGA President and Vice President matter.

“To see that we didn’t have as much of a turnout, really at all,” Kampert said, “it kind of becomes more of a drive.”

Kampert said she and Daly have decided to use the small turnout as a motivation to encourage more students in the future to get involved in SGA.

At the Candidate Meet and Greet a week before the debate, Daly and Kampert got to spread their campaign for the first time to the student body. A few students declared after talking with the candidates that having only one ticket might not be as bad as what it might seem.

“I think it’s nice to have people apply so that you can choose from different platforms and see which you like,” Senior Laura Beitler said, “but if they’re the ones who are dedicated to it and want to run and there’s no one else, I don’t want someone running just for the sake of [running].”

Daly, however, also saw an unopposed debate as an advantage. He believes not having an opponent allows him and Kampert to speak more freely about their plans and goals.

“If we’re running against someone, we’d be very careful with what we were saying,” Daly said, “We still have to phrase it in a correct way and whatnot, but it’s more about the information behind it instead of how we’re saying it.”

Even with the low attendance, Daly still found the night to be productive for their campaign and the campus as a whole. He and Kampert used the debate time to announce that their goals included changes within the SGA system rather than just efforts made outside.

“We’re looking at maybe restructuring senators’ responsibilities,” Daly said.

Kampert later added on she and Daly were looking into bettering the ecological standing and sustainability of Augustana’s campus by adding a committee to the senate.

“We’re thinking to maybe create or replace one of the standing committees with a Sustainability committee,” Kampert said, adding that the new committee could possibly be an extra link from SGA to the Sierra Club, an environmental club that recently added a chapter on Augustana’s campus.

Daly and Kampert have been promoting their platform on increased transparency and collaboration since they first became candidates, so another change they’d like to make to SGA’s system is in regards to broadening the reach that SGA has in the campus community. Daly announced at the debate that he and Kampert have a plan to use their Rotating committee to interact more personally with student groups on campus. Daly said that he would hope to use the committee to ensure that minority groups on campus feel safer. Daly said, “We hope to have our Rotating committee next year meet with these groups to help put on events to make the campus more aware.”

Kampert said before the debate that she and Allan are always up for a challenge, and that “there’s always a way to solve every problem or to at least do our best to.”

To Daly, solving these problems has a simple solution in collaboration with other student leaders.

“Meeting with student groups I feel is the best way,” Daly said.

However, it seems that Daly, Kampert, SGA and most of the student body have a common belief in a need for increased collaboration and transparency when it comes to administration.

Kampert said in her opening statement at the debate that “SGA’s purpose as an organization is to serve as a direct connection between students and the administration.” Throughout the debate, she and Daly explained that they would be working closer with administration to help bridge a gap that most students seem to see between the higher ups and the student body.

At the Candidate Meet and Greet, a few students later agreed that better communication with administration and students could benefit the campus.

“I especially liked the idea of transparency within administrations because I think that there is definitely a disconnect between students and administrators,” Junior Jennifer Darby said.

The detachment between administration and students, along with other major items of concern like MAP Grants and Semester changes, have been discussed and planned for by Daly and Kampert. Following the debate, they find themselves ready to be the representatives of the student body.

“If it’s an important problem to a student then it’s important for us,” Kampert said.

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