Student Government Association candidates state opinions in debate

Presidential Candidates, Jessie Harbuck, Sam Washburn and Blake Polson, debate platforms and opinions. Candidates debated legislation, parking solutions and campus safety measures. 

The 2019 Student Government Association candidates for president, vice president of University Programming Council and vice president of Senate stated platforms and stances in a debate Feb. 11.

Candidates for treasurer and secretary are running unopposed, so they did not participate in the debate.

The Flor-Ala participated as moderators and asked each group general questions about their positions and platforms. Students submitted questions for candidates, as well. Each candidate had two to two and a half minutes to answer each question and a 30-second rebuttal if needed.

The debate began with Justin Knight and Linden White, candidates for VP of UPC.

Knight argued for more personal communication in UPC to increase participation in campus events.

“I think we actually need to talk to people on campus and hear what they think about our events,” Knight said.

White agreed and proposed the idea that students should be held accountable to attend events.

“At some universities, they require students to attend at least one campus event,” White said. “I do not think we should make any campus event mandatory, but it is a proposal we can look into to encourage participation.”

When asked about potential off-campus partnerships with UPC and the Shoals area, Knight called for more participation from local areas around Florence and a need to focus on other groups besides athletics and greek organizations.

“There are more people on campus that want to be heard,” Knight said.

White recalled working previously with Tuscumbia relations as the Freshman Forum adviser, and he said he wants more meetings with on-campus groups, Student Registered Organizations and Greek life.

“I would like to partner with the mayor of Florence, as well,” White said.

Knight proposed using the rollover from the spring concert to pay for a fall concert. He said the rollover from the spring concert is about $75,000.

White agreed that a fall concert would be a good addition, but argued UPC should not be in charge of funding it.

“I think the homecoming committee should be in charge of a fall concert,” White said.

Ashton Crihfield and Rebekah Matthews, VP of Senate candidates, debated the role of the VP of Senate and its responsibility to students.

“The role of VP of Senate is to uphold meetings, work with the chairs and guide teams with resolutions and goals,” Crihfield said.

Matthews added VP of Senate delegates and reaches out to upper level senate work with VP of Affairs as well as other faculty and staff at UNA.

Each candidate called for more awareness for Project 208.

“We need to put more of emphasis on this,” Crihfield said. “Let’s go and get out and advocate ourselves. We need to make our university more known.”

Matthews agreed and added she has been meeting and working with President Kitts and Chase Holcombe this year about what can be done and how students can get others involved in Project 208.

Crihfield stated the greatest responsibility of VP of Senate is to help delegate people and help and guide students with what they want to do on campus.

“We need to be there for our senators, but also there for the students,” Matthews said. “We need to communicate with students and the university about what is going on campus.”

The presidential candidates, Jessie Harbuck, Sam Mashburn and Blake Polson debated potential legislation, positions and platforms.

Harbuck stated she would be a liaison between the executive branch and students. She would get student feedback and go with what they want and what benefits them.

Mashburn added he would let students know what SGA is and what they can do, but also what the students themselves can do to really make things happen.

“Communication is a big deal,” Polson said. “Speaking with Senate has a lot to do with it but it’s not all about passing bills. I want to implement listening to students and the university.”

Each candidate answered questions on potential safety measures and improvements on campus.

“I’m very passionate about this,” Mashburn said. “Purely through education, I actually went through a program through the university on drugs that are commonly used on campus. I want to encourage and find ways to implement more education besides what students learn their freshman year through the AlcoholEdu programs.”

Mashburn said he wants to educate students on if there is a threat on campus , what to do if someone is going to hurt themselves and make the campus more accessible for all types of people.

Harbuck is looking at adding more key card access to buildings, such as the library, entertainment building, art building to make sure only students are in the buildings.

“We need more education on things such as alcohol and drugs and we want students to be on campus more even on the weekends, so we need to have fun things for them to do but in a safe manner,” Polson said. “Key cards will be key to getting students to feel safe on campus and if they feel safe, they’ll want to stay here more.”

Harbuck proposed the idea of bringing in a nursery to help education and nursing students.

“It would also help people at the university that need these types of services and even people in the community,” Harbuck said.

Polson said local partnerships, such as Bellamy, banks and more industries downtown will help advance UNA’s brand.

“I am wanting to get more local internships for students to advance their knowledge in the area and for locals to know UNA better,” Polson said.

Mashburn called to partner more with athletics and the community as the whole.

“Kitts wants more UNA spirit and I see long term effects coming in with the (Division 1) move,” Mashburn said.

Harbuck said Mane Benefits is helpful, but UNA needs to also give back to the community so they will want to give back to UNA.

Polson stated there is a new student policy in senate calling for every student’s voice to be heard.

“We’re here for academic purposes and freedom of speech on campus is important and our new policy needs to protect that,” Polson said.

Mashburn added First Amendment rights are very important.

“We need to work with the students, the university and the community,” Mashburn said. “We can work problems out but there has to be a transparent understanding between everyone. We need to create unity and have an open floor of ideas and speech. We need to listen and communicate openly and I want to advocate for understanding and knowledge between students and faculty and staff and more.”

Harbuck said everyone should have a right to say what they want.

“We passed a policy so disturbances on campus won’t disturb academics,” Harbuck said.

Mashburn asked for a rebuttal following Harbuck’s remarks.

“We’re not having riots or flag burnings, but we’re having situations on campus with technical issues and reasons,” Mashburn said. “Students need to have an open dialogue and we need to learn to have an open understanding. I see the issues that are happening. Everyone works together to look at new policies. We have committees for almost every single thing on campus but we need to have a committee that could talk about freedom of speech or student rights as a whole. We need to address issues with open dialogue, open to everyone.”

On the issue of parking, each candidate had a different opinion.

Mashburn called for more efficiency and awareness in the bussing system UNA students use.

“We need more creative solutions,” Mashburn said. “Let’s work with UNA Police Department and look at who is parking where and what times to make parking more effective for all different majors, different ages and different students.

Harbuck did not give a solution for more parking, instead, she said students could pay parking tickets with items for the UNA food pantry if they receive one.

“Every student gets a parking ticket, everyone does,” Harbuck said. “I want to work with other groups on campus, like the food pantry. Maybe if you bring in food for the pantry it can waive your fee. It may not completely help parking but it’s a start.”

Polson argued there is parking on campus, but students may have to walk some distances to their classes.

“Unpopular opinion, but I think we need to lower our expectations and remember this is a college campus with thousands of students,” Polson said. “I am a senior and have always found parking on campus. There is always parking somewhere, but some places might just be a little further than others. We do need to educate ourselves more of all of our options though.”

Mashburn suggested a solution similar to Mane Benefits on the topic of off-campus housing,

“Private corporations are hard but maybe we could do something similar to how Mane Benefits works with restaurants, but get benefits for off campus living places,” Mashburn said. “The same thing could work for housing, but we don’t want to benefit certain companies over others, especially when there is on-campus housing that we need to fill. However, we could work on more housing partnerships in the future.”

Harbuck said partnerships are not in the best interest of the students right now.

“We have a lot of on-campus options that aren’t being utilized, so let’s figure that out before we start expanding off campus,” Harbuck said.

Polson added the university needs to revitalize some of the dorms and living areas for people like upperclassmen.

“Rivers and Rice are not like Olive and Mattielou, and that’s the on-campus living experience people want,” Polson said.