SG Presidential Showdown
by Joe McLaughlin | published Apr. 14th, 2008
The race for Student Government President heated up at the debates on April 8th and 9th. Candidates presented their plans on issues such as the parking crunch, the relationship between clubs and SG, and financial issues.
“When we saw the candidate list, we didn't see enough strong leadership” in the race, said Ed Wolf, who is running for reelection as SG President. Representative at Large Matt Danna is his running mate. Wolf and Danna are basing their campaign on their good relationships with other groups on campus, and their accomplishments in office. In his platform, Wolf lists rewriting club guidelines, free laundry, and increased e-mail among his accomplishments.
Danna said that if they are elected, students can expect “better student attitude on campus. When students are here, they feel that RIT is just OK. We really want to increase student pride by removing a lot of barriers that students face. There're a lot of barriers that exist just to have barriers.”
“The most important thing,” Wolf said, “is to develop a relationship with Dr. Haefner,” the new Provost. “We hope to establish a relationship with him so if students have a problem with the curriculum, we can address them in a timely manner.”
Michael Deyhim, another candidate for the position, said “A lot of the other candidates look really similar. We bring a different perspective... We are basically the product of SG's failure and the frustration SG causes.” During the debates, Deyhim said that he has no relationships with RIT administrators, “but I have relationships with students who go to classes. That's what's important.”
Deyhim and his running mate Andrew Hicks have been using fliers with slogans such as “We will protect the SAU from coyotes,” and their platform says that they “are also against dangerous lava volcanoes here on campus because they burn you.” Hicks said that they are using the ads “to bring a sense of humor to the campaign and to make people critically analyze each candidate.”
Carlos Cornejo, currently the College of Buisness Senator is running with Stephen DeVay, the Greek Council Representative. His major platform points include changing the way clubs relate to SG and resolving parking and housing issues. Cornejo has also promised to make food debit “roll over” and not expire at the end of the quarter.
“We're not proposing to build a dorm,” said Cornejo of his housing plan. “We're proposing to get the idea rolling. We're going to encourage administrators to study the facts to accelerate the process. If it's going to start, it's going to start now.”
The final pair of candidates is Kari Hazzard and Jon Berman. Hazzard is the secretary of the RIT Gay Alliance, and Berman was the College of Science Senator last academic year. They plan to open a 24/7 computer lab on campus and to reduce parking problems by, as Hazzard explained, “finding ways to decrease the number of students who need parking.” In their platform, they advocate “ride-sharing and cycling.”
“There are a lot of students who need special software to do their homework,” said Hazzard, “so we think [the 24/7 computer lab] is necessary. We've estimated it will cost between three and five million dollars. Considering the size of the student body, it's a drop in the hat.” Hazzard said that the lab will contain up to 150 computers.
Threats, Impropriety, and Other Controversies
At one point during the debate, the Cornejo camp promised to “stand up for student opinions and fight with the Academic Senate if necessary. The current government backs down repeatedly,” they said. In a later interview, they cited the dates of this year's graduation ceremony, to be held on the Friday evening and Saturday immediately after final exams. According to Cornejo, most students wanted it on Saturday and Sunday. “I don't think it's right for the president to bring his opinion to the forum. I think it's important for him to be impartial toward the Senate.” he said.
Wolf acknowledges asking the Senate to change the dates of graduation, but denies that it was improper. “We are responsible for making sure student tuition money is spent responsibly and I didn't think it was fiscally responsible to invest all this money when the issue could have been resolved” by changing the dates, he said. Because of additional staffing issues, “the old plan would have cost a million dollars” more than the current plan, he remarked.
Tensions also run high between DeVay and Danna, who DeVay alleges threatened to pull SG funding from Greek Council in retaliation for the group making changes to their constitution without notifying SG. “In the case of Greek Council,” DeVay alleged, “Matt wanted SG to have complete control. As Representative at Large and somebody planning to run for SG next year, you think he'd be trying to build relationships and not come off in the threatening tone he did.”
Danna called the claim “completely false.” Though he says that he spoke to several people from the council about the changes, “my only concern was that they weren't being transparent,” he said. “I have no authority to [pull funding]. I oversee clubs.”
For his part, Wolf has also accused Cornejo of not doing his job properly, citing his performance on an SG committee to study smoking at RIT. “Three weeks ago Carlos started doing things with the committee, working with Academic Senate, and putting the survey out to the student body,” said Wolf. “I didn't realize until I was sitting in Academic Senate that Carlos hadn't done anything.”
Cornejo defends his performance on the committee. “We decided a survey for students was needed... so I came up with a survey that was delayed due to technical difficulties,” he said. “I did not have access to e-mailing the entire student body. It's not that I wasn't doing my job.” He continued, “If the senate and current administration didn't think I was doing my job, I wonder why they named me Senator of the Month in February.”
Deyhim's campaign has also faced criticism. During the debates, Danna said, “Through [Deyhim's] campaign, he has been making a mockery of SG... It's almost insulting.” Referencing Deyhim's campaign fliers, Danna said, “It's the fact that he says he like bunnies and is against volcanoes. Most people have actual goals.” Others, such as current GCCIS Senator Paul Solt, who is not running this year, pointed out Deyhim's lack of SG experience and claimed that he is ignorant of SG issues.
“A lot of people who feel we're joke candidates feel threatened by us,” said Deyhim. “We have gathered a lot of popular support... I think the race represents the best of democracy. Everyone has a different viewpoint. Whether we win or lose, I think we'll have brought a lot of good to this election.”