SGA candidates emphasize need for interaction with students

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During their two town hall forums this week, the candidates running for senate seats, vice president and president of SGA called for more communication with students by the organization.

Each town hall forum was an hour-long event that started with the candidates introducing themselves and answering questions prepared by the SGA election committee. Afterward, the committee asked the candidates additional questions they were unaware of before opening the town hall up to audience questions.

At the March 20 town hall forum on the Hammond campus, Matthew Ruiz, candidate for CHESS senator in Hammond, said his focus is to elevate the way SGA currently communicates with the students.

“Moreso, it’s about outreach and not waiting for the students. We have to go to them, address their concerns and make them aware of our existence. One way to do that is by going to professors and classes,” Ruiz said.

Ronit Bhardwaj, candidate for College of Engineering & Sciences senator in Hammond, said that during his petition process more than 80 percent of the students he spoke to were unaware SGA exists.

Autumn Bright, candidate for College of Engineering & Sciences senator in Hammond, is seeking re-election for the seat she currently holds. She said she would like to see students interacting with SGA more often, and also the students of her college participating in events.

“A lot of interaction doesn’t happened between engineering majors and science majors so that’s something I would like to see develop,” Bright said.

James Schooley, candidate for CHESS senator in Westville, is seeking a second term after being appointed by the organization members this year. He cited his current work on the House of Representatives with Dustin Thibideau, current CHESS senator in Hammond, as an effort to increase the reach and abilities of the organization.

“I want to make sure that we’re able to represent all aspects of the student body and ensure that their needs are met,” Schooley said.

During the audience Q&A, Evan Fus, current senator for the College of Technology in Hammond, asked about SGA’s proposed resolution to reduce prices of textbooks in the university bookstore. He noted that many students buy books online from Amazon and Chegg and asked why the proposal is a priority.

Eric Taylor, presidential candidate and supporter of the resolution, said he is working to negotiate with Jennifer Hupke, director of Purchasing and General Services, and her team to look at the bookstore’s contract and decrease the prices. Taylor said the hope is that if prices are lowered it would give students more options.

Riley Owens, presidential candidate, said he has bought all but one of his textbooks from Amazon or Chegg and sees no need for the proposal. Owens said his focus is to continue advocating for students’ needs such as the proposed crosswalk for the Westville campus, which will be installed later this year.

Thibideau, vice presidential candidate and Owens’ running mate, said he wants to continue working with the people if he is elected. He noted the organization’s work this year to reduce out-of-pocket costs for engineering students by getting the university to pay for their circuit kits as one of their major accomplishments.

“At the end of the day, the organization has to abide by the university’s rules. Some things just can’t change overnight,” Thibideau said. “It’s about evaluating ourselves and knowing there’s a process to sit down with administration to communicate problems and see where to go from there.”