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RECAP: Student Government Debate for Upcoming Election

By Jack Judge
On March 20, 2017

After being postponed due to yet another underwhelming snowstorm, the Student Government Association (SGA) held their official debate in Cafe Nova this past Wednesday. Although a hot-spot during prime lunch and dinner hours, the temperature outside mirrored the amount of people in attendance with around twenty-five members in the audience on a very brisk night. Nevertheless, the debate was held as the team of Zachary Hogan ’18 and Claudia Alarco ’18 took on the incumbent and experienced team of Matthew McCarry ’18 and William Byrne ’18.

The debate was divided into five sections: opening statement, general questions, platform specific questions, audience question and answer and closing statements. Hogan and Alarco, running for President and Executive Vice-President respectively, sat at one table while the team of McCarry and Byrne sat at the other. For the duration of approximately one hour, the two tickets amicably discussed why their platform and experience would be the best to serve in the newly structured SGA.

McCarry and Byrne have significant experience in SGA’s leadership roles; McCarry, a double major in Economics and Political Science from Blue Bell, PA, has been the Class President in each of his three years at the University and helped draft as well as ratify the new SGA constitution. Their platform is highlighted by its strive for inclusivity, adding more printers in the dorms, annual event dates for the freshman and sophomore classes and providing transportation to all of the games next year. Both McCarry and his running partner William Byrne, an Economics major and Co-Captain of the Varsity Golf team from McLean, VA, have undeniable hands-on understanding on the inner workings of SGA, especially with McCarry being on the forefront of creating the new constitution.

They stress the value of knowing what works and what does not in terms of solving problems and being rational as they set goals. McCarry strives for SGA to be “The People’s Club” because it has the potential to translate the voices of the 6,000 students on campus into meaningful action. Recently, McCarry and his team helped establish a Junior Prom at Citizens Bank Park after ratifying it as the first proposal by two-thirds vote. In addition, McCarry and Byrne are prioritizing the “One Nova” mural on south campus where students submit ideas for the mural and a student artist paints an extensive scene that reflects Villanova with the theme of inclusivity at its core. This proposal and any others brought to SGA representatives have the possibility of becoming actuated from the two-thirds vote, however, McCarry cites that one of the major issues that SGA faces is the lack of participation as reflected in the attendance at the debate. McCarry also has experience as an Orientation Counselor but SGA is his main focus at The University and he has always wanted SGA to be on the same level as Special Olympics, NovaDance, Blue Key Society or other popular organizations on campus.

He recognizes that in the past, SGA has not reached enough students and has lacked in representation but as he wrote Byrne mentioned in the debate that SGA has a suggestion box where anyone can give advice and there is a procedure in place for SGA to respond to that suggestion in a responsible way. One freshman in attendance admitted in the open question and answer portion that he did not know The University even had a Student Government. McCarry recognizes the need for SGA to be more accessible to students via visible office hours and interactions with representatives from other groups and organizations present on campus. Through more student participation, funding and visibility on campus, McCarry and Byrne are confident that they can champion meaningful change with their leadership.

The team of Hogan and Alarco were not discouraged by the experience of McCarry and Byrne as they claimed they have been able to bring change without being directly involved in SGA. Hogan, pursuing majors in Finance, International Business as well as Real Estate from Eastern, PA, cited his position on the commission for the transition of the Public Safety department into a functioning Police Department. Hogan was in a position to share his thoughts and opinions on this controversial topic on campus with those on the committee and he regards this experience as one of his many that qualify him to run for President of SGA. His partner, Claudia Alarco, is pursuing her Political Science Major and is from Silver Springs, MD and has worked in the White House which they both regard as significant experience with regards to running for SGA. One of their main talking points stressed throughout the debate was the need for change by bringing a more diverse and inclusive leadership into SGA. Hogan declared that he would be the first Black president in SGA history while Alarco would be one of the few females holding a high position in the organization.

Their drive to win the upcoming election is rooted in their mission towards representation of the entire student body and how “it is time for Villanova to come together,” as asserted by Alarco in her opening statement. Alarco took issue with the initial, seemingly superficial, passion and enthusiasm of previous SGA initiatives where she claims that there is no action taken to deliver on the promises of platforms. She criticized the exclusivity inherent in SGA and how the perpetual participation of the same people implementing inclusivity makes the group “power hungry” from their lack of change in perspective. One question that was brought to the floor of the debate was the timing of the Hogan and Alarco ticket; an audience member asked, “what led you to waiting until your senior year to even bother running for student government” if they were so committed to change. Alarco responded that they did not feel ready until now to run but they have not been passive bystanders to student government. She says that they do indeed have professional experience including working for the House of Representatives and on Wall Street; they have seen what works and what does not in the real world. Rooted, restless and representative are the “three r’s” that the Hogan and Alarco ticket have at the core of its platform as they strive to make major strides towards social progress and change regarding inclusivity and highlighting the diversity of The University. Some of their major issue stances include: fiscal responsibility regarding the SGA budget, elongating the add/drop period with more reading days during finals, equality and transparency- especially with the CAT reports.

The debate was an incredible opportunity for students to learn more about the candidates but one has to wonder the impact it had with only a handful of students in attendance. I asked both Hogan and McCarry about the outcome of the debate and its turnout and they both had positive reactions.

“I think [the debate] went really well and obviously we felt a little under the gun coming in,” Hogan said as he prepared to debate such familiar faces in SGA with McCarry and Byrne.

He wanted to promote and highlight the bold issues his ticket to help garner attention to his platform and put pressure on this race. The central question that Hogan summed up his decision to campaign was “Are Villanova students ready for a different kind of Villanova?” He is confident that the stances and statements made at the debate will have an impact on those who attended to the point where people would leave the event and share with their friends. McCarry echoed Hogan as he was happy that he was able to get his points across in the debate. He especially emphasized the first thirty days after the election where McCarry and Byrne, “want to be able to send an email out on April 30, saying all the things that we did, so that the student body knows that we are really working for them. If we don’t send out that email with enough substance then we want to be held accountable,” McCarry stated. When asked about the turnout, Byrne said he was underwhelmed by the attendance but understood that it was a busy night right after returning from Spring Break and a snow day.

A link to vote will be sent out Tuesday, March 21 at 12 p.m. and close on Wednesday, March 22 at 12 p.m. The winners will be announced in the Oreo at 5:15 p.m. after the polls close.

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