Elections Politics Student Senate candidates talk the talk, debate the important issues By Hayley Harding Posted on April 9, 2015 10 min read 1 0 626 Photo courtesy of Steven Depolo Members from four of the tickets running for Student Senate discussed the important issues surrounding their campaigns in Porter Hall on Wednesday night in a debate hosted by The Post. Almost 100 people attended the debate moderated by Xander Zellner**, a journalism major and opinion editor for The Post. The debate centered on tuition hikes, past failures of Student Senate and how each ticket plans to become closer with the general student body. The debate began with opening remarks from the executive members of the SOS, BARE, Student Nation and Phoenix tickets. The TIME ticket did not have any representatives present at the debate. The tickets then began to cover what they felt was the biggest issue for Senate to tackle in the upcoming school year. Ellenore Holbrook, the vice presidential candidate from the Student Nation ticket, said that their ticket considers tuition to be the biggest problem for anyone. “The cost of college is a drag on students after they leave,” said Holbrook. “We need to focus on helping future generations of OU students from being attacked by tuition hikes. We can do this by joining with other public universities at the statehouse to rally against these problems.” Tony Piccioni, who is running as president on the Phoenix ticket, also covered affordability. Phoenix has a major push on free textbook programs for students, and Piccioni noted how reforms can’t just come in “one big swoop,” but rather need to be progressively worked toward. SOS took a different approach. SOS presidential candidate Gabby Bacha said the biggest issue facing Senate was a strained relationship with administration. By working to create a “healthy relationship” with administrators, the Senate could work on issues like high tuition by challenging the administration when necessary. The BARE campaign stated students not having a voice was the biggest problem. “Senate uses Band-Aids to fix all these small issues, but that doesn’t fix the root of the problem,” BARE treasurer candidate DJ Amireh said. “Students can’t participate meaningfully in the processes. We need to get mass student participation instead of just working with the administration so that we can make our voices heard.” A question that got a strong reaction was one that Zellner said came from President Roderick McDavis. The question centered on how each ticket planned to use its special access to administrators productively. Each ticket had very different ideas on how to handle that access. For the Phoenix ticket, the goal was to push for student trustees with voting rights because, according vice presidential candidate Emily Ginty**, it is important to students to be able to voice their opinions. SOS pushed for creating better relationships with those in charge so that they would be more willing to advocate for students. According to BARE, “being friends with the administration won’t change anything,” and the push needs to be for students having direct participation in their government. Student Nation said its focus was to team up with other universities to lobby the Statehouse to gather support from politicians for student voting rights. Each ticket was given the opportunity to ask questions of the others followed by closing statements. The debate closed with questions from the audience. The first question was about the downfall of structure within the Senate and how it could be fixed. Holbrook said she found the biggest issue to be limited availability of representatives as well as the rules and regulations that had to be worked through to get things done. BARE vice presidential candidate Olivia Wallace pointed to the elimination of Robert’s Rules of Order as a sign of progress and how more participation from every student would improve the system. “The administration ignores every resolution passed,” Wallace said. “They’re not going to listen unless there are more voices there.” Jared Ohnsman, the vice presidential candidate for the SOS ticket, said the reason he quit Student Senate his sophomore year was because it was a body entirely separate from the rest of the students. He pointed out although they are running a full ticket, SOS has “not promised a position to anyone,” unlike past years he described as a “spoils system” for friends of those who win. Going against BARE’s statements about Robert’s Rules of Order, Phoenix presidential candidate Tony Piccioni said that he thought they were a great idea. “We need to have more time between when an issue is presented and when it gets voted on,” Piccioni said. Piccioni then spoke on how communications needed to be improved between the senate and the administration, especially in light of last semester’s “blood bucket scandal” from current Senate president Megan Marzec. This led to the final audience question of how each ticket planned to handle bad press and regain a positive view for the Senate. Piccioni touched once more on how Phoenix believed that Student Senate was something that needed to work toward not being mocked any longer. SOS candidate for treasurer Hannah Clouser said that the ticket would work to reconnect with the entirety of the student body and create a positive image of senate. Ryant Taylor, who is running for president on the BARE ticket, pointed out that although he thinks Marzec is “awesome,” BARE is not actually associated with her. He also pointed out that publicity did not matter, because to his ticket, money shouldn’t matter more than opinions being expressed by students. Student Nation presidential candidate Ben Mathes finished the debate by saying that in light of the unfavorable things the Student Senate did this year, the media overlooked the “really great” things that were accomplished. “There was a lot of positive things that senate did this year, we can’t forget that,” Mathes said. “In the future, those need to be emphasized.” Any students looking to vote in this year’s Student Senate elections can do so between April 14 and April 16.