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Executive Candidates debate in the JC

Candidates running for Mason student body president and vice president

By Tisha Herrera, Staff Writer

Ten candidates from five campaigns participated in the spring Student Government Election Executive Debate, hosted on Thursday night, March 22 in the Johnson Center.

Candidates running respectively for student government president and vice president are: Patrick Grady and Amir Jones, Benjamin Olsen and Sara Babcock, Rebekah Pettine and Erik Truong, Holden Spence and Chra Darwesh, and Michael Gracia and Andrew Nesterczuk.

The Student Government Elections and Disputes Commission (EDC) opened the floor to the vice-presidential candidates to discuss topics including Mason’s administration, university services, campus climate and student life.

“Pat and I are looking to strengthen advocacy,” said Jones, explaining they would provide accountability in student government by “working to strengthen student government’s efficiency internally to be able to better advocate externally within administration.” Jones assured they would act as a liaison with the university administration who would represent the student body’s interests and ensure their concerns were being addressed.

“Ben and I really want to work on transparency within the student government,” said Babcock, who also said they would work to “bridge the gap between student government and the Mason community.” They would make sure student voices are heard by the university, and show that student government “is telling the [students] the information that they need to know.”

“Bekah and I want to start off forming a good relationship between [student government and the Mason community],” said Truong. They want to increase transparency by partnering with student media like Fourth Estate to have a permanent student government section, because the students “[should] know exactly what is going on — and what isn’t — that needs to talk about.”

The relationship between students and their government “is something really big that Holden and I want to focus on,” said Darwesh. They would host community town hall meetings each semester, and make a “state of the university address,” to communicate with the student body. They also proposed creating a Title IX liaison to make the university “more transparent, for students to speak more openly.”

“We need more transparency in Student Government,” said Nesterczuk. They would address issues and interests of student life, such as the shortage of student housing and the Taco Bell closing on campus.

Next, the EDC allowed the presidential candidates to step up to the podium, and address subjects such as the Board of Visitors (BOV), student housing, extended hours for Fenwick Library, and public office hours for the student body president.

“Some issues that I would like to see marketed through the [BOV] are academic programs, tuition decisions, research conductments, land use, and developments within Mason,” said Pettine. Housing services should contact off-campus apartments and residential developments for special student discounts and more affordable rates. On other campus issues, “the best way to seek having a 24-hour library at Fenwick, would be to open up an exploratory committee that would be led by the University Services Department.”

“I want to create a dialogue around student affairs, and what students are going through” said Spence. “Why is it that students weren’t told about housing rates going up by $600 for next year until after we submitted our applications for housing? Transparency is needed in order to increase visibility and better student life.” Spence said his experience as the current student government secretary for Diverse and Multicultural Affairs and former undersecretary for Religious Affairs “could help implement education based upon various faiths” at Mason.

“We would like to hold [the BOV] more accountable… to better voice our concerns” said Olsen. This would include communicating with housing and other university offices, and an expo for students to learn and engage with the staff about what their offices do. Like other candidates, Olsen also made references to student government having “a transparency issue,” and would solve it with more openness and communication with the student body.

“One idea that Amir and I have is that we’re going to create a complaint form,” said Grady, so that students can present their concerns to the BOV. They would work with Rose Pascarell, the vice president for University Life, to “find areas where students aren’t being represented,” said Grady. In reference to the concern faced with students not engaging in student government office hours, “I think it would be a great idea to create bonds with students in key organizations around campus that would be able share when our office hours are.”

“Here’s what we’re going to do about the housing crisis,” said Gracia, explaining that student apartments “will be kept open at least another year until [students] can figure out what the heck is going on.” Gracia added that he wants to make Mason a gun-free zone, and would also vote to freeze and cut President Cabrera’s salary to cover and reduce students’ tuition and housing costs.

Voting for student government candidates will be open March 26 through March 30 on getconnected.gmu.edu. More information on the candidates can be found on page 8.

Photo Courtesy of Student Government