On Thursday, Feb. 27 Student Government Association’s debates continued in the UC theater, this time for the vice-presidential candidates – Aaron Speyer and Kasson Mitchell.
The debates were moderated once again by Alejandra Cespedes, the elections committee chair, Ashley Faulkner and Jordan Waldroop. Questions were pre-written and submitted by students via Instagram or a QR code found throughout the theater.
Speyer is currently an executive member of SGA holding the position as Director of Finance. Previously serving as a senator and being a member of the elections committee last year. Mitchell, a freshman, is currently a senator and a member of the finance committee. He is also the president of Circle K, which is an organization based in doing community service.
The vice-president’s main role is to overlook the senate as a moderator. One was regarding their vision for the senate. Mitchell said, “to make sure we are representing the student body properly. We serve the student body, not the administration.” Meanwhile, Speyer wanted more transparency and communication within the organization to the students. Speyer would also like to do more programming and coordinate with other organizations on campus.
“We need to be focused on the student body needs and wants,” Speyer said, adding that he will work on visibility for underrepresented student organizations.
The candidates were asked what they believed the top three issues Western Carolina is facing. Speyer said housing, parking, and cohesion. Speyer believes housing is a really big issue and would work closely with the administration regarding student concerns.
Mitchell claims transparency, meal plans, and housing are the top three issues. “It’s important for the administration to talk to students more,” Mitchell says. Mitchell thinks there could be room for improvement in the way the university communicates with students. Mitchell also addressed meal plans, which are changing for the 2020-21 school year.
However, Mitchell feels like housing could be the biggest issue facing the university. “It’s always going to be an issue. There’s a growing student population and we’re losing 1200 beds,” Mitchell claims through the demolition of Scott and Walker residence halls. However, a more accurate number of total beds lost would be around 500.
When asked how they’ve advocated for diversity in the past, Speyer pointed towards his record as a senator. Speyer sponsored a resolution regarding gender-neutral bathrooms which would ensure future buildings to allocate restroom accommodations for transgender and other students in the gender spectrum.
Mitchell claimed he’s advocating for diversity by being deciding to come to Western Carolina. He pointed to statistics on campus that say close to
79% of students are white. He also spoke about a current project with Scott Cooper, the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions, to develop a diversity panel.
Just as before, the candidates were asked about the controversial President Rhode impeachment hearings and what they would say to those students who feel Senate made the wrong decision.
Mitchell, who was a voting senator during the impeachment hearings, said, “senate did what was best for the students . . . whether you like it or not you got to support the Senate.” He also alleged that “a lot of people in Senate don’t like our president in the Senate,” and that that was the reason behind the impeachment hearing.
Speyer started off by saying, “overall – that [impeachment hearing] brought out the worst in people.” Also echoing the sentiment that students should respect the decision of the senate. However, he’s willing to work with students to find a better solution to the problem at hand.
The candidates were also asked about how they plan on supporting minority recognized student organizations (RSO) and advocate for diversity. Speyer went on to praise RSOs on campus and claims it’s crucial to build a bridge with those RSOs. He also pointed out the Latinx Appreciation Student Organization (LASO) and the work they’ve done throughout his time at Western Carolina. He highlighted the organizations’ greatest achievement, the Southeastern Latinx Student Leadership Conference (SLSLC) which brought together students from various campuses across the state.
Mitchell referenced the diversity panel he’s working with Cooper again. In order to support student organizations, Mitchell would like the diversity committee members in assisting underrepresented student organizations to implement their events. Adding he’s attended various programs set up by underrepresented organizations such as LASO, Mujeres con un Proposito (MCP), and the Black Student Union (BSU).
During closing statements, Speyer thanked everyone present and those who asked questions. “I’ve learned so much over the years, that I’m confident I can serve you as your next student body vice president,” Speyer added. Overall, Speyer just wants to lead SGA into prosperity it deserves.
Mitchell tried arguing his case by saying that because he’s a freshman, he’s a good candidate for the job because SGA is undergoing a lot of changes and Mitchell will be here for the couple years. According to Mitchell, he wants to increase diversity, student unity and transparency to help rebuild SGA.
You can vote from Monday, March 2 to Tuesday, March 3 via your catamount email or Engage.