On March 31, the current SGA presidential candidates participated in a presidential debate hosted by the Technique and SGA .
Candidate pairs Aaron Solender/Alex Moran, Jennifer Abrams/Jefferson Losse and Missy Pittard/Zain Sharif answered moderated questions and debated various campus issues.
For much of the debate, Abrams and Losse reiterated their combined SGA experience as a key strength of their campaign, since they are currently Vice President of Campus Affairs and Vice President of External Affairs respectively. Pittard and Sharif chose to focus more on their platform of positivity, and their experiences in vastly different organizations. Solender and Moran repeated their idea of using student body feedback to mold their executive policies, although at times they seemed unaware of what SGA was doing about campus issues.
At one point, Abrams and Losse questioned the other candidates as to what aspects of the current SGA could be improved.
Moran said that “I don’t know what is currently going on in SGA” and how he felt this meant that SGA needs to improve its active transparency.
Pittard and Sharif said that they feel that SGA, for the most part, is doing a great job. However, they felt that the government could do a better job of prioritizing student-faculty issues as well as connecting with the student populace.
When asked about the state of mental health on campus, all the candidates relayed the idea that Tech has been working toward an improved state of well being on campus and that they would continue such policies.
“Missy and I would be working toward taking preventive measures, so issues can be resolved before they even occur,” Sharif said. “Most of our platform is built around increasing positivity of the community on campus … so these [Tech’s policies] align perfectly with our platform.”
Abrams furthered her own response by describing some initiatives she and Jeff hope to run, if given the chance.
“Jeff and I are really looking forward to creating a wellness task force, a task force of students focused on the physical part of mental health,” Abrams said. “We also are looking forward to working with Dr. Perez on the counseling center to see what can be done from the emotional side of mental health.”
Solender reiterated the idea that Tech faces many issues with mental health.
“A school as stressful as Georgia Tech is going to have a lot of problems with [mental health],” Solender said. “We want to make sure that people are very aware of their resources, and they know where to go when they need help.”
The differences between the three tickets could be seen when the candidates were questioned regarding a decrease in the quality of teaching, as reported in the Student Experience Survey.
Abrams and Losse focused their response on respect between teachers and students.
“We definitely see the student-faculty relationship as important. We really want to be looking at how academic grievances are handled … .” Abrams said.
Both Solender and Moran seemed to believe that the question was not a concern for SGA.
“Our role in SGA … the influence we have is not as far-reaching as people would expect,” Solender said. “You can’t expect teachers to change their curriculum or style of teaching just because you asked them to.”
Pittard explained how one of the key reasons for her and Sharif’s decision to run for office hinged upon improving such statistics.
“We want to move the CIOS system to the middle of the semester … so students can reap the benefits of feedback and professors are held more accountable,” Pittard said. “Also, we want to incentivize faculty to be great professors … tying different awards and recognition of faculty to great teaching.”
In another section of the debate, the moderator asked each candidate a specific question, and then allowed the other candidates a chance to answer a more generalized version of the question.
When questioned as to how they can ensure all student voices are heard, Solender and Moran emphasized reaching out to organization leaders and increasing communication between SGA and the students.
“We need to make sure that people understand we want their voices to be heard. A lot of people don’t understand their voices really do matter,” Solender said.
The other two tickets were asked how they planned on prioritizing initiatives once in office.
“We want to ensure that students know and love their SGA. We want to make the biggest change we can that’s realistic and financially feasible. Once we step into office, hopefully, we’re going to prioritize what we think are the most feasible requests.” said Pittard. Sharif furthered their answer by reiterating the pair’s experience with vastly different organizations, thus lending them different perspectives.
Abrams and Losse, however, focused their response on their kiosk initiative.
“The most important thing is to garner student opinion … we want to establish several kiosks around campus, so students can quickly submit ideas or concerns,” explained Jeff. As an addition to this, Abrams iterated her ticket’s focus on expanding communication between the housing community and SGA.
Abrams and Losse were questioned regarding the specifics of their “oneGT” initiative to enhance the campus community.
“We have a focus on the athletic community, Greek community, international/cultural community, and first-year students. Right now, we reach out to them in different ways and … we want to create the feeling of one Yellow Jacket community on campus,” explained Abrams.
In turn, the other two tickets were asked how they would improve campus culture. For Solender and Moran, this hinged upon making sure to listen to student feedback. For Pittard and Sharif, this could be addressed by improving student body communication.
“We want to increase communication within the student body. One of these examples is to revamp JacketPages,” said Sharif, “so that students are matched with organizations… because Tech can be a place where you can find a home.”
Pittard and Sharif were specifically asked to address their rather ambitious goals of revamping many student interfaces.
Pittard explained, “We know this isn’t an overnight thing. We also know that there is focus needed to support OIT … and we want to ensure that our websites are as user-friendly as possible, to enhance student experiences here, and we feel simple adjustments like this are feasible.”
Similarly, Abrams and Losse explained how they wish to revamp some student interfaces.
“Currently, JacketPages is several years old. We’re looking at a system, OrgSync which all organizations would be on. It would be outsourced to another company, so that SGA won’t be directly responsible for it … making students much more informed about what they want to do.”
Solender and Moran also agreed with Pittard and Sharif in that many sites such as DegreeWorks require improvements. They also voiced their support for mobile applications for sites such as T-Square, to ease efficiency.
In the final section, the candidates were allowed to question the other tickets based on their platforms.
Pittard questioned Abrams and Losse on specifics regarding the funding and usefulness of the kiosks they plan on installing around campus. They responded with their plan to use surplus SGA money to fund them, and how the kiosk questions would be designed so they can quickly answered between classes.
Full candidate platforms can be found on their respective websites. Polling for SGA offices begins Wednesday, April 8 at 1 p.m. at elections.gatech.edu.