SGA candidates debate for upcoming election

Grace Powers, Staff Writer

Kourtney Sims and Gabriela Montes debate for Secretary position March 29 (Tanner Levi).

On March 29 the student government association held the first and only executive board debates with candidates running for 2017-2018 executive board positions. Senior Nipuna Ambanpola was the only candidate running for SGA President. Voting will take place online from April 3-6.

Neil Madrid is currently running unopposed for Vice President, while Daniela Camacaro and Vincent D’Alto compete for Treasurer. Gabriela Montes debated Kourtney Sims for the position of Secretary.

Alongside senators and executive officers, moderator Tyler Tyack created questions to be asked at the debate. While some were scripted and designed to bring out the candidate’s positions, platforms and previous experience, some questions were unscripted, arising from the candidate’s responses.

Treasury candidate Vincent D’Alto did not participate in the debate. The election code of the SGA does not state that a candidate is disqualified for opting out of the debate. Therefore, D’Alto will remain on the ballot.

Secretary candidates were the only ones to debate Wednesday. For this position, audience members were introduced to Kourtney Sims, a senior criminal justice major, and Gabriela Montes, a sophomore biology major.

A popular topic during the debate was that of the Georgia Southern consolidation. Unopposed presidential candidate Nipuna Ambanpola confirmed that the current conversation between campuses was heading in the direction of allowing Armstrong to maintain some degree of autonomous legislation to better represent its students.

There was measured concern at the debate regarding the student organizations’, distribution of funds among the three campuses (Liberty, Armstrong and Statesboro), the current bi-laws and the structure and organizational capacity of the executive board and cabinet seats.

All of these topics of conversation deal with how the campuses will come together to pass legislation for the entire University.

Through Ambanpola’s presidency of the Student Alumni Association, he was able to take part in writing the resolution that allowed Armstrong to retain its name. Ambanpola stated that, despite the rumor of Armstrong being taken over by GSU, the two organizations are looking to combine into a completely new organization, one that features the “good of Statesboro, good of Liberty Center and good of Armstrong.”

Ambanpola is also well-acquainted with GSU’s SGA President. Since the merger’s announcement, Ambanpola has visited Georgia Southern on multiple occasions. He described a general sense of open-mindedness about the upcoming merger.

Tyack’s first question for the debating secretary candidates revolved around their view on the position of secretary. While both candidates cited the importance of maintaining accurate notes, Sims focused on creating cohesion through ensuring that everyone is informed and on track.

Montes stated her desire to make the notes readily available online and to guarantee Armstrong continues to make strong connections with other organizations, both in the community and on campus. She cited the importance of “getting them participating in and involved with different events.”

The candidates described their previous experience that would better qualify them for the position of secretary, as well as their objectives if elected.

Sims explained that her goals as secretary would be to make SGA less “closed-circuit,” to involve all of campus and not just those tied to SGA. As Sims put it, “it is the students’ government association. They make us. We don’t make them.”

Montes stated similar objectives. She plans to increase student involvement, collaborate with other student organizations and make SGA more visible on campus. Additionally, Montes supported the current SGA policy of participation rigidity so as to “keep senators accountable to make sure our year in SGA is very effective.”

Voting will take place online from April 3-6 and the results will be announced on April 7.