Candidates defend platforms at SGA debate

Featured from left to right are: Aditya Prabhakar, Cole Scott, Julia Haley , Shivani Virani, Monica Graham and Kopal Chaurasia. // Photo by Yashvini Deva Student Publications

Editor’s note: This was written on Wednesday, March 6, before Monica Graham and Kopal Chaurasia rescinded their executive ticket.

In Technique tradition, the paper hosted the annual Student Government Association (SGA) executive ticket debate on Tuesday, March 5 in the Cypress Theater in the John Lewis Student Center. This year’s election hosts three tickets: Aditya “AP” Prabhakar and Cole Scott, second-year NEUR and third-year BA, Monica Graham and Kopal Chaurasia, third-year ME and CS and third-year BMED, and Shivani Virani and Julia Haley, third-year NEUR and third-year PUBP. 

The debate was moderated by Alec Grosswald, second-year ME and News Editor at the Technique. Grosswald began by asking all the candidates to outline the guiding principles of their missions and to expand on what led them to develop these values. Virani and Haley answered first with Virani saying, “our platform is based on a four pillar system with our pillars being transparency, culture, community and opportunity.” When asked to further explain the difference between culture and community, Haley explained that culture focuses more on campus resources, while community is looking outward past campus. Prabhakar and Scott followed a similar format as Prabhakar answered by saying that “Cole and I’s pillars revolve around equity, sustainability and transparency.” 

Graham and Chaurasia strayed away from using a pillar-based explanation, choosing instead to talk about the priorities of their 

campaign. Graham opened her statement by saying “we are here to represent the students and the student orgs that make up Georgia Tech.” Graham also highlighted mental health, transparency and accessibility as important facets of their campaign. All candidates would call back to these guiding principles
as the debate progressed. 

Candidates were then asked what made them a unique running pair. Once again, Prabhakar and Scott and Virani and Haley gave similar responses about how they were involved with various parts of campus while holding dynamically different roles within SGA. Prabhakar is  the Sophomore Representative and Parliamentarian in the Undergraduate House of Representatives (UHR), and Scott is the Scheller College of Business Representative and Treasurer of UHR, while Virani is the Vice President (VP) of Operations, and Haley is
the VP of External Affairs.

Graham and Chaurasia set themselves apart by highlighting that their uniqueness came from their relative inexperience with SGA, with Graham saying that they are “ready to bring a fresh perspective to Georgia Tech’s student government.” The pair also cited that they have met with multiple clubs on campus, so they feel like they have a better understanding of the budget crisis from a registered student
organizations’ (RSO) perspective. 

Monica said, “The SGA leaders are not directly affected by the funding crisis in the
same way they [RSOs] are.”

This statement was met with a rebuttal from Virani and Haley, who pointed out that even though they serve as leaders within SGA, they still hold positions within other clubs on campus. Grosswald capitalized on the momentum surrounding the discussion of funding RSOs and asked candidates how they would navigate the entirely new budgeting system they would inherit
when coming into their term.

Prabhakar and Scott answered first, with Prabhakar saying that“the distribution of the student activity fee and funding for registered student organizations is the defining issue of this election.”

Scott took over at this point to explain how he played a hands-on role in shaping the process and how in moving forward with the budgeting process in his potential future term; both he and Prabhakar would hold equity as their guiding principle
in any further reforms.

Virani and Haley gave a more hands-off answer with Haley saying, “I don’t want this to be a question…[of] who knows the most about finance because … we would have a Vice President of Finance.” Instead, Haley cemented that being able to connect with stakeholders was what the question was really about. She continued by outlining a few changs she and Virani hoped to enact, including pushing for more departmental funding and more aggressively pursuing corporate sponsorships.

Graham and Chaurasia took a different approach with Graham starting off their answer by saying that she and Chaurasia would “increase resources available to student organizations by returning the executive stipends that we would receive to the student activity fund.” This point would continue to be contentious throughout the debate as Virani and Haley pointed out that the stipends allow students who may need fiscal support to continue to hold roles within SGA to which Graham and Chaurasia would clarify that they only meant their stipends and would not mandate anyone else to do the same. It is important to note that, however, per SGA, stipend payments come from a separate financial
pool than RSO budgets. 

Graham and Chaurasia continued by proposing a sponsor fair which would be open to the executive members of RSOs, the creation of comprehensive tutorials about how to access SGA resources and the automation of transfer between SGA and the Student Organization Finance Office (SOFO).

Following some further discussion about previous leadership roles that each ticket had held, Grosswald asked the candidates what improvements they wanted to see in campus infrastructure during their term.

Haley took the question first by saying that “[we] agree that the biggest need in this area comes with enrollment growth and increasing the capacity of campus.” She continued by saying that she wants to be very open with administration about the challenges this has caused before pivoting to speak more about equality and accessibility in physical spaces on campus. Haley specifically cited that some older buildings on campus still don’t have elevators, limiting mobility, before pivoting once more to highlight their ticket’s commitment to improving the utilization of existing resources, specifically room rentals. Chaurasia echoed a similar sentiment, citing construction as a major obstacle to physical accessibility on campus, and suggested including construction alerts on TransLoc to allow students to find ADA alternative routes. 

Following this, she then highlighted that the lack of late-night campus meal options posed a safety risk for students who need to go off-campus to find food. The question of late-night dining options has been a long-standing issue in SGA elections, and many campaigns in previous years have run on trying to fix this issue by either extending hours or opening more food options. Chaurasia said that she and Graham would “[continue] the efforts of campus administration.”

Chaurasia also briefly spoke about the bottleneck of resources, saying that her and Graham would “[work] with housing to increase apartment-style living and prioritize housing for not just underclassmen.”

Scott took a different direction by citing that reopening the Third Street tunnel is one of their biggest missions. He also addressed the bottleneck by saying, “we really want to see [Third Street tunnel] reopen to improve mobility on campus, especially from off-campus residences… [since the bottleneck] might have to be solved through off-campus initiatives.” 

The Third Street tunnel would prove to be one of the more contentious topics of the night. Immediately following their answer, Haley rebutted by saying that “the current JVP of Sustainability and Infrastructure… already tried to do [opening Third Street tunnel] through her current role, and GTPD [Georgia Tech Police Department] has already told her that it would not be plausible in the next year.” She followed up by asking what Prabhakar and Scott would do to change faculties’ minds on the issues.

Prabhakar answered by explaining that they were aware of the safety implications and had already talked to GTPD officers, who had said they would bring it to higher-ups and that he and Scott would maintain this as one of their key priorities within campus infrastructure. 

However, questions surrounding the safety and legitimacy of the plan did not stop there. During the audience portion, a student said, “It sounds like you didn’t ask any women how they feel about having that tunnel open. It’s extremely unsafe for women to be walking through there.” Prabhakar responded by saying the issue has been addressed with GTPD and that “the whole point of the tunnel is security…so people don’t have to walk through midtown through the dangerous areas.”

From here, Grosswald asked candidates how they would handle rising tensions on campus as a result of recent political conflicts, specifically how they would mediate conflict between different student groups while fostering unity and protecting well-being.

Haley answered first, saying that they would address this from the very beginning of their term and that they “have a plan to meet with all political and cultural organizations…within the first 100 days of our administration.” While Haley did not cite a specific number of organizations they would meet with, according to Engage, there are over 200 cultural and civic
engagement RSOs on campus.

Haley continued by saying that they would continue existing initiatives, such as the Under-Represented Groups in Education (U.R.G.E.) Forum, while also better utilizing UHR representatives to be student advocates.

Prabhakar followed, reading a written statement, saying “I’m going to begin by addressing the elephant in the room — the qualms and ongoing war between Palestine and Israel.” Prabhakar was the only candidate to cite the conflict by name, and he referred to specific incidents that had stemmed from the conflict on campus. 

He continued that he didn’t want to change the question into a political stance, and instead said, “I stand for humanity.” In terms of initiatives, he specifically spoke about the lack of alerts from GTPD about active violence or crimes on campus which have created a false sense of security and that, in his term, he would ensure they are once again comprehensive and that students would be able to see the truth.

Prabhakar may be alluding to the notifications students receive under the Clery Act, which requires post secondary institutions to notify students in a timely manner of specific crimes committed on, or near, campus. Tech has a comprehensive list of all the crimes they must disclose under the act which can be found at

Graham took a different approach by saying, “the best way to foster unity within the student body is to provide a safe space.” She furthered that her and Chaurasia’s initiatives to find sponsorships for cultural organizations would be a key player in this, saying, “this way, students will be able to fund that initiatives that they see as best fit to bridge the gaps.”

Graham continued that she wanted to facilitate open dialogue and serve as a liaison between students and administration. From here, she segued into a personal anecdote about how she had been the victim of harassment during her time at Tech. Concluding her response, she said she “will do this [encourage inclusivity] by incorporating diversity, equity and inclusion discussions into existing ethics curriculum.”

Candidates reemphasized many of the same points they made through the debate in their responses to the final question which asked how they would advocate for the student voice when it contradicted administration. Grosswald then opened the floor to audience questions.

The first question came from a student representing the Asian cultural organizations on campus, including the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA), Chinese Student Association (CSA) and India Club. She explained that all the organizations she represented had agreed to endorse one candidate, if any, to all their constituents. 

At the mic, the student said, “truthfully, a lot of us Asian orgs honestly feel that … their [SGA’s] plans aren’t very inclusive to us…we want to know how each candidate plans to communicate to people of color and cultural orgs…”

Virani answered first, repeating their claims to utilize the U.R.G.E. forums and meeting with all political and cultural organizations. Prabhakar also emphasized using already existing infrastructure on campus, noting that Kelley Collier, who started the Black Caucus, is a part of their campaign team and that they have already spoken with members of the Society of Hispanic Engineers (SHPE).

Chaurasia gave her perspective as a non-SGA candidate saying, “we believe that this [reaching out to cultural organizations] should’ve been done earlier…we’ve already started doing it.”

Another concern that was brought up during the audience question portion was potential gentrification, specifically in relation to Virani and Haley’s plan to add more businesses to Tech Square. The student specifically asked the pair whether “there [are] any plans to work with Black, Hispanic and Native American business owners … and if so, who are those business owners?”

Haley responded by saying that they are looking to replace underutilized businesses rather than encroaching on new space and that “adding Black owned businesses and other minority businesses is an awesome idea.” She concluded by saying that she had more concerns for the gentrification occurring with the creation of Science Square and that “we will be voices for those people in the conversation about Science Square.”

Much of the audience portion saw the candidates reiterating initiatives and guiding principles they had mentioned prior in the debate, but in more specific contexts, such as inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community and international students. 

Grosswald ended the night by thanking candidates for their time and encouraged the audience to vote. SGA voting will open on March 11 at 12:00 a.m. at and will close on March 15 at 5:00 p.m.