Campaigns debate, make cases for election

Candidates for the 2016 Student Government Association election debated on Monday, April 4 in the Howard Baker Center.

The Student Government Association (SGA) held the live debate for the presidential and vice-presidential candidates on April 4 in the Howard Baker Center.

The debate featured opening statements from both the presidential and vice-presidential candidates before launching into the questions. Questions were submitted through social media beforehand.

The vice-presidential candidates were first to debate. The candidates described the goals of their campaigns in the opening statements.

“This campaign is working for genuine dialogue for all students,” vice-presidential candidate Fuller Edwards of the Challenge campaign said.

McKinsey Patterson, of the Hollingsworth-Patterson campaign, said she was running because believed the students of UT have a genuine love for one another and a desire to be “pursued.” Matthew Morris, of the Hardee-Morris-McCandless campaign, said that he wants the voices of all students to be heard.

Topics of the vice-presidential portion of the debate ranged from experience of the candidates, their plans for increasing participation in first year councils, supporting the LGBT+ community on campus, filling the member-at-large seats in SGA, choosing senators for their campaigns and the recent tobacco bill.

“It’s very important to make sure SGA is a voice for the students, not to the students. And the first step in doing that is making sure SGA is representative of campus as a whole,” Edwards said in regards to filling the member-at-large seats.

“One thing we’re really looking for in our senators is for students who are aware of the issues on this campus,” Morris said.

When asked about her lack of SGA experience, Patterson said that she believed leadership is “stronger than policy” and she was not worried.

“I’m a smart lass,” Patterson said. “I can catch up pretty quickly.”

When discussing ways to support the LGBT+ community on campus, Patterson stressed building consistent relationships with marginalized students and Morris emphasized creating dialogues that would help students understand the issues the community faces. Edwards talked about advocating for bills SGA passes that affect the LGBT+ community.

“If we pass a bill and the administrations says no, that’s not going to be the end. It will be the beginning,” Edwards said.

The candidates discussed the recent tobacco bill and how they handled the split in public opinion. Edwards emphasized that he was against the bill because constituents were against it and challenged Morris’s vote on the bill.

“I’ll never let my personal opinions stand in the way of a bill that helps the student body,” Morris said.

The presidential candidates then began their portion of the debate. The candidates discussed the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the proposed “Wet Weekends” policy,  sexual assault prevention on campus and student relationships with the UT administration.

Alex Pennycuff, presidential candidate for the Challenge campaign, emphasized safety when discussing the proposed change in alcohol policies.

“You don’t make UT a wet campus to create a culture of binge drinking,” Pennycuff said.

Jennings Hardee, presidential candidate for the Hardee-Morris-McCandless campaign, argued the feasibility of a change in alcohol policy, saying that there is inconsistency currently.

When discussing the incident following the release of a post of holiday party suggestions by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Pennycuff said he did not support the “holiday bill” because students he talked to did not support it.

When discussing sexual assaults on campus, Hardee discussed her plans for a campus-wide initiative involving red flag zones and sexual assault education. Hardee also said that in order for students and administration to work together, they need to maintain a positive relationship with one another.

Carson Hollingsworth, presidential candidate of the Hollingsworth-Patterson campaign, emphasized students’ feelings about participation on campus.

“Students need to feel valued and pursued on campus,” Hollingsworth said.

The debate winded down with a discussion of the sick raccoons on campus and the closing statements from the presidential candidates.

Students can vote at votesga.utk.edu from April 5 to April 7.

Featured image by Thomas Delgado

Edited by Jessica Carr