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SA hosts town hall meeting with e-board candidates

Unopposed R.E.A.L. party discusses campaign initiatives

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Roughly 70 students gathered in the Student Union theater Thursday evening for a town hall meeting with the SA e-board candidates from the R.E.A.L. party, who are running unopposed.

SA originally scheduled a debate for that night, but changed it to a town hall meeting after the United Peoples Party dropped out of the race on Tuesday. The meeting was informal. Presidential candidate Gunnar Haberl, vice presidential candidate Anyssa Evelyn and treasorial candidate Tanahiry Escamilla answered questions from the audience while sitting on the edge of the stage.

The e-board elections will take place March 27-29 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

This is not the first time a party has run unopposed in an SA election. In April 2015, Unity Party candidates Minahil Khan, Sean Kaczmarek and Joe Pace also ran unopposed.

The R.E.A.L. party candidates discussed their candidacy goals, which include transparency, improved mental-health care on campus, increased awareness about SA, accessibility via office hours and a proposed off-grounds, university-sponsored campground.

Haberl said the campground would have multiple cabins, a lodge and opportunities for winter activities such as snowshoeing. Clubs could rent out the cabins and lodge for meetings and retreats, and he said local businesses and high schools could pay to rent out the site as a way to offset the cost of the facility.

Haberl said he cannot comment on funding until he speaks with administrators and stakeholders, when an audience member asked. He emphasized he cannot promise the campground will be built until he has extensive conversations with administrators about how to finance the site.

Aside from Haberl’s campground initiative, the candidate responded to a student’s concerns about parking. As a commuter himself, Haberl said he understands commuters’ problems and administrators have pointed out to him that convenient parking is the issue on-campus.

“Are there parking spaces close to academic buildings? No, but you can park a mile away and take a shuttle. That’s what the university is telling us,” Haberl said.

Haberl encouraged transparency in SA Senate meetings during the town hall. Haberl said he saw the Senate kick a club out of a meeting after presenting this past fall. He said the move was a violation of the New York state Open Meetings Law since they were discussing public funds in the meetings.

“Since then, clubs have not been kicked out and they get the option of whether or not they want to leave,” Haberl said. “That’s something we want to continue since it was a violation of the law.”

Haberl said he has problems with the joint staff/commuter lot outside of Hochstetter Hall and wants to advocate for separation. He said the university has told him the lot’s details are in contract but he would like to see the contract.

After being asked about UB broad-based fee meetings, Evelyn said she wants to make meetings accessible to more students by scheduling better times and meeting locations. Evelyn noted the fall broad-based fee meeting is important for students to attend because more changes can be made following those meetings. At the spring meeting, fees had already been set for the most part, so student voices have less of an impact.

When asked about promoting club growth, Evelyn said smaller clubs may be unfamiliar with certain SA procedures. She said she wants to have one-on-ones with those clubs.

“I want to sit down with clubs, including council coordinators in the conversations, to see what we can do to help you,” Evelyn said. “Not every club is the same. Not every club’s needs are the same. If the club is transparent with the things they need, like leadership development, there are so many professionals and paraprofessionals on this campus able to hold workshops and getting that help. This is something I’m willing to do.”

After Evelyn discussed increasing SA outreach at orientation, an attendee asked Haberl about current SA president Leslie Veloz’s letter to the editor on March 1. In the letter, Veloz said there is no required amount of hours for executive board members.

Escamilla said she hopes to have 15-20 hours a week as treasurer, as well, with 3-4 hours in the office every school day. Haberl said he can’t make a promise to a set number of office hours but hopes he can be in the office 15-20 hours a week as president.

“As chief of staff, I’ve committed 15-30 hours a week. I’m required to work 10, however, my job requires me to work more,” Haberl said. “I don’t get paid for that extra time. I do it because I love to and I’m here to serve our staff and students.”

As president, he said he hopes he can commit extra time to the staff and students. Haberl said SA staff members are some of the most dedicated people he has ever met and he thinks his staff goes beyond the amount of hours they need to put in to the job.

Devin Forde, a junior psychology and sociology major, is the president of the Asian American Student Union. Ford attended the town hall and said he thinks Haberl is very responsive to his concerns.

“They’ve been there when my club has been in a serious need of help with SA. When there was a lot of stuff I’ve been uncertain of, things in my presidency,” Forde said. “To be honest, not a lot of people — at least the executive board from [‘16-17] — would have done that. So I’m pretty comfortable that the [R.E.A.L. Party] will be doing exactly what they’re saying.”

Brianna Whitehead, a freshman psychology major and vice president of the Asian American Student Union, felt it was important to come and listen to what the candidates had to say even though the party is running unopposed.

“Hearing what the candidates have to say to is really important,” Whitehead said. “I still want to know what their ideas, what their goals are.”

Maddy Fowler and Benjamin Blanchet are editors and can be reached at maddy.fowler@ubspectrum.com and benjamin.blanchet@ubspectrum.com and @mmfowler13 & @BenjaminUBSpec


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