SA presidential debate draws small crowd
Two of seven candidates participate
Published: Thursday, October 3, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 3, 2013 22:10
On Thursday night, the seven Student Association presidential candidates were scheduled to participate in a debate in the Student Union Theatre. Sam McMahon and Jessica Honan, however, were the only two who took part.
In a debate that lasted just over 30 minutes, Honan and McMahon answered a series of questions from SA Chief of Staff Jennifer Merckel, Spectrum Editor in Chief Aaron Mansfield and Elections and Credentials Chair Stephen Rupp in front of an audience of approximately 20 people, most of whom were SA officials.
Rupp said one candidate, Mohammad Alwahaidy, had a class that he couldn’t miss to attend the debate. Another candidate, Michael Simons, was home in Rochester because he thought the debate was on Friday. Rupp hadn’t heard back from the other candidates.
The highlight of the event occurred near the end of the debate. Merckel asked Honan a question from the audience.
“There is no doubt SA is a complex organization,” Merckel said. “With your lack of SA experience and after hearing ideas form the other candidates, do you still fell you are the best person for the job?”
Honan said she believes her inexperience shouldn’t deter voters.
“I am super hardworking,” Honan said. “I am super flexible. I am really good at change. I will work as hard and as much as it takes. I don’t like sleep, but I really like coffee … I know I don’t have that much SA experience … There are people who don’t always have that much experience and do really amazing things when they are put in that position.”
McMahon chose to respond to Honan’s answer.
“Any other time, I would say this would be a great thing to have someone who just wants to get involved, and somebody who doesn’t know that much but is willing to learn, join the Student Association and even come in at that level,” said McMahon, the current SA senior office manager. “But in this election, I think it is really crucial that somebody who has SA knowledge and experience takes over.
“Given the point of the year it is, given how much has happened to date, how much events have been planned [and] how many contracts we have out with different organizations, it is important that someone who knows those aspects already steps in and can take the reins with a minimal learning curve.”
The evening revolved mainly around the candidates elaborating on their platforms.
McMahon has proposed an idea to create a holiday bus system that would take students to and from the airport around the various breaks at UB. He said it would be a step that is beneficial to most students, considering many are not local. He also mentioned looking into an SA-subsidized taxi system for students.
Honan said if elected, she would change the way SA officials are evaluated. She said there would be surveys for club members to fill out and determine what officials would need to improve upon.
The candidates agreed with each other on a number of issues. They said they would try to foster a better relationship with The Spectrum and reform the way club rollover budgets are handled. They both emphasized the importance of the clubs’ interests and communication between various SA organizations like the Assembly and Senate.
They also agreed that in some aspects, the president has too much power, specifically the position’s power to have the final say in all staff hires. McMahon proposed a change to the constitution, which would eliminate the “executive hiring power” and replace it with a system in which two of the three e-board members must agree before hiring a staff member.
Rupp was disappointed there were only about 20 people in attendance, though he wasn’t surprised. He said the short time between the resignation and the election didn’t give SA a lot of time to market the event.
Generally, only 10 percent of undergraduates vote in the annual election, he said. But Rupp is unsure of how many students will participate in the reelection.
“In general, the students don’t seem to know too much about the Student Association and some people are not comfortable voting,” Rupp said.
The election is slated to take place in the Student Union Monday and Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.