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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


USG candidates discuss campus issues in Statesman forum

2014 USG Candidate Forum from The Statesman on Vimeo.

Undergraduate Student Government candidates answered questions in a forum hosted by The Statesman on Tuesday, and many responses centered around the topics of communication with students and campus involvement.

The candidate panel comprised Steven Adelson, who is running for re-election as vice president of academic affairs; Kathryn Michaud, the candidate for treasurer; and senatorial candidates Vincent Justiniano, Valliappan Lakshmanan, Michael Lavina and Maximillian Shaps.

Not all candidates attended, including Garry Lachhar, the presidential candidate and the current vice president of student life; Kenneth Myers, the candidate for vice president of student life; and Kimberly Pacia, a College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) senator who is running for vice president of clubs and organizations.

All candidates for executive positions are running unopposed, and all candidates except two senatorial candidates are members of the Actual Party, which advocates that there will be “no gimmicks” as a part of its campaign.

Candidates were asked if they thought the uncontested races were a sign of campus unity or lack of interest. Michaud said either USG was more efficient this year or people did not know about the upcoming elections.

Justiniano, who is currently a CAS senator, said this year’s USG officers received less complaints from students than last year’s officers did, resulting in “a lack of internal competition and external confrontation.”

Colleges of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS) Senator candidate Lavina, the Tea Packets party’s sole member, said elections are difficult to understand for those who are not involved already involved in USG, and he believes the party system is “very flawed.”

The candidates all mentioned ways that gathering feedback from students could improve, whether by conducting surveys, sending more emails, using SB Voice, but especially connecting with students in person.

CEAS Senator candidate Lakshmanan suggested that talking to students in class and at lunch would be “more impactful” as it is “more comfortable and it’s more face-to-face and it’s one-on-one.”

Justiniano said he would like to see more use of SB Voice after it declined this year.

“That was a real disappointment on our end because that was a way students didn’t need to attend town hall meetings, didn’t need to fill out surveys,” he said. “It was online, in their own time, to fill this out, let us know the issue and we could try our hardest to fix it.”

Executive Vice President candidate and CAS Senator James Alrassi, who left the forum early to take an exam, said the biggest changes should come from the senators.

“I want to get as many people to come to the senate meetings as possible when they see something that affects them,” he said.

Another topic that was addressed was accusations of unprofessional online conduct by the current USG administration. Several panelists agreed that the humor used in USG’s online presence helps reduce intimidation among students.

“Many people accused last year’s administration of being too serious, of not being approachable,” Justiniano said.

Vice President of Communications and Public Relations candidate Daniel Chung, who sat in the audience, told The Statesman he would work as a medium to contact the USG president because the president has to overlook the entire student government, and he would look to improve the relationship with campus media.

Issues concerning USG’s nearly $3 million budget were also discussed. Michaud said she wants to change the grant system so that funding lasts longer and to add alternative revenue sources for club funding such as sponsors and fundraising.

When asked whether USG officers should be paid, Adelson and Lakshmanan both said “being paid keeps you accountable,” whereas Lavina questioned compensation, saying “you are kept accountable by the constitution.”

Current Vice President of Communications and Public Relations Mario Ferone spoke briefly about the student activity fee that USG controls. In addition to the candidate ballots, students can also vote on whether the student activity fee will be mandatory or voluntary.

He said major aspects of student life such as campus organizations and concerts are covered by the fee and that “student life will suffer” if the vote fails.

Voting on SOLAR began Monday, April 7 and will close at noon on Friday, April 11.

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