Candidates for Exec Vp, FB chair, president on 3/30
Debates for the Executive Board of the Student Government Association (SGA) continued on Thursday, March 30 in the MTCC Ballroom with candidates for executive vice president, Finance Board chair, and president.
The event started with the moderator and SGA Senator Ethan Castro delivering guidelines for the speakers such as a minute limit on responses. First to the table were three of the four candidates running for executive vice president. Alyssa DeLuca introduced herself as a second year mechanical engineering student who has been an SGA senator for two years and is involved in extracurriculars such as lacrosse. Next was Gina Oberoi, who is a third year biochemistry major and has been involved with SGA for the past year. She noted her interest in being executive vice president as wanting to make a difference and it being a great opportunity to lead. The third candidate is Vishu Choudhary, a first year ITM graduate student who pointed to his leadership in his undergraduate SGA as a reason he will be successful in the position. The fourth candidate Aury Bwashi was not in attendance.
The initial questions asked by Castro were written by the current executive vice president. The first asked the candidates to state in two sentences what they understood the purpose of executive vice president to be. Choudhary answered that the main purpose was to maintain communication between the students and the executive board and to make sure everyone has equal opportunity to provide input. Oberoi defined two categories of responsibilities. One to work with senators to make sure projects are organized and on track, the other to be the bridge between the students and the administration. DeLuca talked about the tasks of the VP such as being treasurer, creating budget proposals, and running senate meetings. Additionally she mentioned that an important part of the job was overseeing communication within SGA and the student body.
The following question asked if they had experience creating budget proposals or handling finances since the executive vice president is the treasurer and would have responsibility of such things. DeLuca did not have specific experience with these tasks but stated that she has friends in her sorority that have worked on them before so she has some familiarity and is confident she could do a good job. Oberoi remarked on her work as treasurer of UFarm last year before it was incorporated into Engineers for a Sustainable World and has experience with budget proposals and how student activity fund (SAF) funding works. Choudhary cited his experience handling finances for a student organization in his undergraduate studies and he is sure that he can do a good job.
The questions were then turned over to the audience. The first question brought up the importance of good communication with the president and asked how they would position themselves to have a productive relationship.
Choudhary said in order to maintain healthy communication, he plans to have weekly meetings with the president. He also said that he is used to working with teams that come from different backgrounds and would use those skills in this position. Oberoi noted her teamwork and leadership experience working as a support desk lead at the Office of Technology Services where she heads a group of 30 people delegating different tasks. DeLuca mentioned her affable personality and her confidence in being able to work well with the future president. She commended the current President Hamze “Leo” Sukkar and Executive Vice President Sonia Kamdar for their teamwork, which is something she would like to model.
The next audience question brought up that besides the day to day responsibility of the executive vice president to organize senate, they should have a larger set of goals to accomplish in their position. The question asked what the candidates want to do with the job. Oberoi said that she wants to see more transparency between the student body, SGA, and the administration. She mentioned that part of this initiative could include a meet-and-greet between senators and students at the beginning of the school year. Another point she brought up was having better documentation of ongoing projects. Choudhary similarly said that his main goal would be to make senate more accountable so that they could be more productive. DeLuca said that she would like to continue the direction that SGA is currently going, pointing to projects such as the interest group mailing list, and “SGA on the Bridge” as positive improvements that have already been made.
That question marked the end of the time for executive vice president and the candidates for Finance Board chair were brought to the table. Similar to the preceding procedure, the candidates gave a one minute introduction of themselves. Nina Tamras presented herself by mentioning her experience as a business administration major and two years working as a Finance Board advisor. Akhil John, a second year computer science student, talked about his time as treasurer for the Triangle Fraternity. He said that he decided to run for the position because he wanted to challenge himself in a leadership role. The third candidate, Darshan Venkatesh Bhatta, was not in attendance.
The first prepared question written by the current Finance Board chair asked the candidates to explain in their own words what the SAF is. John described SAF as something that allocates money for student organizations to have events and help them grow. Tamras explained SAF as something that students pool money into each year to fund activities that grow student involvement on campus outside of their academic life. She said that the SAF helps make student life more enjoyable at Illinois Tech.
The second question asked about how the candidates would cultivate the upkeep of student organizations while keeping the relationship between the student body and board stable. Tamras said that it is important to make sure there is open and friendly communication between all involved parties so that activities can get funded. John conveyed similar ideas about the necessity of good communication, offering the idea of having walk-in hours for students and treasurers to come to finance board advisors and get answers.
The floor then opened to the audience members who first asked the procedure for when two clubs want funding and only one will be able to receive it. Tamras explained that Finance Board’s mentality is not “one club over another” but rather they will weigh the potential success of the event and if the club has sufficient supporting documents. She also mentioned that if two clubs have similar events on the same day then they will ask the clubs to collaborate. John said that the most important way to resolve issues such as this is to have clear and fair expectations of what does and doesn’t get funded distributed to treasurers.
The following question asked the candidates to explain why they should be trusted with the responsibility of delivering SAF money to the over 200 clubs on campus. John mentioned his experience as treasurer of his fraternity where he dealt with a large sum of money and being tasked with allocating and budgeting it. He said that he has always maintained good communication within the fraternity and there has never been an issue. Tamras said that her mentality is to make sure everyone succeeds, noting that in the past members of student organizations have come to her advice when it comes to budget proposals.
The final audience question brought up the perception that Finance Board was an isolated group of students with little transparency and asked if they felt that perception had merit and what they can do to fight it. Tamras started her response by stating that Finance Board has the same accountability as other student organizations and can be put through judicial review. She said that the Finance Board chair is responsible for that communication between student organizations and Finance Board and sometimes it is lacking because student organizations don’t know the full process that they go through when allocating funds. John recalled past experiences when he wasn’t given a clear list of expectations for funding and brought up again his idea to create walk-in hours to communicate these requirements. He also mentioned the importance of Finance Board reaching out to student organizations to create a strong relationship.
With the conclusion of questions for the Finance Board chair, three out of the four candidates for president sat down at the table to present their platforms. Morgan Peters, a third-year computer science major, first introduced herself as a current senator who understands what it’s like to be on the body. She mentioned her other leadership experiences such as being a member of the Judicial Board. Edward Tang, a public administration graduate student, talked about his past involvement in organizations in his undergraduate degree and his current involvement in greek life and organizations at Illinois Tech. He mentioned his diverse background and communication skills some of the main reasons he believes he is suited for the job. Muneeb Yawari, a third year computer science major, told the audience about his continued contributions to SGA since freshman year and his recent involvement such as serving as a Finance Board advisor. He said that he understands the concerns of the student body and has seen how SGA can impact campus and he wants to improve it. Aqueel Miqdad was not in attendance.
The first prepared question asked the candidates what made them qualified to run the organization and carry the voice of representing the student body when working with the administration. Yawari mentioned his leadership skills in being part of Finance Board and also outside of school in nonprofit work. Tang talked about his experience as an ambassador for Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders at College Democrats of America that gave him good communication and time management skills. Peters said that she admires how it is not just one leader but a group of eight leaders to help. She said that she would aim to work with others to push younger leaders forward with a goal-driven outlook.
The next question posed the hypothetical of a president entering the position with goals and aspirations that aren’t being supported by the executive board and asked the candidates about the best course of action for such a situation. Tang stated that he would make sure to talk with every member of SGA such as the Finance Board and Judicial Board to check that he was communicating properly, as he believes it is the most important tool for success.
Peters said that as a leader it is important that you have the ability to listen to people, especially the executive board who mostly likely would have good reasons to be hesitant about an idea. She said that the executive board would be a positive force to challenge and push goals forward. Yawari added onto that idea and mentioned the importance of compromise and efficiency in SGA. He said that at the end of the day, work had to be completed and if the president is slacking they should step down or being impeached.
The first audience question asked about the over 700 Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants that have gone without funding and the financial involvement of members of the Board of Trustees in the Republican National Party. The question asked what the candidates thought their role is as president of the student government to stand up to Board of Trustees. Yawari said that as a person affected by the MAP grant crisis he would take the issue to heart. He mentioned collaborating with other colleges around the city to show legislators and the Board of Trustees that they need the funds. Tang mentioned that as president he would be part of the President’s Student Advisory Council and therefore have communication with the president to talk about matters such as this. Peters said that SGA has always stood with what the students want. As an example she mentioned last year when SGA supported the United Minds Inspiring Innovation (UMII) scholarship. She mentioned that if students want to talk to the Board of Trustees she would be more than willing to try to set it up.
The next question asked if the candidates would be in favor of SGA creating statements that would define the student body’s official position of a particular issue. Peters supported the idea, saying that the campus is full of diverse ideas and opinions which deserve to be represented. She mentioned that she would support groups on campus if they wanted to voice a position such as the addition of gender neutral bathrooms to campus. Tang stated that he believes that a university should be a very inclusive place that accepts all kinds of idea and opens its arms to everyone. Yawari also agreed with the proposal and mentioned issues such as students and faculty needing more places of worship.
A member of the audience addressed the candidates about the responsibility they will have as president and asked what will keep them motivated. Tang said that he would accept the challenges and liability that the position brings. He stated that he believes that he has the ability to tackle problems he would encounter. Peters mentioned that the president is expected to uphold a quality that the student body expects. She said that one of her main motivators would be knowing that the student body is counting on her to carry through what she proposes. Yawari said that he would include the school as much as possible when making decisions and want to be held accountable if people feel as though he is not doing his job.
Castro asked the next pre-written question which asked students to explain how they would handle dealing with the administration when creating projects. Yawari said that dealing with the administration is a precise process and he would hold his ground to make sure that the students were being represented. Tang said that he would be sure to fight for what the students want. Peters said that dealing with the administration is a balancing act of showing how the proposal benefits both the students and them. She stated that she would uphold what students want when meeting with administration.
Back to the audience, the next question asked about the safety of students off campus, taking into consideration the recent robberies, and what SGA could do to help this problem. Peters mentioned an initiative by another school that gave free ride-sharing rides to students after 11 p.m. She also said that it might be good to talk to the school about changing the way that Public Safety patrols. Tang focused his response on international students and making sure they are signed up for IIT Alerts. Yawari talked about wanting to reintroduce the Public Safety app as a way to make students safer.
The next question asked about the school’s budget and the disproportionate relationship between scholarship money and new renovations and buildings. Yawari said that it is sometimes hard to get all of the budget information from the university but that he would aim to have more transparency. He mentioned that the Innovation Center was funded through private donations meant specifically for the building. Tang talked about working with the Office of Institutional Advancement to increase money for scholarships. Peters stated that while lots of donations are meant specifically for renovations or building, it is important to change the focus of those donations to be oriented to students.
Finally each candidate was given a chance to give a closing remark. Peters said that she would love to have the opportunity to promote students and push for what they want. Tang similarly conveyed his interest in being a representative for students and said that he could be reached at any time. Yawari said that he wanted to represent students idea and lay the groundwork for future presidents to have a productive future.
Castro concluded the event by telling the audience that they could reach out to the candidates with future questions. He then thanked the participants and audience for attending.