By Rachel Stengel
Rider’s election season is upon us. Campaigning for Student Government Association (SGA) positions will only increase as the elections come closer. Candidates for president and vice president debated their positions on Tuesday in Sweigart Auditorium. There are three candidates vying for the presidential title: sophomore Kristin Farina and juniors Reuben Martinez and Brian Williams. The vice presidential candidates are freshman Lorelei Colbert, sophomore Daniel Gonzalez and juniors Ethan Grossman, Kristen Lynn and Andre Thomas. These eight candidates discussed their positions in front of an audience of approximately 40 SGA members and students.
Current SGA Vice President Scott Phillips acted as moderator. Four themes developed among the questions; unity and engaging students were the most common themes.
Identifying Roles and Responsibilities
The candidates running for SGA president discussed the importance of authentic leadership and communicating to Rider as a community.
“The role of president is a bit like [the vice president],” said Martinez, “But ours is for the students as a whole as Rider, what Rider is doing, to tell President Rozanski what’s going on with what we’re planning and to tell the Board of Trustees too.”
“Being an effective communicator is something that’s going to be really important in that aspect,” stated Brian Williams. “Your whole executive board really needs someone who’s going to be serving you guys.”
Williams emphasized the importance of direct communication from the students to higher-ups, such as President Rozanski.
Farina took a different approach to the question. She explained that the title of a role is not the most important aspect.
“I think the role of president is to be an authentic leader,” she said. “It doesn’t have to do with the title of the position or who you have to talk to. It’s about having integrity, being able to initiate things and being influential. By all that, I mean it’s the person who takes the first step to do anything.”
The vice presidential candidates agreed that the role of vice president is, “to bridge the gap between students and the faculty… to always be there to listen and always be there to take that next step to help people,” as Colbert stated.
Grossman added that the vice president, “is someone who really facilitates change, really makes sure the bond between students and the administration is together so they can get things together so they can make change.”
Thomas also believes the vice president should be the catalyst for change.
“The VP can talk to administration on a wider level and get things done, as far as working with the administration to stop harassment on campus and things such as trying to get rid of College ACB,” Thomas said, referring to the College ACB website where students from various campuses are able to post anonymous comments — most of which are negative — about other students.
“I feel that as vice president you need to be concentrated on what the students want as a whole, to be focused and engaged on what students want not just on your ideas,” said Daniel Gonzalez.
Lynn agreed with the other candidates noting, “The role of the vice president is to take care of Senate, be in the place of the president if he or she is not available.”
Promoting cross-campus interaction will be a major aspect of the next SGA administration. The new SGA position of Westminster Chair was created as a result of a meeting last year between the Lawrenceville and Westminster SGAs. The role was established in order to facilitate cross-campus interaction. Farina discussed the importance of this position in relation to Lawrenceville and Westminster interaction.
“It was a good way to have both campuses communicate,” she said. “I thought that was extremely important. Also from that meeting we were able to elect a new position, which was the Westminster chair and that person will be the liaison between both campuses.”
Martinez agreed with Farina on the importance of the Westminster Chair. He also addressed an area that could use some improvement.
“The one thing we could improve is that maybe we could get someone from Westminster to come here,” Martinez said. “Obviously we have somebody we send over there, but what if we have someone coming from over there? We want to know what’s going on there. The communication between us has been improving.”
Williams touched upon the importance of freshman involvement in relation to cross-campus interaction.
“I think another thing that’s huge is getting the freshman involved very early,” he said. “I think one thing you’re going to see is the freshmen; that’s going to be the target group you can get to facilitate change early.”
Freshman involvement is another significant matter for SGA. Candidates provided suggestions on how to further encourage first-year involvement. Colbert proposed to bring various clubs and organizations directly to the freshman seminar classes. She stated the importance of awareness and reaching out to new students, “because we’re going to be the future. We’re going to be where you guys are today.”
Gonzalez stressed the importance of communication through advertising.
“You have to advertise as much as you can because these are new minds,” he said. “They want to be engaged in Rider’s community, but we just have to be that extra step that pushes them to joining our organization.”
Lynn believes that reaching out to freshmen is the best solution.
“I think that a good way to do that is to communicate with them through letters in the mail, before they even really come to Rider,” suggested Lynn. “Give them a list of all opportunities and clubs they can join and then, when they get here, they have orientation. Maybe we can step up something during orientation where they actually meet people who are interested in things they are.”
Mentorship is the answer, according to Thomas.
“Giving the freshmen mentors to speak with them and guide them through their Rider career would really effectively engage them at an early start. Help them to come out to more activities,” he said.
“The most effective way to get the freshmen involved is creative programming,” stated Grossman. “No freshman wants to go to another meeting with pizza. That’s not going to get them out there.”
In his opinion, creative programming is lacking on Rider’s campus. New program developments will entice students and spark their interest.
SGA as a Policy Organization vs. an Event-Oriented Organization
The majority of the vice presidential and presidential candidates believe that SGA is ultimately a policy-oriented and an event-orientated organization. SGA acts as an umbrella for a myriad of clubs and organizations.
“I do believe that SGA is a policy organization, but through the policy they are enhancing events such as High Five Day,” Thomas said. “I do believe that we are a policy organization first and foremost.”
SGA will continue its role as a policy-oriented body with the next administration. Over the past two years, the Lawrenceville and Westminster SGAs have attempted to construct one document that encompasses both campuses.
“We both obviously have similar goals in serving the students but each campus has different needs and methods of doing so,” said Phillips. “We’ve worked on creating a document that outlines how each campuses’ legislative and executive branches work.”
Voting beings at 9 a.m. in the SRC tomorrow.
For more information about the presidential candidates, click here.