By Kourtney Husnick
As Cleveland State University’s Student Government Association (SGA) elections inched closer to voting week, the Board of Elections (BOE) hosted their annual executive board debate on Friday, March 22. Hosted in the Urban Building atrium, candidates for all three executive board parties answered questions presented by the BOE chair, Kelsey Allen, who moderated the debate.
The BOE posed questions, provided ahead of time by student media members, split up by the following six categories: residential experience, commuter experience, academic affairs, student life, campus safety and diversity and inclusion. The candidates were notified of the categories prior to the debate in order to prepare.
One candidate for each party was able to speak for each question, and they had two minutes to make their answer. Unlike past BOE debates, the setup did not include party platform introductions, rebuttals to other parties or closing remarks.
On Residential Experience:
CSUnited and CSU First focused on dining services as the single biggest issue residential students at Cleveland State face. For Better Together, candidate Noah Mumbach, running for vice president, explained that issue as being how students manage their money, but he agreed that dining is also a problem residents deal with.
“I think every college student struggles with managing money and where they can best use their money and what it can be best invested in,” Mumbach said. “So I think there needs to be more programs within the university, and even outside the university, that helps students who are already living on campus or helps students who can’t live on campus because they can’t afford it.”
When discussing how on-campus housing could be improved, every party approached the subject differently. CSUnited discussed increasing housing options and the Department of Residence Life’s guest policy that prohibits residents from checking in guests between 2 a.m. – 6 a.m.
“If you have a friend who is intoxicated and you have to send them on their way, you can’t bring them into the dorm, that’s definitely a problem,” Cassidy Reaser, the vice president candidiate for CSUnited, said. “Because what are you going to do? They can’t drink and drive, and I mean, Ubers are expensive, so they should be able to stay in the dorms for safety reasons.”
However, vandalism and alcohol-related safety concerns influenced the guest policy’s introduction to Cleveland State’s dorms, per a Cleveland.com article from 2013 when the policy was still relatively new.
CSU First focused on dining again, with treasurer candidate Prava Nepal narrowing down on the meal plan options.
“I know that there’s an option for the Traditional 18, and it goes up from there,” Nepal said. “With the Traditional 18, even if you have a kitchen in your residential space, you still have to get a meal plan no matter what.”
Nepal cited her personal experience living on campus, explaining that she did not go to the dining hall that frequently.
However, a “Traditional 18” meal plan does not exist at Cleveland State. The traditional meal plan sizes start at eight swipes per week and increase to options of 15 or 19. Residential students also have the option of “block” meal plans that give residents a higher amount of dining dollars with a less-structured meal swipe setup.
For Better Together, Mumbach focused on three points that he described, in short, as “food, friends and fun.” His suggested improvements included better access to kitchens in Fenn Tower doubles, events to help students meet potential roommates and getting student organizations more involved in the dorms.
On Campus Safety:
Every party shared concerns about safety alerts regarding incidents that occur on campus. Reaser commented on the student body only receiving one CSU Alert this academic year, and Better Together’s presidential candidate, Erykah Betterson, also focused on the campus community not being informed of incidents as often as her party would prefer.
CSU First expanded on the frequency issue, with their vice presidential candidate, Milicia Prica, saying that more details are needed in the alerts the student body does receive.
CSUnited listed changes needed by the Cleveland State police department including safety escort system arrival times, increased police response times, improved speed of the Rave Guardian app and an easier process for making anonymous tips.
Better Together explained that they would like to focus on consent and sexual harassment prevention.
CSU First shared concerns with police escorts and sexual harassment, but Prica added wanting to create a partnership between city and campus police.
“If you come downtown for school and you park off campus and your car gets broken into, CSU police cannot do anything about it,” Prica said. “That’s a Cleveland police issue.”
However, some off-campus parking lots do already fall within the university police department’s jurisdiction, and they are able to help with any existing investigations. In fact, several campus safety alerts that the student body received in the 2017-2018 academic year were for incidents occurring in off-campus parking lots, and all of those alerts instructed students to contact Cleveland State police if they had any information related to the respective incident.
Candidates’ stances on ways to improve the commuting process, funding priorities and more can be found on SGA’s OrgSync page through the YouTube video recording of the debate.
As Allen worked the candidates through the questions at the debate, the order in which they answered was selected through a randomized name generation done before the outcome of the debate. In the past, the debate setup ordered candidates by the ballot order and rotated through the parties so that every group answered questions first, second or last evenly.
The randomized system was established to be “random, but equitable,” according to the BOE advisor, Matt Knickman.
However, CSUnited never answered a question last. In fact, CSU First went last in four of the six categories. Better Together was the only party to receive an evenly distributed number of first, second and last answers.
Attendance swipes totaled up to 15 students in the audience, although not everyone attending swiped in. By a visual count, approximately 25 students were present for the debate, with a majority of those students representing the current SGA membership. The debate was held in the Urban Building in order to provide more space for students to attend, according to Allen and Knickman.
Only two candidates from each party was able to be onstage at one time, and candidates switched out between categories.
The debate, which was advertised to last from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., ended at 3:03 p.m.
The SGA elections start Tuesday, April 2 and end Thursday, April 4 at 11:59 p.m. and will occur online here.