SGA candidates debate mental health, public relations and other student life issues
BY Senior Reporter
On Monday, the Student Television Network (STN) hosted debates featuring candidates in the upcoming Student Government Association (SGA) elections, which will decide three of the representative body’s senior-most positions on the Executive Committee — President, Vice President of External Affairs and Vice President of Student Affairs — for the 2019-2020 academic year.
Voting will begin midnight on April 17 and close on April 19.
Student life topics, such as mental health and sexual assault resources, Newark’s “super party” ordinance and the impending shortage of student housing, were main topics throughout the debate. Questions were submitted online by university students.
The presidency and vice presidency of external affairs are both currently uncontested — Gianna Lorusso is slated to be SGA’s next president, while Emily Sousa will take on the role of Vice President of External Affairs.
Lorusso, a junior with a double major in operations management and management with a minor in business analytics, answered a question asking how she plans to address mental health issues affecting students on campus.
“We hope to have more counselors available for students and we definitely want to keep students informed and increase awareness that is a conversation that we need to keep talking about, especially as a student government,” Lorusso said.
In response to the so-called “super party” ordinance passed by the City of Newark, as well as the strong student opposition toward this change, Lorusso focused on the importance of communication between university student and city of Newark.
“Our main push was to increase communication between City Council and [the university],” Lorusso said. “One of my things in my position is right now, is the Chief Justice, and we have senators that go to those to city council meetings and I think it’s really important that communication up to and just keeping working with [City Council].”
Additionally, Lorusso expressed several plans for the future of the university and student life.
“I’ve had great examples in our past from our past two presidents,” Lorusso said. “Those platforms, I want to continue, those things being communications between administrators and students, and also fighting sexual assault on campus, increasing mental health awareness, enhancing student life.”
Sousa, a junior media communications major and business administration and Japanese double minor, plans to focus on bridging the communication gap between Newark community members and university students in response to a supposedly growing divide.
“We are definitely working with city and students — [we are] collecting more responses from students to see what they want and supporting them,” Sousa said.
Regarding the proposed Hyatt Hotel construction above the Green Mansion on Main Street, which could potentially take away more parking spaces from university students, Sousa said she would focus on collaborations between administrators and students.
“We would definitely work with parking services and students to see what they want,” Sousa said.
The latter portion of the debate focused on the only contested position — the Vice President of Student Affairs — sought by Stephanie Boateng, a sophomore studying organizational and community leadership with a minor in art and entrepreneurship, and John Cohill, a freshman public policy major and business administration minor.
On the topic of dorm overcrowding, Boateng argued that it was an injustice for students to pay so much money to the university, only to live in a cramped space.
“I really want to work with ResLife to make sure that we are opening more spaces,” Boateng said.
In response, Cohill chose to focus on the communication aspects of campus living.
“People just want to know the information, they want to have timely awareness of what’s going on campus, especially with the future of their housing,” Cohill said. “So the first step would be making the students aware of the changes we are making on campus and then working with both on-campus and off-campus housing to accommodate all students’ needs.”
Both candidates had different perspectives when it came to establishing new housing on campus. Cohill thought a combination of new campus housing and existing housing would suit the university’s growing population. Though appreciating the establishment of new dorms on campus, Boateng focused her argument on improving existing dorms, such as those that do not have air conditioning.
On the topic of sexual assault and related necessary resources on campus, both candidates focused on the topic of increasing campus discourse.
“As a woman, we are always told on this campus to make sure you are not walking alone,” Boateng said. “While this is very important, it is also very important to have talks on both sides, both males and females, about what it is and how you can avoid it.”