(Originally published for The Whit on 3/2/2018)
Rowan University students got the chance to explain their platforms at another Meet the Candidates event for the university’s Student Government Association (SGA). The event, held in the Owl’s Nest of the Chamberlain Student Center on March 1, featured 10 candidates running for three SGA positions: president, executive vice president, and chief financial officer (CFO).
Once the audience settled into their seats the discussion began with the panel of presidential candidates. Joe Egan, Rbrey Singleton, and Gino Wetherholt are candidates for president.
For Wetherholt, this role is a chance to make the community safer with late-night transportation all night long.
“[One of] my two main points is to negotiate a contract with Uber to offer a discounted rate for students,” Wetherholt said. “Right now, it gets dangerous at night at parties.”
Within SGA, the executive vice president’s primary duties pertain to the university’s clubs. With over 150 clubs to manage, some feel that others should help in shouldering such a tremendous load. That’s where the president comes in.
“It’s a lot for one person to try to handle 150 clubs,” Egan said. “It has to start with a restructure, and I think that has to start with the president position.”
Rbrey Singleton, on the other hand, wants SGA’s reach to exceed university clubs and begin serving the entire student body. One of the issues he’d like to tackle is student hunger. Referencing statistics from his research into food insecurity on campus, Singleton said that the issue was pervasive.
“We found that one in two Rowan students are still dealing with some sort of food insecurity or hunger,” Singleton said, who has been a member of SGA the entirety of his time at Rowan. “That becomes an academic issue. If you can’t eat, you’re probably not going to be studying for your 8 a.m. calculus exam the next morning.”
Next up were the candidates for executive vice president, the largest candidate pool of the night. Five students – Rachel Benassutti, Brooke Eisenberg, Matt Kyle, Michael Webster and Michael Viola – were on hand to give their takes on campus issues.
Despite the primary purpose of the position being to manage clubs, Viola sees a great need for improvement.
“I would be lying to say that – as an e-board member – we did everything in our e-board’s power to support clubs,” Viola said, a junior marketing major. “The way that we have our policies and our bylaws about how clubs have to behave in order to receive the amount of funding that they get, I think it’s truly unfair to not only the students who want to be a part of clubs, but who want to start their own club.”
Using his experience with over a dozen clubs at the university, Matt Kyle hopes to bring his knowledge to the table to better strengthen the relationship between clubs and the SGA.
“I’ve helped 11 organizations start the petitioning process this year,” Kyle said, who also helped an organization become officially chartered by the school. “Throughout that, I really got to learn what they do… I learned so much about the club process.”
For Brooke Eisenberg, her leadership roles off campus have prepared her to hold office within the SGA.
“I organized one of the first annual Oxford Houses,” Eisenberg said in reference to the recovery organization. “And now they’re on their fifth year of this annual recover event. I personally organized it myself.”
Michael Webster, the current president of the Residence Hall Association, sees his experience within that organization as a great learning experience.
“Hall councils are essentially clubs within RHA,” Webster said. “So, [I] already have a very similar experience of what EVP is.”
One thing all of the candidates agree on is a persistent communication issue between the SGA and the student body.
Rachel Benassutti believes the best way to alleviate this problem is by getting more involved with incoming freshmen classes.
“I was an undeclared student and the CEO two years ago made a speech and said that SGA was responsible for putting these lights outside of 322 so people could see you crossing the street,” Benassutti said, a political science major. “I want to have those students [say] ‘I’m unsafe crossing the street. What can you do?’ and we explore options, find the solutions, and implement [them].”
Capping the night off was the discussion for the seat of CFO. Robert O’Leary, the current SGA CFO, is running unopposed and decided to use the time to briefly detail what his experience with the position has been like so far.
“When I came into this position, [I thought] ‘Great, another job,’” O’Leary said after listing the various financial organizations he’s involved with at the university. “SGA is not a job. SGA is a vocation; it’s a calling. This isn’t something you clock in and clock out. When you leave the office, it’s in the back of your head. This is something when you go to the party and think you can relax, you’re still chatting. Your mind is always working on SGA.”
He added that after getting used to the immense gravity of the job, he’s ready to take on the next year.
“Now that I’m going into my second term and I know what to expect, there’s no learning curve,” O’Leary said. “I know what I’m getting into, and what that’s going to allow me to do is when we get back into the office in September, I’m ready to go.”
Voting will take place March 5 – 9 on ProfLink.