The SGA Executive Candidate Forum took place Wednesday night. Each candidate was given the opportunity to answer multiple questions, the highlights of which are included in this story. To watch the debate in its entirety, click here.
Voting will take place February 28 at 9 a.m. through March 1 at 7 p.m. If no run-off election is necessary, results will be announced March 3 in the Student Union Building Courtyard.
Graduate Vice Presidential Candidates
Question: Given the fact that most of our local politicians are against any type of healthcare reform and view it as an individual’s responsibility, how will you, if elected, lobby for support of graduate students who are coming to school full-time or working a full or part-time job and yet can still not afford any type of healthcare coverage?
Cole McNiel: “We are going to have to actively lobby. I mean we’ve got to make sure our student’s voices are heard. That would be our job, is to go to the administration, go to representatives in Austin hopefully in D.C. and lobby and tell them, ‘Hey, this is a serious need, students need these resources and we need a reliable insurance program.’”
Harley Puett: “I think a lot of the focus needs to not only be placed on economical health care, but quality healthcare. And my definition of quality healthcare is healthcare that involves mental health. Graduate school is hard. School is stressful…Texas Tech does a great job of providing services like that for students but I think we could take it a step further… we really need to look at what we’re doing right here at Texas Tech to make sure that all the programs that we do provide or
quality for the students.”
Shantanu Patil: “…most of the times graduate students pay their fees by their own and mostly through loans…So it’s really important that we need to lobby for the health care and try to reduce the insurance cost…if elected as a graduate vice president then I’ll definitely try to lobby so that students’ voice will be heard by the administration, the administrative department and at the same time in Austin and DC as well.”
Harley Puett: I really just want to stress the importance of kind of who I am and why I’m running. I’m really just a perfectly normal person there’s really nothing much extraordinary about me except how much I care about this University and the people that make it special…last year only 400 grad students voted to choose a representative for all 7000 of them. I don’t think that’s how fair representation is chosen at all. So, really just go out and vote Choose who you want to sit across from you when you have issues.”
Shantanu Patil: “So it has always been my dream since I was in freshman year to pursue my masters in a tier one University and I have I find myself fortunate enough to study at Texas Tech University because I personally believe that from here it’s possible…I believe that it’s not all about winning or losing it’s all about our passion to make a difference so let me share one thing if I’ll be elected then with my technical competency experience and problem-solving attitude, I’ll surely leave my mark.”
Cole McNiel: “I want to reiterate that I have a strong work ethic that I have applied and developed throughout my life. I applied it to my degree in political science here at Texas Tech that I gained. I apply my work ethic to my studies at the law school… Being a great leader is being a great listener and that’s what I plan to do. It is not my job to be up here to make arbitrary decisions. That is not what this position is and I don’t think any of us here think that. We really want the best for our students and that’s what I would do.”
Internal Vice Presidential Candidates:
Question: Legislation has been introduced in the past year to improve senator retention. What will you do to ensure senators know that their positions are important and inspire them to remain involved in the student senate?
Emily Jenkins: “Senator retention is one of the most important things because if you are not having people consistently
working throughout the year to better this university, if you are having to constantly train new senators our efficiency level goes way down. One of the best ways we can inspire senators to not be apathetic and not to be indifferent is to have them go out and meet with student orgs once a month…I also want to work to have people come speak at open forum more often…”
Alissa Payne: “One of the things that I would really look at is, every year at our end of the gala we award the top ten senators from the session. So, very involved senators, senators that took the time to meet with the constituents…I would like to look into some kind of scholarship fund for those top ten senators to help the senator retention rate and to help people be interested in SGA because they can help other and then in turn also get something out of it.”
Question: Texas Tech is an extremely diverse campus. If elected as Internal VP what are some of the steps you would take to insure the student senate is demographically representative of the student body?
Alissa Payne: “It’s our job as senior SGA members to look at the student body and say who is passionate about Texas Tech that needs to be made aware of SGA and what it can do them and what they can do for other people…Looking at people not just from your fraternities, not just your sororities, not just your clubs, but all over campus and really making the effort to get people on your team that have the passion to serve their students no matter what their skin color is, what their sexual orientation is, what religion they are, what major they are, no matter what it is.”
Emily Jenkins: “The people who are going into the senate should be the ones who care about senate, should be the ones who care about this university and I think the way that we do this is we have executive elections one week and we have senate elections the another week and they’re not crossed together. They’re not intertwined…I think doing that will invite a lot of people from various demographics to go out and run…Our view is so narrow and so we need to be out talking to people and insuring that they are properly represented.”
Alissa Payne: “So, throughout my life my parents have instilled in me the importance of giving back to my community and today my community is Texas Tech. I’m so honored to have served in the student senate for the past two years and now I’m ready to lead it as internal vice president. I know that with my passion and my upbringing I can instill in the Senators a hard-working attitude no matter what bloc or team they come from.”
Emily Jenkins: “One of the things that has defined me as a person is my dad telling me from the time I can remember is to get up, brush it off and keep going. Keep working and to keep trying… that’s the kind of drive and tenacity that I bring. I bring that attitude, if I get knocked down by administration, If I get told you can’t do that, I’ll get up, brush it off and say yes we can.”
External Vice Presidential Candidates
Question: Texas State Senate is considering Senate Bill 6, which would restrict access to restroom facilities by transgender or non-binary individuals. If elected, how would you advocate for Red Raiders whom this legislation would affect?
Avery Martinez: “Having that conversation is very difficult to start. If I was elected as your external vice president, I want to ensure that students know that I am responsible for creating that safe space for that conversation to be held… We can figure out how we can thoroughly represent every type of person on campus. We are Red Raiders. We are students first.”
Sean Barela: “This bill will actually, probably go through. Which means it will become a law. That being a law, we will abide by laws. We are a nation of laws, we should. I do understand there is a community that does not agree with this and that being said, I would love to sit down with them and have a conversation, hear their concerns, and work to find the solution.”
Question: Given the horrifying statistics surrounding rape culture on college campuses, what are some ideas you have to address this issue at Texas Tech?
Sean Barela: “We still have areas on campus that are very dimly lit. That needs to be fixed. Blue lights, they need to be fixed. We need to talk to people about what affirmative consent is, and what assault is… If men don’t know what constitutes as assault, they’re either stupid, or they weren’t raised right or even worse, they were raised right and they’re doing the wrong thing anyway.”
Avery Martinez: “In general, we have candidates that are running that have very similar ideas as far as how to handle these issues. So I don’t necessarily think that candidates need to oppose one another. An education program is extremely important… I think having a yearly program, especially for freshmen when they start out, is extremely imperative.”
Sean Barela: “Texas Tech, I love it. I absolutely love it. And I know Avery loves it, I know she’s super passionate about this. And that is something that I think is special about being able to run against Avery, because whoever wins right now is going to do an extremely [good] job and both are qualified.”
Avery Martinez: “Over the course of the past three years, I have had the opportunity to serve as an at-large senator which represents each and every one of you in this room. It’s been a great honor to work on behalf of all Texas Tech students, and I certainly look forward, if given the opportunity, to serve as your external vice president.”
Student Body Presidential Candidates
Question: Given that your term will be a fee setting year, and each of your platforms advocates for the university offering new infrastructure and services, what is your stance on student fee levels?
Robbie Meyer: “One thing we want to look at is not raising student tuition and not raising student fees. I know a lot of our ideas do run into issues with money, but one of the things we’re going to look at is working with our external vice presidential candidates to look at how we can spread our money more thin.”
Hunter Hall: “We have and will continue to struggle with increased tuition and increased fees. It’s something that I think that SGA can’t really control all that much… but what we can do is lobby for external funds. I think that the Lubbock Economic Development Alliance is responsive to the idea that we need to reach out to them.”
Question: On one hand, you represent administration to the student body, however on the other hand, you represent the student body to administration. How do you plan to leverage this duality to the benefit of Texas Tech students if elected student body president?
Robbie Meyer: “We are the liaison between the students and the administration, and then the administration back to the students. The biggest thing there is transparency. We bring the issues and concerns of the students to our administration, and if they say that they’re not valid concerns or issues, we still keep pushing.”
Hunter Hall: “I think that senators do not go out to administration enough. I think that we do some, but we need to go higher up the chain. I also believe there are certain issues that need to be communicated in a more affirmative way in regards to students… There’s a different between conflict and constructive dialogue.”
Hunter Hall: “One of my favorite sayings, that Sean Barela actually taught me, is that we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike. It is true in every sense of the word. We have communities here that represent every part of the world. I think that in terms of this campaign, our focus is to make sure we utilize the division that exists, to build a community here at Texas Tech… Being SGA president is not about yourself. It’s about being a servant leader and it’s about serving the student body. So I hope to do that if elected.”
Robbie Meyer: “This campaign isn’t about me, it’s not about our executive candidates. It’s about the students… We’re not here to empower you, we’re here to remind you that you are empowered already… One of the things that we’re really looking at is implementing a lot of new ideas, a lot of foreign ideas that some people may not be on board with, but we can persuade and help them see how it will benefit all the students together. We want to make sure that every student has a voice, takes a stand and makes a difference.”