Candidates Discuss the Issues at Student Senate Presidential, Vice Presidential Forums
By Gauri Mangala, Managing Editor
The Gettysburgian hosted a Zoom forum via Facebook live for the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates of Student Senate on Monday, April 13. The forums were moderated by The Gettysburgian‘s editor-in-chief, Benjamin Pontz ’20.
The presidential candidates, Kurtis Grey ‘21, Hassan William-Kone ‘21, Nadine Snyder ‘21, and Rock Swartz ‘22 delivered opening statements that largely tacked with their statements of purpose on why they believed that they should be elected Student Senate President for the 2020-21 academic year.
Pontz floated a question to all candidates about how they would attempt to improve diversity and inclusion in Student Senate, since all four of them mentioned doing so in their statements of purpose.
Grey cited his involvement with the conversation groups eRace and nGender as well as his position as president of his fraternity. He considered this experience to be beneficial in preparing him to create a more welcoming environment in Student Senate.
Snyder also mentioned her experience in organizations like eRace, the Center for Public Service and El Centro.
“I think that’s given me a great perspective on what diversity looks like in the Gettysburg community and how to address those issues,” she said.
Williams-Kone referenced his experience hosting prospective students from underrepresented communities, and well as his experience with The Fellaship, a club founded to help underrepresented students become more involved on campus. He went on to acknowledge his opposition to the proposed amendment to remove club representatives from the governing body.
“If you look at Senate, a lot of people who would increase the diversity don’t come because they don’t feel comfortable coming. If you pass that policy, obviously less people are going to come. They’re not going to have the voices of Senate reps. They’re not going to have the voice of [Black Student Union (BSU)], [Latin American Students’ Association (LASA)], [Gettysburg African Student Association (GASA)], all those places,” he said.
Swartz mentioned his work with the College Life Advisory Committee to improve diversity.
“I think one of the largest current issues for diversity on campus is the interaction between Greek and non-Greek organization organizations,” he said. “I also am a part of my fraternity’s equity inclusion committee in which I’ve been trying tirelessly to improve diversity within that.”
Pontz then asked Williams-Kone about the proposal mentioned in his Statement of Purpose to incorporate bias awareness into first-year orientation, an idea first floated by Diversity Committee Chair Diana Mendez ‘22.
“We already have things like Green Dot. But if we notice that College Life and [Director of Student Rights & Responsibilities] Ron Wiafe are starting to hone down more on bias incidents and they’re even publishing the number of times these things happen,” Williams-Kone said. “I don’t feel like the best we should be doing is just saying how many times it happened, we should address it.”
Pontz moved on to Swartz and asked him how he planned to address the schism between Greek and non-Greek students.
“What I think the biggest solution to that problem would be the introduction of more late night programming for non-Greek students,” Swartz said. “The largest reason listed for why students don’t come back to Gettysburg is the lack of late night programming. The 10 [p.m.] to 12 [a.m.] time period for non-Greek students is just a dead end because there’s nothing for them to do.”
Pontz turned to Snyder and asked her to expand on her proposal to create a new position on the executive board that would focus on diversity and inclusion.
“ I would like somebody to solely focus on that issue and meeting with OME so that it can be a topic of more priority,” Snyder said. “This person would also invite clubs to come host discussions and Senate, I think it’d be really great if we could invite BSU and LASA and other clubs to come in and talk about issues that are pertinent to them. So they could reach a wider audience and students could get a wider understanding about diversity and inclusion.”
Pontz asked Grey what specific problems he saw with Student Senate’s work at connecting with campus.
“The main issue for connecting to the campus was a lack of respect and compassion truthfully, and an understanding of people’s issues,” Grey said. “And I think a lot of what Senate does is efficient in a lot of ways, like passing budgets and doing things that seem productive, but I don’t think the focus seems to be on the real issues of whatever social or systemic issues that are on campus that need to be focused on. And that’s where I see the disconnect between Senate and the student body, and the inability to give students what they’re really looking for.”
In the vice presidential forum, Lauren Browning ‘22, Matthew James ‘21, and Katherine Troy ‘21 gave opening statements regarding why they believed that they were the best suited for the role.
Browning cited her experience with clubs and organizations that rely on Senate and considered this to be instrumental in leading as vice president.
James acknowledged the concerns of students who feel underrepresented in Student Senate.
“I think the kind of leader that we’re looking for is someone who can actually put in the time to sit down with these different groups of people or individuals and just talk through with them, put in the energy and put in the time to actually understand what their conflicts are,” he said.
Troy mentioned that her position as president of her sorority has given her experience in helping to conduct elections. She went on to commend current Vice President Jack Lashendock ‘20 for taking on a more active role beyond running elections.
“I think that I have the personal drive and the personal experience of how I want all senators to feel when they’re starting out,” Troy said. “And I think that that mentorship that I can provide to them is really going to be super valuable and their experience as they continue throughout Senate during their time at Gettysburg.”
The elections for President and Vice President will open at 8 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, April 14.