On April 1, all of the SGA Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates attended the Ramblin’ On debates hosted by the Technique, SCPC and SGA. Alex Bandes and Yvonne Ploder; Dillon Roseen and Brandie Banner; and Conrad Rybka answered questions and debated campus issues.

The candidates all made opening statements to begin the debate.

“First off, I just want to thank everybody for being here. Yvonne and I are very excited about this election coming up and I just want to focus on one key thing right now. It’s that your vision is our direction. Ultimately, we have very attainable and realistic goals that we know that we can accomplish; but at the end of the day, it’s about you and we want to make sure that we can represent student opinions in all facets of campus,” Bandes said.

“As Alex said, your vision really is our direction. We have a lot of great ideas but we want to hear from you guys as to what you want. So we’re really excited to be here, answer your questions and really give the best election we can,” Ploder said.

“My name is Dillon Roseen and I just want to thank the Technique and all of you for being here and hosting this event. I think it’s very important that we talk about these campus issues. This election is very different than in the past. We have three candidates running so all of you have options this year on who you want to vote for and you can really dive into the issues. So thank you for coming here to learn about those and to learn about us. Since Ian already talked about our experience, I just want to talk about why I’m  personally running and then allow Brandie to do the same. For me personally, I know that everyone goes through ups and downs at Tech and I think that we can all share that and we can use SGA to improve the student experience for everyone and using our experience, I believe we have the best chance of doing that at Georgia Tech,” Roseen said.

“Definitely, and I as well have had a wonderful experience here at Tech and I want every student to have the same experience. I’m running because I think that SGA is one of the easiest ways to impact campus and I want to be a part of a long term impact,” Banner said.

“Hey everyone, I’m Conrad Rybka and I do want to thank you for being here. I’ll tell you a little bit about why Donovan and I are running as well. We really see a need for something different in the coming year in SGA. We really feel that SGA has done incredible things on this campus but they don’t take credit for it, they don’t do a great job of letting students know exactly what they do. And this is a problem because the students don’t actually care about SGA because they don’t think that it can do anything for them or solve their problems. And what we want to do is bring our outside perspective and bring it in to SGA and bring in our vision of an outwardly attractive and engage in SGA and that’s how I think that we’re a little bit different,” Rybka said.

After opening statements, the candidates answered five questions.

Question 1: What deliverables have you accomplished during your time at Tech for the student body to qualify you to be SGA President and Executive Vice President.

Bandes’ response delved into his time working in dining services and establishing late night healthy options in dining halls after negotiations with Sodexo. Between Bandes and Ploder there are five years of experience in all three cabinets of SGA.

Roseen touched on his experiences as a member of FreshGA to being this year’s SGA Director of Internal Affairs. Banner has most of her experience outside of SGA such as starting up campus closets and service projects through FASET.

Rybka explained how neither he nor his running mate Donovan Shuman, who is studying abroad this semester, have experience in SGA but their experience on various executive boards outside of SGA has prepared them to step into these roles.

Question 2: How do you plan to use your position as SGA president and Executive VP to represent and push student body interests to BOR and the state legislature?

Roseen stressed the importance of continuing polling like the current SGA did with the smoking ban and advocating for what a majority of campus wants with state legislature.

Rybka wants to do a better job of reaching out to all students and not just those involved with SGA or greek life on campus in order to show that SGA does care about those students too.

While Bandes wants to continue polling but move beyond that and have more conversations with students in person to really gauge student interests and take those interests on to the capitol. Bandes and Ploder stressed communication as the key to success.

Question 3: Given that half of the student body was not in accord with the smoking ban on campus, how do you plan to address this portion of the student body?

Rybka explained that SGA needs to show students on both sides that SGA cares about their opinion, as well as propose alternatives for those that opposed the ban.

Ploder and Bandes both said that the best thing to be is realistic and not sugar coat what’s going to happen next year on campus as the BOR is adamant about the ban.

Roseen and Banner talked about their idea for an “Out of Office Hours” initiative for engaging students more outside of the classroom and traditional SGA office hours to really discuss where the student body stands on campus issues.

Question 4: On campus as everyone knows, we’ve had quite a few incidences of sexual assault and sexual violence. Do you see this as a major problem and how specifically do you plan to address this problem?

Bandes’ response focused in on the fact that this is a conversation that extends beyond just mental health but also working with GTPD, the counseling center, the women’s resource center  and other areas on campus equipped to deal with these issues. Ploder is a justice of the UJC and is prepared to hear cases of sexual assault. But as part of the mental health portion of their platform, they want to create concrete plans of more preventative action than action oriented.

Roseen and Banner both acknowledged that this goes beyond being a gender specific issue and that they were working on more initiatives going through both the Women’s resource center and OSI that would start more educational programs for males on campus to be more vocal and involved in advocating for victims and survivors. They also are working on a proposal to establish a peer counseling initiative in conjunction with the Counseling Center.

Rybka said that there is an awareness issue on campus and that not enough people know how serious of a problem this is. He wants to work with organizations already working to raise awareness and ensure that they have enough resources to do what they’re already doing and more.

Question 5: What are your biggest priorities and your philosophy on how you’re going to make those changes with our administration?

Roseen and Banner’s biggest priority is to improve student life on campus. They want to focus on improving student life through academics and mental health resources as well as school spirit and community. They have goals to improve the campus infrastructure in places like the student center, library and technological resources available on campus. Philosophically, they said it’s a matter of improving the student experience for everyone so that the entire campus can find a positive experience everyday at Tech.

Rybka said the biggest thing he wants to focus on is internally with SGA because not enough of the student body interacts with SGA on a regular basis. With his and Shuman’s passion and vision, they believe they can lead the student body and show the administration what the entire student body truly cares about.

After the questions posed by the moderators, each candidate had the opportunity to pose one question to the other two candidates before closing statements.

Rybka’s Question: I’ve spoken to both of the presidential candidates about this, about what our number 1 goal is and what we see needs to be the biggest improvement. I’m curious as to what your plan is to reach out to the rest of the student body and make sure that their opinion is heard and not just the typical SGA group of students?

Roseen and Banner’s response included the fact that they already have a diverse set of experiences coming into this role ranging from Banner being a PL in housing, Roseen in Greek Life and both being involved with FASET orientation. They believe this experience already has and will continue to allow them to reach out to a lot of students who may not care as much about SGA. They want to be more approachable and change the way that SGA operates from them waiting for students to come to them to having SGA reach out more to students to find out their problems and make sure they’re being addressed.

Bandes’ and Ploders’ responses acknowledged the fact that the entire student body is a pretty separated community but methodology like polling students has proven to be effective this year. They said that continuing and expanding these types of communication to the student body in order to better inform the entire student body as to what’s going on, as well as gauge their opinions on how they feel about certain actions taken that will affect them. Specifically, examples like the SGA website need to be updated and SGA as a whole needs to be better about reaching out to students on a more individual level.

Roseen’s Question: Seeing as you only have one year in office, how do you plan to come from a position of no executive cabinet experience and form those relationships so you can really hit the ground running next year?

Rybka’s response was one that said that neither he or Shuman had any executive cabinet experience but they’re continually taking steps to learn more about what it would take on a day to day basis if they were elected to office. He said they would not hesitate to surround themselves with more people who do know what they’re doing as they continue to learn more. They also believe that regardless of experience they have the passion and vision to lead SGA in a new direction that is needed.

Bandes’ and Ploder’s response was that even though they don’t have experience on the executive cabinet, Bandes does have experience in the executive branch. Specifically as the Institute Wide Committee’s chair last year where he reached out to administrators across campus that dealt campus issues and also found students to help represent student opinion on these various committees and groups. They naturally have many relationships with various cabinet members and administrators and don’t feel that this would be a problem for their campaign in the future.

BandesQuestion: Yvonne and I have been looking at the other teams platforms and we’ve noticed that some of them have some pretty lofty goals. One ticket, the Roseen Banner ticket has approximately 29 specific initiatives and there are approximately 30 weeks in an entire school year. Conrad and Donovans ticket, I’m not sure on a specific number but there are some pretty lofty goals in there. I want to know how you plan on accomplishing these tangible goals with such a wide range of things that you can do for campus.

Banner started off by acknowledging the fact that their campaign had spread the net very wide but attributed this to their passion and love for Tech. They want to accomplish as much as they can next year and pointed out that some of the initiatives on their platform are already works in progress. Roseen pointed out that their full platform from their website points out specifically which ones were already being worked on. They said that if they limited their goals they didn’t think they would achieve something as great as they could and really make change.

Rybka pointed out how Nick and Lucy have done a great job of showing what an expansive platform can do in allowing for them to get thing started that they may not necessarily finish in their one year. These initiatives would be laid out for those following them to work more on and push forward. He said that putting their goals out there is not a bad idea because it shows the student body what they’re constantly pushing towards. If they can’t get these things done, they can at least get them started.

Closing Statements

After candidates questioned each other, they were given 90 seconds to make closing statements summarizing their thoughts and any of their goals for the following year.

“Thank you guys again for coming out and listening. I know that I’m not quick on my toes and I’m not very polished when I speak. I don’t have the political experience and neither does Donovan, but like I’ve said before and I’m going to harp on again, we have the passion. We’re not doing this because this is the next logical step in our SGA progression. We’re doing this because we’ve been around campus and we see that there are issues and we’ve seen that year to year that doesn’t change. And we want to get that done. We want to be the difference that SGA needs. We offer something different, we offer something more creative, we have a different vision for an SGA that is outwardly engaging and outwardly attractive to the student body. So what we lack in experience we make up for in passion. We wouldn’t be taking on this huge, huge challenge if we didn’t think we were what GT needs next. So again I just thank you for taking the time to listen, I apologize again for my nervousness but I really do think that we have what it takes,” Rybka said.

“Thank you guys so much for listening to us, it’s been a lot of fun, and I know I can speak for Dillon and I, but I want to harp on Georgia Tech’s mottos – progress and service. And that’s exactly what Dillon and I envision for this next year if we’re elected. We want to make progress on campus and we want to serve the student body and we’d be so thankful for the opportunity to do that. We also have a very different vision for SGA but we also have the experience to know what works and what doesn’t and I think that’s what differentiates us,” Banner said.

“Yeah and I think that when you’re looking at who you want to vote for. What I look for personally is three things: what they plan to do and you can see that all in our platforms; how they plan to do that, you can look to experience and past successes; but really the critical piece is why and I think that when you talk about passion and love for Georgia Tech, this school has taught me so much has given so much to me and it’s crazy to go through the ups and downs. I started off architecture and if you’re architecture then more power to you because that is a really tough major. But I did not love Georgia Tech during that time and I think everyone goes through those experiences. So if we can do our jobs appropriately, then I think everyone will learn to love this school and I want everyone to have just as positive of an experience and to find their true significance and their value here as a student and as a Ramblin’ Wreck. Because truly we’re not wrecks, we’re actually pretty awesome and I want everyone to realize that,” Roseen said.

“Again thank you all for coming out today and for showing interest in these elections. I’m personally running, again, for the why aspect of this and that’s because I truly believe in this institution. I want to serve it and really make your ideas happen. Again, your vision is really our direction and Alex and I have really put a lot of time into thinking how we can best serve SGA and the student body. And we really are excited for this,” Ploder said.

“When it comes down to it for me personally I want to make sure I can have a lasting positive influence on the student body and on Georgia Tech in general. I think Yvonne and I have a lot to offer with our broad range of experience. We’re the only candidates with experience in all three branches of SGA, we want to unify SGA and make it a better organization for students to approach. At the end of the day we always have to say it’s about you. Your vision is our direction and if you vote Bandes Ploder for 2014 we will make sure that that comes true,” Bandes said.

Full platforms for each candidate can be found at their respective campaign websites. Polls are now open at elections.gatech.edu from now until April 9.