The Guarino-Gallagher ticket won the Student Government Association (SGA) presidential race by a vote of 450-256. Before the votes were counted, voters were given the opportunity to get to know the candidates and their plans for the 2015-2016 academic year.
The SGA Election Commission held three debates. Presidential and vice presidential debates took place in Plaza Middle on April 17. A town hall style forum occurred in the main dining area of the Student Center on April 22, the first of two days of voting.
Few community members unaffiliated with SGA attended the election events. Nonetheless, the events went on as scheduled and one ticket proved superior to the other, and that ticket happened to win the election.
Current SGA vice president Nicole Olsen, and current SGA comptroller Alyson Guarino went head-to-head in the presidential debates.
Debate questions didn’t encourage a rebuttal, and when they did, the opposing candidate usually refrained from doing so.
However, the candidates did present new initiatives. When asked what population at Hofstra they felt was underrepresented, and what they would do to fix it, both candidates agreed that commuter students were clearly underrepresented.
“Some people travel hours to get here, and I think they don’t have representation on decisions that are made on campus,” said Olsen. The junior political science and economics double major felt that there should be a governing body created for commuter students to fix that issue.
Guarino agreed and added that she felt students with disabilities were also underrepresented on campus. “I think that [students with disabilities] are a small population on campus, but they absolutely need to be represented more.”
“I do not think SGA was as effective as we could have been,” said Olsen, who felt that although the individual committees did well this year, SGA as a whole needs to start thinking more about students in general, not just clubs.
Rather than make general statements, Guarino offered specific ideas that allowed the audience to understand what she would implement if elected. “I want to put something up on CollegiateLink where students can put an initiative that they want to see or problem that they have.”
“I want students to have a central place where they can complain about something, and then not only do we take on the initiative, we have their contact information and we keep them updated on every single step of the initiative,” said Guarino, junior IT major and information systems and data analytics minor.
At the conclusion of the presidential debate, the vice presidential debate commenced with current chair of the appropriations committee, Damien Gallagher facing off against current chair of the programming board, Whitney Shepard.
Gallagher, a sophomore political science major and legal studies and business minor prepared with specific ideas and initiatives much like his partner in running, including a three-part system to improve Hofstra’s ranking as an institution.
Gallagher felt that a huge detriment to the University is its retention rate. He offered ways to increase spirit, the value of a degree from Hofstra and a sense of community, which he claimed would keep students at Hofstra.
As vice president of SGA, one oversees all the committees, so the candidates were asked what specific initiatives they have for each of the committees, to which Shepard, a sophomore public relations major and global studies minor, answered that she had none.
“I’m just going to be honest I haven’t really thought of this question,” she said. “I think that when senate elects their chairs for each committee, they elect them for a reason and I trust them to do their job.”
Once again Gallagher offered a concrete answer that allowed the voters to gain insight on where he would take SGA.
“Another thing I’d like to see is a consolidation of Student Services and Academic Affairs,” he suggested.
“I think that we have a lot of similar purposes between them and they overlap more often then they think. I think that by consolidating them into one committee, it would be very efficient,” said Gallagher.
He also offered ideas for the Rules and Public Relations committees, adding that he expected his committees to go “beyond the call of duty.”
This pattern continued into the full ticket or “town hall style” debate.
After the debate, Zachary Johnson, a non-SGA-affiliated student and sophomore English and TV production major felt candidates were vague and idealistic.
“I feel that [Olsen and Shepard’s] answers were not as specific, it was more idealistic where Guarino and Gallagher sounded like they had thought about it before and were very interested in helping.”
In this debate, candidates were asked about the tension between SGA and clubs, problems between students and Public Safety, and allocation of funds among other things.
The candidates offered ideas such as training for public safety officers to better deal with students, and holding more open forums for students to express their discontent with public safety, SGA, or any other body that students are having issues with.
“My first initiative is to make the holes on the recycling bins bigger,” said Olsen. This seems insignificant, but Olsen said that the small holes discourage the recycling of the plastic containers that Compass provides.
Olsen also felt that putting more paper recycling bins across campus is important as well. She believes that these smaller initiatives would show the administration that the community wants to be greener and would lead to bigger investments like solar panels and wind turbines in the future.
Matt Tanzosh, a sophomore TV production major felt Guarino and Gallagher were better prepared for tough questions.
“When I asked about the priorities regarding budget allocations, [Olsen] said ‘I don’t believe there should be priorities,’ and I’m like, ‘Well there are so let’s talk about it.’ I feel that [Guarino and Gallagher] were better prepared to answer those sort of questions.”
Arguably winning the debates and securing the majority vote, Guarino and Gallagher will serve as SGA president and vice president for the duration of the 2015-2016 academic year.
“My whole purpose for running is to build a vision for the Student Government Association that goes well beyond my time here,” said Guarino.