By Kyeland Jackson —
Student Government Association top four candidates answered questions, outlining their election plans and pushing for votes in a debate Feb. 22.
Students packed the Chao Auditorium as candidates for SGA president, executive vice president, academic vice president and services vice president answered questions from members of the SGA Supreme Court. The debate preludes voting, which opens Feb. 27.
All SGA presidential candidates, except Abdul Hasib, attended the debate, answering questions on U of L’s upcoming presidential search, ability to handle their potential job, higher education funding and President Donald Trump’s immigration orders’ effect on students.
In replacing U of L’s top administrative positions, candidates mandated the next president and provost know students and the university, listening to student voices and involving diverse campus members. Georgie Sook said her sophomore status makes her ideal for the presidential search, allowing her to participate in the whole search process, which is expected to take around 18 months.
“We want someone who’s honest. Someone who has a sense of integrity – someone who’s humble and someone who works hard. We’re looking for a fighter,” Sook said.
“I would like to make sure that the presidential candidate looks at students as students and not as tokens or as dollar signs,” X’Zashea Lawson-Mayes said, explaining athletes and scholars are sometimes sought to bring U of L money. “There are regular, everyday students who are here thriving and striving to be great; and they need to make sure that they have those students in priority as well.”
Answering if they could handle the job, candidates recited their experience in juggling responsibilities.
“All of my experience there (in university and professional positions) points to successful change – transformative change – and I’d like to continue that as student body president,” Vishnu Tirumala said.
“The presidency is not an individual job. It’s a summation of the people that are around you and everyone in this room, plus the other 22,000 plus students who are on campus,” Keith Auspland said. “The day that we are not representing them and not doing the job that we’re supposed to be doing is the day we need to step down.”
Candidates hypothesized lobbying for higher education, citing experience in Frankfort and the SGA president’s influence as a means to push higher education values.
“I would like to think that I would advocate for our higher education funding by being that ever-present member on our board of trustees and countless other student councils,” Zoe Barrow said. “And when administration doesn’t listen or can’t compromise with us, I would like to sit there and be a continual thorn in the side until the administration does give in.”
On the immigration order, candidates’ actions involved legal firms and resolutions helping support affected students and their families.
“One of the first things I want to do when I come in here is I want to establish the University of Louisville as a sanctuary campus,” Jonas Bastien said, emphasizing the supportive message that status sends to affected students. “I’m more than willing to take the SGA to the metro council to establish the city of Louisville as a sanctuary city as well.”
In closing, candidates highlighted their platforms’ message and what they can bring to the university.
Executive Vice President
Executive vice president candidates Karen Udoh, Kyle Bilyeu, Sarah Love and Destinee Germany answered debate questions centered on experience, funding and U of L’s diversity.
“Something that I definitely gained being the president of Kappa Alpha Theta and also being part of SAB, is knowing how to budget, and knowing how to handle money and knowing how to utilize the money well to make sure that you’re getting the best out of your money,” Udoh said, explaining she would work with recognized student organizations to ensure funding is equally allocated.
“I also really want to focus on getting RSOs more funding on campus,” Love said, citing RSOs adjusting to SAC renovations. “And also allocating more money to the women’s center and the LGBT center on campus so that students feel like they have a place to be plugged in on campus.”
“I’m sure that everyone in this room knows that money does not grow on trees,” Germany said. Germany said she would emphasize funding retention. “I just find it very ironic that…we (U of L) don’t give funding to these organizations and programs that are helping keep our diverse students here at the University of Louisville.”
“I think this is a very important year for SGA, and as you can tell we have a very large number of candidates running,” Bilyeu said. “No matter the outcome, I think that the SGA is going to be really well represented this year at the university.”
Academic Vice President
All academic vice president candidates attended the debate, answering questions related to general education requirements and student feedback.
“What’s really important for students is that they understand their options. When I first came to U of L as a freshman, I was told what classes to take,” Kyle Hornback said. Hornback emphasized the need for students to collaborate with advisers and plan their courses.
“I’m very familiar with the nuances of the Cardinal Core curriculum,” Raymond Myers said, citing experience on the committee which drafted curriculum. “If elected AVP, I will ensure that students have more flexibility, (in example): a three credit hour requirement where they can take whatever course as long as it follows along another gen. ed.”
On feedback, candidates emphasized their relations to students and the need to be open to students’ voices.
” I challenge you guys to redefine that (feedback),” Lazaro Munoz said. Munoz said SGA needs to listen for the voices of all constituents, including transfer and commuter students. “There’s many people who say they have their voices heard but, actually, they really don’t.”
“I understand the importance of listening to everyone as a whole, and standing up for what you believe is right and what you believe should be done,” Jonathan Fuller said, citing past experience with campus groups and administrations.
In closing, candidates spoke about dedications to the university and initiatives to help students and academics if elected.
Services Vice President
Student services vice president candidates Avery Pryor and Chris Bird attended the debate, answering questions related to campus services, food options and student engagement.
“I believe that the most important service we’re looking at is mental health services” Pryor said, citing suicide as one of the leading causes for college students’ death.
“I think that the number one service that should be focused on in the upcoming year is our construction and development, specifically finishing the SAC renovation and the upcoming academic building,” Bird said. “Because those are going to be the host of all the rest of the services.”
Both candidates endorsed expanding the bike share program and said they are beholden to students.
Voting begins Feb. 27 and ends Mar. 2. The Cardinal will endorse a SGA President candidate Feb. 26.
Photos by Arry Schofield / The Louisville Cardinal