"Potential Leaders Address Students, Clubs"
NYSSA\'s Role Debated
Tensions were high at the first open forum for Student Association and New York State Student Assembly candidates, which pitted the incumbent Results Party against the UB Students' Party challengers.
During the nearly two-and-a-half-hour meeting, candidates addressed a gathering of about 40 students, the majority of whom were representatives from academic and engineering clubs.
While the Results Party seemed at ease fielding softball questions concerning recent successes and future goals, the UB Students' candidates were heavily questioned, forcing them to defend their platform.
"Half those in attendance work with the staff currently running," said Erica Diaz, treasurer for UB's Society of Professional Hispanic Engineers chapter. "They didn't ask [the Results Party] questions, they were just tearing apart people they didn't know."
NYSSA delegate and SUNY Trustee George Pape, SA Assembly Speaker Jennifer Tuttle and SA Vice President Joshua Korman were among those present at the public meeting, and all three posed questions to the candidates.
UB Students' vice presidential hopeful Michael Sciortino used his introduction to explain the Students' platform: SA administrative reforms, reaching out to more students with academic and Greek initiatives and monthly events, eliminating "red tape" in club funding and financial incentives for club collaboration on events.
Two issues Sciortino raised in his dialogue - criticism of the current administration's spending of $15,000 on leadership development excursions to Cedar Point and Toronto and his party's proposal to make NYSSA delegates "fiscal watchdogs" for SA - were the main focal points of the evening.
The discussion was sparked by a question from Pape. "You mean to tell me that NYSSA delegates will be monitoring SA spending by lobbying in Albany?" he asked.
"Yes," Sciortino replied.
Pape asked current NYSSA delegate and Results vice presidential candidate Jennifer Brace to comment on that aspect of the UB Students' platform.
"Absolutely, 100 percent, no way should NYSSA delegates be a watchdog for SA finances," said Brace. "It is clearly a misunderstanding of what NYSSA does."
UB Students' nominee for treasurer Mark Leach, an experienced student accountant admittedly unfamiliar with SA's workings, drew questions from many of the club leaders and sparked a minor debate over the funding of the Political Science Undergraduate Student Association's trip for six to Prague for a EuroSim model governance conference.
Many clubs criticized SA's decision to fund the $5,600 trip - toward which each EuroSim participant contributed $600 - and asked Leach what he would have done in the situation.
"I'm working for students, not for a party," said Leach. He pointed out that the delegates' watchdog role would be valuable in these matters.
"In a NYSSA position, they have no power, and we don't want it to be that way," said Leach. "If I'm elected, there will be more money for clubs, money that went elsewhere this year."
Incumbent SA Treasurer Naazli Ahmed addressed the disputed trips for executive staff to Cedar Point and Toronto.
"If that expenditure had not happened, I guarantee you a lot of the accomplishments of this year would not have happened," said Ahmed. She similarly took issue with the UB Students' proposal that mandatory fundraising for clubs should be waived.
Almost every NYSSA candidate spent much of his or her time explaining either specifics or the general purpose of their lobbying duties to audience members. Students' candidate Vinny Rondinelli, however, took a different approach to his address.
"I think experience can go right down the tubes. All you need is desire," Rondinelli said of his qualifications. After aggressively courting the audience and chastising Results for the number of SA representatives present in the room, Rondinelli drew criticism from Korman on his proposed role.
"What I want to know is, how many more of your guys are you going to send to Prague if you're in charge?" said Korman. Rondinelli is the president of the PSUSA, which sponsored the EuroSim trip.
Although delegate hopeful Carrie McElroy from the UB Students' contingent drew the fewest criticisms, due in part to her political experience and knowledge of state legislative issues, she stumbled when answering a question from Tuttle similar to Pape's: how a NYSSA delegate would safeguard SA's funds, which are drawn from the Mandatory Student Activity Fee, independent of SUNY or state monies.
McElroy alluded to a more state-focused goal of protecting students' money, but made no definite distinctions.
Stephanie Simeon, a pre-law senior and representative for the temporary-status pre-law club, was less than impressed with the forum.
"It took all the NYSSA people to try and explain what it is they do. Now, all I know is that they lobby," said Simeon. She added that with the possibility of a split-ticket administration next year, the verbal jabs from both sides were unwarranted.
"For them to trash each other, how are you showing leadership?" asked Simeon.
Jeffrey Mahon, the engineering clubs coordinator, worked to organize and assemble a large number of engineering club representatives at the meeting, a group he said was rightfully in support of current President Christian Oliver and his Results Party.
"Why would they not show their support? For the ones who have gone and sought out help this year, the Results Party has helped them out tremendously," said Mahon.
"With the new party, I was curious how they would do things differently, and so were the clubs," said Mahon. "It was important that they were here."
The forum was the first of five such meetings open to all UB students. The next forum is today at 5 p.m. in 330 Student Union.