SGA holds presidential debate

Brittnany Nelson

Augustana students came out to hear what the two presidential teams had to say and get their questions answered by the candidates at the The Student Government Association (SGA) debate. It was held on Wednesday, Mar. 21 at 6 p.m. in Gavle Room 3.
The debate opened with the team’s opening statements. Adam Gronewold and Belle Hartman outlined their basic platform ideas while also enforcing their idea of an “initiative towards betterment of the college.” Next, Brendan Walker and Ella McCorkle gave their statement. They outlined their platform that focuses on mental health, sexual assault awareness and prevention, and inclusivity and diversity.
The presidential candidates, without their running mates, were asked two questions.
The first question was about mental health and the increase of gun violence in the nation’s schools. Gronewold answered by talking about the idea of bringing on more counselors. He considered the idea of looking at how our current mental health plans are working before going in and making changes. Walker’s answer explained how Augustana is currently behind other schools our size in the nation when it comes to the ratio of counselors and students. Currently, Augustana’s ratio is one counselor for every thousand students, when the average is one counselor for every six hundred and eighty-eight students. Walker also highlighted the idea that SGA needs to join in the conversation of mental health. “I think we really do need to play an active role in a discussion that hasn’t really been happening on campus.”
The second question asked the candidates what their ideas and thoughts on changes to Title IX, awareness and prevention. Walker’s idea was to fix the communication between students and administration of what students want changed. He encouraged those in attendance who are passionate about the Title IX discussion to contact Emilee Goad, and give her their specific concerns. Gronewold’s answer included stating that fact that a member of his team, first-year Kaitlyn Watkins, is a member of president Bahls’ task force that is currently dealing with the Title IX issue.
Towards the end of the debate, time was dedicated to answering questions from the audience and from Twitter. In the midst of these questions, many were directed towards Gronewold on him referring to his all white team as the “cream of the crop,” and also the rumors that he used racial slurs and derogatory terms towards the LGBTQ+ community while on an Office of Student Life retreat. In response, Gronewold said he did not have a response and that “it hurts me a lot that people are tying to frame me in that manner.”
The vice president candidates were asked two questions as well.
The first question was about the hiring of Dr. Monica Smith as vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and how they would work with her to connect and include multicultural student groups. Hartman explained the plan to meet with multicultural groups, so that they can better advocate for them. She said, “we plan, for the next year, to meet with multicultural groups and have difficult conversations about difficult topics, so that we are getting these points of views from all over campus.” McCorkle explained how there are ideas are in place to create “diversi-tea” talks that would be open to students, and allow them to communicate with faculty on topics of diversity and inclusion. 
The job of SGA vice president holds many responsibilities, and both candidates are very involved on campus, so the second question asked about them balancing their responsibilities. McCorkle discussed how her and Walker would work together with the senate to ensure that things are getting done.Hartman answered by stating that if the need came for responsibilities to be handed off, she was confident that her team would be able to handle it.
An email sent out before the debate happened misstated that the debate would last from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. There was confusion as the debate ended at 7 p.m. Junior Karthik Kasireddy, a senator on SGA, explained that “when they sent the email they said that the debate was from six to eight, and that’s what the students assumed and they had the right to assume that.”
Kasireddy believes that SGA is there to continue the debate as the student body deems necessary, in reference to the amount of questions they had.
First-year Talayah Lemon said, “I think that both tickets presented their ideas in a very eloquent fashion and I think that both answered questions very well.” She added, “my viewpoints of the candidates I’m going for have gotten stronger definitely.”
This year’s SGA voting will be held Tuesday through Thursday, week five in the Brew.