Ollie Gratzinger and Shivani Gosai | The Duquesne Duke
Coming eight days before polls open on Feb. 21, candidates running for election to the the Student Government Association (SGA) Executive Board met in the Pappert Lecture Hall to debate some of campus’ most important issues.
Candidates competing for the position of SGA President include Eric Chatterjee (People’s Party), junior economics and philosophy double major, up against junior accounting major Ben Long (United Party). Both candidates are members of the Delta Chi fraternity.
Up for reelection for vice president of student life is Ciara Bartic (People’s Party), a junior legal studies/economics major, who serves with several other campus organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and the College Republicans. Her opponent is Melissa Likar (United Party), a transfer student and accounting major.
For the position of vice president of finance, junior supply chain management major James Joyce is up against junior international business major, member of the College Republicans and Delta Chi brother Jesse Anzelone.
Themes of the night included the quality and longevity of Parkhurst’s dining services, with candidates on both sides advocating for reform.
Bartic established her platform early on, calling for a wider range of meal swipe options in Market, as well as the implementation of suggestion boxes to gauge public opinion and involve the student community in the decision-making process.
This sentiment was echoed by the United Party as well.
“I also want to work on Parkhurst,” Long said. “Their contract is up in a year and we have a lot to work on.”
In general, all candidates hoped that the SGA would become more well known on campus. Likar called for “pop-up events” and an increased use of social media, and Bartic stressed the importance of the student body “knowing where SGA is and who represents you.”
Likar also discussed plans she has for a large springtime event similar to Night of Lights celebration in the winter, aimed at promoting campus unity.
The Loop Bus, SGA-funded transportation to and from popular locales such as South Side, Oakland and the Waterfront, surfaced as a major point for members of the United Party. They called for the addition of Strip District and Lawrenceville routes, as well as more daylight hours.
Between last September’s conflict surrounding the disclosure of budgetary information and the 2015 $20,000 ring statue discourse, the SGA has faced claims of an alleged lack of transparency. All candidates for the upcoming election, though, stood in favor of candor and increased honesty, with both parties’ platforms agreeing to make pieces of budgetary information public.
Anzelone said the students deserve to know what the money is used for.
“It is the student’s money, they deserve to know where it is going,” he said.
Both presidential candidates also agreed to publicly release their campaign finance information.
However, the two parties disagreed over the idea of releasing the budget in its entirety. Conference appropriations, the funds allocated to student organizations for travel and other expenses, are kept confidential within the SGA, and Anzelone plans to keep it that way.
“I think it’s essential that we release the budget, with the exception of releasing portions of the conference appropriations,” he said. “Just to protect the student organizations on campus that are receiving certain amounts of funding.”
Joyce stated that he and his running mates with the People’s Party “do not want to take it off the table” and “would consider” providing access to the conference appropriations.
Anzelone also said that conference appropriations were something he hoped to see “more money going into.”
Chatterjee stressed the importance of sexual assault awareness and the implementation of a zero-tolerance policy for perpetrators of sexual violence.
Accessible mental healthcare for Duquesne students was also a platform for the People’s Party, with Chatterjee emphasizing issues such as long wait times for counselling through the university.
Students can vote on DORI on Wednesday Feb. 21. Polls open at 8 a.m. and will remain active until 9 p.m.