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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Candidate conversation

The+six+candidates+for+the+position+of+Student+Body+President+participated+in+a+debate+to+educate+their+constituents+and+discuss+the+goals+and+visions+of+their+incumbency.
Photo by Photo by Madeline Ramos

The six candidates for the position of Student Body President participated in a debate to educate their constituents and discuss the goals and visions of their incumbency.

Six voices filled the MSC’s historic Flag Room Tuesday night, each hoping to become the new voice of Texas A&M’s student body.
Candidates for 2018-2019 Student Body President addressed questions from the public and each other, discussing their policy goals and vision for student representation. Among the most talked-about issues of the debate were diversity and inclusion, student services and growth of the student body.
In his opening statement before the debate, Ben Johnson announced his withdrawal from the SBP race and left the stage immediately. Johnson’s announcement came one day after a derogatory Instagram post he made in 2013 resurfaced online.
“The reason I wanted to run for student body president was to give 110 percent to bettering this university,” Johnson said. “I truly believe that anyone who is out there can do that and after much discussion with family, friends and campaign staff I believe it’s best if I withdraw my name from this race but I want to thank everybody for this opportunity. Thanks and Gig ‘em.”
Keeping a proactive focus on the future will be critical to the next SBP’s success, according to Michael Zimmerman, who said simply reacting to issues as they arise leaves students facing issues that could have been avoided with additional prior planning. In particular, Zimmerman said the temporary relocation of student services from main campus to White Creek while a new service center is constructed has presented significant accessibility issues for students in need of disability, counselling and other services.
“Ideally, we would have been able to prepare for this new student services building previously,” Zimmerman said. “That way, we’re able to maintain the same quality that we have and give back to the students.”
As a potential solution, Amy Sharp proposed the creation of student service satellite locations on main campus, helping reduce barriers to access as construction on the new center continues.
“It is very difficult as it is having that issue that you’re dealing with and then on top of that having to go out of your way to the land of Timbuktu to find the new student counselling services where it’s temporarily hosted,” Sharp said. “My plan would be to bring those services back to students. It’s a temporary fix because it’s a temporary problem. However, temporary means two years in this situation and I think that’s too long.”
When it comes to cultivating a more diverse and inclusive environment at A&M, Zimmerman said the existing credit requirement for international and cultural diversity (ICD) courses, can be enhanced to engage students and inspire broad commitment to a diverse community.
“I think currently as it stands, students view it as a mandatory course that they have to take, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to get the full value of what an ICD course is,” Zimmerman said. “So one of the things I would work on doing and improving upon here at campus is making sure the ICD credit courses that we have here actually have meaning and value for understanding what international and cultural diversity is.”
As the overall student population continues to grow, Sharp said she has been looking into the tangible impact of increased enrollment and what could be done to ensure that the quality of education received at A&M remains strong. Sharp said it will be increasingly important for students to understand what increasing enrollment really means for A&M, while working with administration to strike the right balance.
“I made it my mission to start researching this issue so I can actually understand, at least from the administration standpoint, what this looks like,” Sharp said. “I think as the student body president, you’re not against administration, but your job is also not to agree with them. It’s to understand the students and to represent those voices.”
According to Harrison Hancock, the ability to build and maintain relationships with key administrators is one of the most important qualifications a student body president can have. Hancock said a recent meeting with Vice President for Student Affairs Daniel J. Pugh, Sr. convinced him that tangible progress is possible through student-administration coordination.
“Those are the relationships that we need, with administrators that genuinely want to have an impact and make a change on this campus,” Hancock said. “Because at the end of the day, student body president has very limited power. But administrators can bring about massive change if they so choose.”
John Jordan Feierabend said being a voice for the student body starts with listening to students as much as possible. One of Feierabend’s main policy goals is to give students more opportunities to engage in open communication with the student government.
“You need to be able to consistently provide feedback on what is most important to you and you will then have the ability to hold your SGA accountable,” Feierabend said. “You will be waiting to hear from your SGA on how they’re handling those issues. It gives you the ability to let us know what is most important and it lets you hold our feet to the fire and say, ‘What are you doing to fix it?’”
Andrew Michael Barocco’s campaign has focused primarily on his goal to bring back the tradition of Aggie Bonfire with an increased emphasis on safety. Barocco said his commitment to reviving the tradition came after visiting the Bonfire Memorial site.
“After I left that place, I really gathered a spirit that our fellow fallen Aggies would not want us to mourn forever, but they would want us to come back in one day to rebuild and to prevent the reasons why that tragedy happened in the first place,” Barocco said.
Michael Champion, who has called his run for SBP the “$50 campaign,” said he hoped to send a message that a student’s financial circumstances should never prevent them from making an impact on campus.
“I come here as a representative of the 12th Man and a student who comes from a less than prosperous background,” Champion said. “And that’s what I believe the $50 campaign represents. That no matter where you come from, no matter your background, you have a chance to compete here. I believe that this campaign should not be decided on how many banners you have, how many fliers you have, how many t-shirts you can generate overnight, but on your strength of character, platform you stand on and true grit and determination.”
Voting will take place Feb. 22-23 at vote.tamu.edu. Pick up The Battalion’s Spring Candidate Guide on Feb. 22.

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