Left to right: Ford, Brent, Stanley, Bandaru, Chirco and Smith. Photo by Jada Gangazha.
ANNIE FAULKNER | NEWS CO-EDITOR | firstname.lastname@example.org
RYANN BAHNLINE | STAFF REPORTER | email@example.com
Members of the Butler community gathered in the Reilly Room on the evening of March 22 for the annual Student Government Association presidential debate. The president and vice president of each of the three tickets were present at the event.
The candidates presented an opening statement, with presidential candidates being limited to two minutes and vice presidential candidates being limited to one minute. Next, the candidates answered three groups of questions: those that were prepared by candidates ahead of time, those that were presented by the Election Oversight Committee and those submitted by Butler students. Lastly, the presidential candidates presented closing statements.
The Instagram livestream of the event can be found here. SGA’s spring 2023 election will take place next Tuesday, March 28, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. An email will be sent to students who are eligible to vote with a link to complete the ballot.
Paul Ford and Hadassah Brent:
Presidential candidate Paul Ford spoke of his experience as a leader in a variety of student organizations on campus, including Bust the B.U.B.B.L.E, Diversity Program Council and the Hub for Black Affairs and Community Engagement. He said as a student organizer, it has been frustrating to watch organizations that he cares about remain underfunded. Having left SGA after serving as a senator his first year, Ford has experienced the operations of SGA both from the inside and outside.
Hadassah Brent, Ford’s running mate, began her opening statement with a personal anecdote — as one of ten children, Brent learned to speak loudly to be heard. She said, however, that regardless of whether students are loud or soft-spoken, they will be listened to by the Ford-Brent ticket.
“No matter how quiet, no matter how loud, no matter the tone and no matter what beliefs, you will always be heard by us,” Brent said.
Katie Stanley and Suchi Bandaru:
In her opening statement, presidential candidate Katie Stanley drew on her past experience working for SGA. Stanley currently serves as chief of staff to President Cade Chezem and previously served as a supreme court justice, as well as the chair of the election oversight committee.
“Tonight is an exciting opportunity for me to introduce Suchi and my platform after being a part of this organization for three years,” Stanley said. “It is humbling to be considered to be a presidential candidate.”
Stanley went on to outline the three pillars of her campaign: integrity, commitment and passion. She stated her goal to create a new SGA position, a director of finance and facilities, who would be tasked with working with offices on campus such as BUPD and operations.
Similarly, vice presidential candidate Suchi Bandaru drew on her current position as the director of SGA’s Diversity, Equity and Student Belonging board. She elaborated on some goals of the ticket, such as expanding SGA’s Uber program to cover transportation to Broad Ripple on weekends, as well as to religious services. Additionally, Bandaru outlined plans to improve Butler’s annual Block Party.
Abba Smith and Luigi Chirco:
Presidential candidate Abba Smith discussed the importance of transparency within student government, saying that students have a right to know how SGA is utilizing its resources. She outlined the pillars of her campaign: campus safety, student belonging and SGA accountability.
“The student body should be informed on what SGA is doing to improve the student experience,” Smith said.
Vice presidential candidate Luigi Chirco elaborated on the ticket’s commitment to their three pillars. He said that governing a student body “takes a village,” and that he and Smith are committed to listening to feedback from fellow students. He said that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and that he has not seen a chain stronger than Butler.
- What is an achievable goal that your ticket has that will better the student body?
- In your own words, what are the roles and responsibilities of VP? How will you make the office your own?
- What makes your platform unique from other presidential tickets on stage?
Smith and Chirco:
In answer to the first question, Smith said she and Chirco are committed to furthering student safety by improving security in residence halls. She said they plan to work alongside a “diverse advisory board of campus leaders” to see how students can be best protected within their residences.
Smith mentioned developing better sexual assault prevention programs and bystander intervention programs, as well as developing hate speech policies on campus. She cited ableist responses to the current “F*** Stairs” campaign by Bulldogs for Universal Design as rationale for implementing such policies.
To the second question, Chirco said he would perform the financial responsibilities outlined for the vice president on paper, but that in reality, the position requires much more than what is officially outlined.
“The vice president is more than a business person and advisor,” Chirco said. “The vice president is someone who can and will work in tandem with fellow students to capitalize on the wonderful opportunities that this administration can enable.”
Lastly, to the third question, Chirco said that as SGA outsiders, he and Smith are uniquely situated to meet the needs of the student body.
“Our perspective is underrepresented and underserved within SGA right now,” Chirco said.
Stanley and Bandaru:
In response to the first question, Stanley said that similarly to the Atherton Union renovations she helped orchestrate in the past, including the plant additions and furniture revamping, her ticket wants to revamp the Health and Recreational Complex, HRC.
“Someday [we] would like to bring in an outside consultant to reassess the use of the space and make sure it is a part of the [accessibility] conversation,” Stanley said.
The proposed renovations would also be an observable change, and Stanley said that she can be held accountable to make these changes. Stanley mentioned that students will be able to look at the HRC and ask questions, such as why promised changes aren’t occurring.
To the second question, Bandaru said that the role and responsibilities of vice president go further than just financial responsibility.
“The vice president will continually monitor expenses and maintain an updated budget to increase efficiency,” Bandaru said. “This efficiency will allow me to focus on other passions of mine such as working with Katie on initiatives to improve [facilities] such as the HRC.”
Bandaru wants her vice presidency to lead by example, and “show up all the time for students.” She cited SGA committee events that she and Stanley have attended this year as examples of how they have done this in their current positions.
Finally, for the last question, Bandaru summed up her answer in one word: experience.
“Experience has provided us with the network and political capital to execute the hopes and dreams of our student body,” Bandaru said. “Katie and I have the experience and proven track records … We will fight day in and day out for you — our students.”
Ford and Brent:
Ford’s response to the first question focused on the idea of implementing more executive positions within SGA to represent and advocate for students. Ford mentioned how every year, student leaders promise to represent students but nothing drastically changes. Ford vowed to end that cycle.
“We’re going to create networks that will distribute more support [for students] advocating for themselves,” Ford said. “We promise to advocate for you. I know what it’s like to be promised with or without change … these are big changes that need to happen … you’re contributing to that change. Vote for us on March 28, and consider it done.”
In response to the second question, Brent told her story of being a new senator in SGA her first year and lacking support. Both Ford and Brent experienced being first-year senators with insufficient training and support from the organization. Because of this experience, Brent would dedicate herself to being reliable, approachable and trustworthy as a vice president in order to ensure that every student is equipped with the resources they need in order to be successful on campus.
To the third question, Brent focused her response on the leadership experience that both she and Ford have.
“We’re focusing on your student experience,” Brent said. “… We’ve been [the] amplified voices on this campus for a long time, and will do the same in SGA.”
Brent said that as vice president and president, she and Ford will support various student organizations, such as Bulldogs for Universal Design, College Mentors for Kids, Black Student Union, International Club and the LGBTQIA+ Alliance.
ELECTION OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE QUESTIONS:
- If elected to the presidency, how will the administration make a lasting impact on the student body, even after you leave office?
- What qualities and previous experiences do you bring to the position of vice president and how will you use those to help the students?
- How will you go about making difficult decisions, especially when a win-win situation is not possible?
Stanley and Bandaru:
Stanley discussed creating change to SGA at the constitutional level. She explained that only a few SGA positions are outlined as necessities by SGA bylaws, and that she aims to codify additional positions as permanently necessary. Stanley again mentioned the proposed director of finance and facilities position.
“This addition would create long-term accountability,” Stanley said. “It would be written into the governing documents as well as just being spoken into existence.”
In response to the second question, Bandaru cited her current position on SGA and her work alongside current Vice President Meet Patel as experience that prepares her for the office. Since she has been in meetings regarding the SGA budget this year, she feels prepared to take on the financial responsibilities of vice president next year.
Lastly, in response to the third question, Stanley highlighted her experience on the judicial branch, including her two years as chair of the electoral oversight committee. She said she will always fight for students in all matters, likening the role of SGA president to being the president of a labor union for students.
Ford and Brent:
Once again, Ford brought in his and Brent’s experience outside of SGA in response to the first question. Ford emphasized how his ticket has been able to create substantial change through smaller organizations on campus without having the budget that SGA has.
To the second question, Brent referenced experience she has working with children who have behavioral issues to talk about how she can help students on campus.
“No matter if they punch [or] hit you, at the end of the day, you still want to help them,” Brent said. “I really learned how to be a leader and it showed me … I still have to listen to what people are saying … I promise I’ll do that with you.”
Ford kept his answer to the third question short, mentioning how any time an organization comes together, it is a win. When differences are set aside, it is a win.
Smith and Chirco:
Smith focused her answer to the first question on the unique perspective that she and Chirco bring to SGA as outsiders. In order to make a lasting impact on students, she wants to make SGA more student-focused, transparent and open.
Chirco cited his experience as a member of Out Of The Dawg House as their head of business operations. Chirco is in charge of budgeting and spending for the organization.
“I have experience with using … someone else’s money, someone else’s budget [and] using that for the greater good, not just my good,” Chirco said.
Again, Smith emphasized how she does not have any biases that one might experience when they’re inside the organization.
“We don’t have anybody that we’re favoring over another,” Smith said. “Our only focus is on the student body. Even though we’re making hard decisions, we want to listen to everything that the student needs, and try to make the most logical, objective decision we possibly can.”
- How will your leadership serve every single student on campus equitably, particularly in regards to the current accessibility issue on campus?
- In what specific ways will you keep SGA spending accountable, especially in terms of unnecessary budget lines?
- None of your campaign platforms have explicitly mentioned mental health. How do you plan to address this? Can you give specific strides that you would like to make?
Ford and Brent:
To the first question, Ford said he knows what it is like to be in student organizations that are not heard by SGA.
“I know what it’s like to be in a position where you’re not part of the dominant culture,” Ford said. “On campus, but also working with SGA … I can create a solution.”
Brent stressed the importance of transparency for the SGA budget, implying that SGA funds are distributed in a manner that makes it difficult for students to explicitly see where money is going. She said it is important for students to understand where money in the SGA budget is going so they can know where they can benefit from SGA funding.
Regarding mental health, Ford said he and Brent want to make sure students are “having a good time on this campus.” As a measure for improving mental health infrastructure, he proposed having periodic SGA surveys to the student body that serve as wellness checks to ensure mental health resources are effectively serving the student body.
Smith and Chirco:
Smith said that SGA needs to be able to own up to its mistakes. She said as two able-bodied people, she and Chirco do not have the firsthand experience necessary to truly understand the needs of the disabled community on Butler’s campus; as such, they will prioritize listening to the expertise of various groups on Butler’s campus.
“[We will] do everything that we can to work with BUD and work with members of underrepresented communities to give everyone the most equitable student experience,” Smith said.
Chirco said when he and Smith began developing their platform last October, they discussed reassessing SGA spending at its core, saying the organization needs to be more “shrewd” with its finances. He said SGA needs to take a look at what is actually necessary for the organization to spend.
In answering the last question, Smith spoke to her personal experiences trying to navigate Butler’s mental health infrastructure. She said it is critical that Butler students are able to access mental health resources easily, because for students dealing with mental health problems such as depression, being faced with navigating a complex mental health system can be overwhelming.
Stanley and Bandaru:
Stanley highlighted the pre-existing relationships she has with figures in Butler’s administration that have the ability to create change regarding accessibility. In particular, she cited Manager of Facilities and Operations John Lacheta, who she said calls and texts her.
“Having those conversations with facilities and university operations is a great way to do that,” Stanley said. “Just knowing John [Lacheta] personally, the director of operations, he cares very deeply, and I already have a relationship with him.”
Regarding accountability with spending, Bandaru returned to the campaign’s three core values of integrity, commitment and passion. She said integrity means transparency, and that she plans to provide monthly spending reports to the student body. Additionally, Bandaru said that they would seek student feedback on SGA’s spending practices.
Stanley said that as a psychology major, she is passionate about mental health. She also cited SGA’s recent accomplishments in improving mental health infrastructure at Butler; for example, that Counseling and Consultation Services currently has no waitlist, which is an obstacle that Butler students have encountered in recent years. She credited Elijah Heslop, SGA’s director of mental health and well-being, with improvements that have occurred this year.
Smith and Chirco:
Smith emphasized how she understands how she and Chirco are outsiders — neither Smith nor Chirco have previous SGA experience. Despite this, Smith said that they are able to see SGA from the perspective of the student body, as they have developed a diverse view of weaknesses within the organization over the past three years.
“It’s a common theme that many students don’t believe that SGA really cares about them and they feel disconnected from the organization,” Smith said. “We believe that SGA has an incredible potential to foster a transparent and trustworthy relationship between the student body, and that’s what we believe in being.”
Smith ended her statement by asking the student body to stay with them, and to support their campaign to create a safe and understanding environment where individuals can stand up for what they believe in and feel valued.
Stanley and Bandaru:
Stanley began her closing statement by thanking students for attending the debate. She reiterated her campaign pillars.
“It will deliver results for the student body, our integrity will allow us to realign the mission of SGA while simultaneously implementing a new director of finance and facilities to increase budget transparency and campus accessibility,” Stanley said.
Stanley emphasized her ticket’s commitment to providing students with an improved SGA experience that is accessible to all students. She also restated her campaign’s goals, including HRC promises, expansion for the Uber program and making Block Party into a true party.
Stanley ended her closing statement with a Nelson Mandela quote: “It is in your hands to make a better world for all who live in it.”
Ford and Brent:
Ford’s closing statement surrounded experience and how he and Brent are dedicated to making real change on campus.
“People run for SGA leadership to become some of the most influential students on campus,” Ford said. “But me and Hadassah are running because we are some of the most influential students on campus.”
Ford said that rather than depending on any one organization to save the student body, a collective voice can be unified to change the hearts of peers and transform campus.
“Mediocrity and neutrality isn’t going to fix anything,” Ford said. “Experience does matter, but only if it’s relevant.”