On Feb. 10, candidates running for president and vice president for the Student Government Association of 2014-2015 participated in a debate to present their platforms to the study body.
During the two rounds of debate, which took place in the Thad Cochran Center, the candidates gave speeches describing their plans if elected, and they allowed their peers to challenge these platforms. In the past, this event had been run as a question-and-answer forum. But this year, the students who participated were encouraged to clash and engage with each other on issues facing the school.
The vice presidential candidates spoke first. Marcus Ocmond, Yolanda Cruz and Kyle Stoner had several minutes to tell the audience why they were the best choice for the position. All three have been on Senate for two years.
Marcus Ocmond, a junior psychology major, focused on his desire to break the barrier between students and student government. “Many Senates have been lame duck and haven’t gotten much done, not because there weren’t any ideas or because of a lack of involvement, but that senators didn’t know what to do,” Ocmond said. “That is one thing as vice president that I want to do, motivate and lead by example.”
Yolanda Cruz, a news editorial journalism major, spoke next, describing her platform as “go-with-the-flow,” a policy of adaptation that focuses on not being tied down to a specific plan or supporting a personal agenda. One of Cruz’s main goals is to see SGA suggestion boxes put up around campus.
Kyle Stoner, a junior accounting major, described his plans for restoring, impacting and enhancing student government. “I have ideas for possibly mending the parking situation on campus,” Stoner said. “Too many teacher parking spots, not enough students’ (spots). We also need to reapportion the seats of Senate because the populations of each college have changed tremendously over the past four years.”
After the vice presidential candidates had a chance to attempt to win their audience’s votes, the presidential candidates stepped up to discuss their own running platforms.
Jeffrey George, a sophomore political science major, spoke first. His campaign is focused on both enhancing student life and making SGA a stronger institution. During the debate, George presented his plans to push for less work during Dead Week, the week before final exams, and a more personalized advising process. George also plans to continue the many events put on through SGA outside of Homecoming, including Lighting the Way and Eaglepalooza.
“A lot of the events that we have really allow students to connect with each other and the Hattiesburg community,” George said. “I do think the events are a very big part of SGA because those are some of the things that students actually have the ability to see.”
Lyeneal Griffin, a junior theater performance major, spoke on his platform of getting students more involved in student government. During the debate, Griffin told the audience that he plans to improve communication between SGA and the student body through student advocacy.
“Right now, the priorities that we have in SGA are set on big events such as Eaglepalooza (and) the Big Event,” Griffin said. “I feel that student events, student initiatives and student advocacy should be the same level as those big events.”
“My biggest thing that I feel we should do is let the students know that we are trying to get their voice,” Griffin said.
Three students are running unchallenged for positions in SGA: Wilton Jackson, attorney general elect; Meredith Barefield, election commissioner elect and Ben Brewer, treasurer elect.
Each presented a short speech on their own platforms before the debate. Despite the fact that each was running unopposed, every candidate encouraged audience members to get out to the polls and vote on Feb. 18 and 20.