SGA Presidential Debate Recap

Photos courtesy of Anju & Ben 2016, Drew Humphry, Brian & Megan 2016, Nagela & Shane 2016

Each ticket running for Undergraduate President and Vice President participated in a debate on April 5, hosted by the Technique and the Student Government Association (SGA).

Each of the pairs — Sara Dada/Andrew Perry, Brian Shin/Megan Fechter, Nagela Nukuna/Shane Muldrich and Anju Suresh/Ben Nickel were able to make 90 second opening and closing statements. The bulk of the debate was spent on questions, four of which came from moderators and four of which came from the candidates themselves.

The questions and highlights from their answers are paraphrased below.

Moderator Question 1: In light of recent controversies involving OSI, what, if anything, went wrong? How would you work with the administration to implement the Board of Regents’ new policies?

Nukuna/Mudrinich: “In terms of shaping the policies, we understand that sometimes we can’t change the legislature,” Nukuna said. “What we can really do is advocate on behalf of the student experience.” The best way to do said advocacy is to work with the VP of External Affairs, as well as SGA in voting on resolutions.

Shin/Fechter: Asked a question regarding the previous tickets’ collective experience in these issues. After clarifying that Nukuna has experience in addressing issues regarding OSI, Shin discussed the status of preponderance of evidence as a standard in most school-level investigations.

Dada/Perry: Suggested that enhanced engagement with the state Capitol is key in high-profile issues. Expressed that understanding that the student body has opinions that deserve to be represented is critical in ensuring cooperation with government entities.

Suresh/Nickel: Would like to create a platform similar to on which Tech students can create petitions which, upon receiving a certain number of signatures, must be addressed by SGA. Furthermore, Town Halls should be held prior to annual reviews of the Code of Conduct to ensure transparency.

Moderator Question 2: Should Campus Carry become law in Georgia? How will you work with GTPD to manage guns on campus in a safe and effective manner, should it come to pass?

Shin/Fechter: “It shouldn’t be ‘should this law become a law’ but more of a question of what the student body thinks,” said Shin. “I think it’s clear with the recent survey and its results that more students are in favor of this law not becoming applicable on this campus.”

Dada/Perry: Dada noted that she doesn’t think Campus Carry is a good idea because it pointedly ignores the wishes of all University System Presidents and the Board of Regents. When guns come to campus, they also bring mental health concerns.

Suresh/Nickel: Suggested infrastructure improvements to both the mental health system at Tech as well as ways to ensure students’ safety. Creating education and safety plans for situations such as someone illegally open carrying are essential in effective implementation.

Nukuna/Mudrinich: Discussed the fact that SGA already has and operates a Lobbying Board. Both candidates oppose Campus Carry on the grounds of potential racial profiling and mental health concerns, and would seek an exemption with the state legislature should it pass.

Moderator Question 3: Mental health has been a central focus on campus in the past year. If you could make only one change to the current Mental Health Policy, what would it be?

Dada/Perry: “I believe that we’re focusing too much on mental health and not enough on wellness and wellbeing,“ Perry said. “[Suzy Harrington, Wellness Director] breaks wellness down into mental health, physical health, social health, professional health and spiritual health.”

Suresh/Nickel: Suggested that Tech students focus too much on mental health and not enough on wellness and physiological health. Both have worked on infrastructure improvement plans and education initiatives for students.

Nukuna/Mudrinch: Mundrinch, having personally experienced the detriments of Tech’s current mental health system, proposed creating an online portal to direct students to different resources, and to address different causes of student stress. They are in favor of adding data from CIOS surveys to Course Critique to help clarify expectations.

Shin/Fechter: Have sat down with Dean Stein and discussed the possibility of including a component of the new Student Center which would provide peer counciling as well as safe spaces for students to be creative and relax.

Moderator Question 4: Historically, fewer than 25 percent of undergraduates actually vote in this election. What should SGA change in order to reach those who do not participate?

Suresh/Nickel: “That’s exactly what our campaign focuses on, is making SGA reachable to those who are outside of the students directly involved,“ Suresh said. “We want to increase the number of working relationships we have with organizations on this campus, and … have them more actively participate in these discussions.”

Nukuna/Mudrinich: Propose using OrgSync as a “Georgia Tech Facebook” in which leaders of organizations, including SGA, can be contacted more easily. The creation of committees representing different interest groups is also possible.

Shin/Fechter: Increased engagement with the student body through media reports, approval ratings and “State of the Student Body” addresses will encourage more students to be engaged.

Dada/Perry: Noted that it’s critical to accurately represent the student body in SGA, as well as make it more transparent to students through feedback and collaboration initiatives.

Nukuna/Mundrinich Question: In facilitating the move from Jacket Guardian to LiveSafe, how can we make sure students will migrate?

Shin/Fechter: Need to engage freshmen through GTPD and Peer Leaders/Resident Advisors and encourage them to partake in safety initiatives.

Dada/Perry: Safety should not be opt-in or opt-out; these systems should be ubiquitous and universally understood.

Suresh/Nickel: LiveSafe is just one component of campus safety; others include sexual assault prevention/awareness and the need for robust night transportation.

Shin/Fechter Question: What is one thing on your platforms that set you apart, and that you would prioritize the most upon your election?

Dada/Perry: Piloting a contract system between professors and students to enforce “promises” made in the syllabus. Also noted that their platform is a “living platform” and will likely evolve.

Suresh/Nickel: Fostering inclusivity and diversity through the creation of bias assessment response teams.

Nukuna/Mudrinch: Updating Tech’s technology resources, including the Event Management Systems’ room reservation portal, migrating financial resources to Orgsync and easing the transition to a new LMS system.

Dada/Perry Question: Question: How would you bring a fresh perspective to SGA

Suresh/Nickel: Continuing talks with student leaders and members of other organizations, in order to aggregate their concerns into different platforms.

Nukuna/Mudrinch: Both candidates are involved with a number of different communities — Shane in particular is involved with the Greek community ­­— and will leverage those connections to have difficult conversations when needed.

Shin/Fechter: Fechter’s sabbatical from SGA involvement has aided her in getting a fresh perspective on how SGA and the student body should interact. Students aren’t currently aware of critical SGA work, such as budgeting; part of fixing this is training new representatives on how to be an effective conduit between SGA and their constituencies.

Suresh/Nickel Question: How will you plan to immediately respond to issues of

Nukuna/Mudrinich: Suggest that representatives in SGA are responsible for ensuring that their constituents’ concerns are made apparent to SGA. Consistent promotion of inclusivity and diversity, even to admins, is necessary.

Shin/Fechter: Pointed out necessity of seeking out issues proactively and addressing them before they get out of hand. According to Fechter, “SGA should be a safe space for all students” to bring forth their concerns.

Dada/Perry: Noted that hosting the Diversity/Inclusivity Conference is a step in the right direction, but that the next step after being proactive is to be reactive when incidents do occur.

The full debate can be found through the Georgia Tech Cable Network’s website and YouTube Channel. Voting will take place from April 8–13.