Debates Begin and Candidates Battle it Out

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As April kicks off, Student Government Association election season begins to grace the paved streets of Rutgers-Camden. The future leaders of the campus are beginning to buckle down on their qualifications and reasons why they should be elected for the position that they desire. We, their audience and members of this scarlet campus, are given the extremely significant job of selecting who will lead this Rutgers army.

On April 3rd, the candidates running for GAO Chair, secretary and treasurer battled it out as Patrick Wallace, Associate Director of the Campus Center, moderated and asked the candidates tough questions. The candidates began with a formal introduction explaining why they are running for their desired positions. Sophomore Abdullah Abelaziz, running uncontested for treasurer, believes he would be perfect for the position because “I will have the most unbiased view towards funding other organizations. I plan to create a finance committee that will allow every organization to gain the funding that they need.”

Sophomore Jonathan Monzon, running for secretary against Balaj Singh, wants to “become directly involved with the students. I’m not doing this for my résumé, I want to become more involved and this [becoming secretary]would be something else for me to give back to the Rutgers community.” Monzon’s competitor, Balaj Singh, believes “the secretary is the backbone for the SGA. It is essential to have this anchor in the association. If I am elected as secretary, I will make sure all organizations will be well connected to the members of SGA.”

Junior Brigette Forte, running for GAO Chair against Sarah Detrick, shadowed the GAO Chair last year and believes her experience can only enhance the functions of SGA. “I know last year was a rough year for the GAO, but I saw so much potential in the position. This is why I am running now. I just want to make sure everyone has their voice heard.”

Sarah Detrick explains that as an events photographer she “sees so many opportunities to grab at Rutgers-Camden and I want to spread around to everyone. I am willing to hear everyone and their feelings on what they need.”

When asked about time management and the priority of his position, Abdullah delivered his way of maintaining his position while being a full-time student. “There is a lot of pressure on me this year, but I have excellent time management. I feel like all my priorities will be straightened out over time, however, being the treasurer will be my top priority. I will still be able to hear the voices of every student organization.”

“I view the GAO position firstly as the voice of the students. I think it is more important to voice that action because we are working for the students. However, there has to be a direct link between the two,” Sarah said inferring to the function of GAO Chair. Brigette agrees with the comments made by her competitor. “The GAO would be representing the students and understanding what they need is being dealt with. Alongside that, I also know the SGA’s role and guidelines. I have to make sure that the students receive what they want without overstepping the authority of the SGA.”

Transparency and the importance of public awareness was a major topic in the night’s event. “Each member in every organization has an opinion, but they do not know who to express it to.” Balaj stated. “As the secretary, we record everything that happens in the meetings and becoming more integrated with the campus would make our presence known.”

Jonathan agrees that the secretary is considered the backbone to the SGA. “If I were to be elected, I could make it more apparent to the student body about what is happening in SGA meetings. I believe secretaries should advocate more to be effective.”

When asked what the biggest problem facing the campus was Sarah stated “the willingness to get involved. Everyone wants these opportunities to come knocking at their door, but they do not want to get involved to make these things happen. The idea of putting yourself out there and doing things about your situation is something SGA can change. SGA needs to promote the idea that getting involved is a fun thing to do.”

Brigette believes it is the SGA’s job to figure out the problems affecting the campus and effectively fix them. “This is why we have representatives and elected positions. The students give their voices to us and we are the ones to make the change. Last year we talked to the library to get hours extended and we changed the course scheduling so that it would broadcast what you’re actually going to register for. We do change things, yet not a lot of people want to get involved. It is the SGA’s job to make people excited about the things going on!”

“Students are not taking advantage of the opportunities that are being presented to them. However, it is the job of the people on the e-board to communicate and tell students that every bit of input is significant,” Balaj explained. “As a transfer student I would have never thought that I would run for a position on the SGA. Yet, I linked up with the SGA and they gave someone like me to take a chance and try. We can make a difference.”

“The biggest issue is engagement. As a commuter campus, people go to class and go home. I think the e-board can play a role in getting more students engaged,” Jonathan stressed. “Not just throwing money here and there and activities, but holding info sessions that explain our role as leaders. Communication can convince people to want to be involved.”

“I believe in order to fix any problems with SGA, the public has to be able to voice their opinions and speak up things that they do not care for,” Abdullah expressed. “Communication is the only way problems can be fixed within SGA and within the campus.”

On April 4th, the candidates running for president and vice president held their debate in the MPR. The session was moderated by current SGA president, Brandon Quiles. President candidates Joshua Benjamin and Nicholas Ferraro were given a list of insightful questions to answer as a few Rutgers-Camden students listened to their informative answers; Ravi Trivdei, currently running uncontested for vice president, also was subjected to an array of tough questions.

Joshua Benjamin explained “the reason I’m running is to simply make Rutgers-Camden a bigger name and have more people recognize how great the school is.” Nicholas gave a similar answer, “I believe we can make the school more visible. I believe it is the SGA’s job to fix any problems the students have, however, how can you fix problems if you are unaware what they are?”

Ravi wants to “increase visibility of the SGA. I want people to be aware of student government and know that we have direct access to administrators and people that can aid in solving any issues that may arise.”

Ravi explained that increasing visibility would get people more interested in Student Government. “People should know that we have access to different administrators and we handle the money that funds the things that happen on campus. I want people to realize that this organization does more than push papers around.”

“This past year and a half I was treasurer,” Nicholas explained. “I also had a very busy schedule and I was still able to be onset very well. Treasurer is the second most involved position in the SGA because it involves the funds and the student groups. I do believe I would be able to keep up being on time and getting stuff done. I’m sure it will not be a big problem balancing my position with other involvements. Being president would be on the top of my priority list because this means the students want me to represent them. I would be the face of SGA and I do believe I would be able to serve my position well.”

“When it comes to managing many things, I handle pressure well,” Joshua stressed. “Even when my schedule is full, I am able to maintain a high GPA and look into law schools and graduate schools. Time management does not worry me at all. I will not lie, God and my family come first. I am confident this is something that will be respected and not looked down upon. I find that many people put their lives on hold for these positions, however, if your life is not put together there is no way you can properly represent the students.”

When asked what he believed the role of President was Joshua replied, “to basically manage meetings and make sure everything goes in an organized fashion. With that being said, things have to get done in order to change the lives of the students. I want to make sure that every student that I represent is having the college experience that they need, want and the one that is better for them.”

Nicholas thinks the role of president “is to be the messenger of the student’s body to the various administrators around campus. The president is in charge of dealing with any problems the students may be having and creating game plans to solve them.”

“My number one attribute that I would be being to the SGA is the act of being genuine,” Ravi explained. “I feel that this is important because people may feel the candidates are joining SGA for résumé purposes. I want people to realize I am here because I care about this campus. I want to work on improving the image of not only the SGA, but the quality of the campus.”

Nicholas believes being “extremely open to the student body “is the key to success. “I am open and super easy to be reached. I think accessibility is significant especially as the president. I would be willing to work around any schedule to meet with a concerned student.”

“I could say leadership, I could say representation, I could say a bunch of big words that make me look better, but the big thing that I would bring to the table would be transparency,” Joshua explained. “Every meeting should be notified and documented. I would go to the secretary and tell them to make ways to make the meeting public. The way to do this would be with a State of Campus address. Similar to the address held by the President of the United States, this meeting would tell the student body exactly what’s going on; this meeting would be held once a semester.”

Each candidate possessed a different answer when asked about their reactions to the pressures and downfalls of their desired position. “Something my father always says to me is that pressure makes diamonds,” Joshua expressed. “I think this question focuses on the heat that makes the diamond. The heat can be tough decisions and the people who do not like you. If you do not use this heat to make you better, you will just end up being another piece of coal. With this being said, I do expect to make decisions that people do not agree with and I have no problem hearing people disagree with me. I put that into consideration when I make my next decision.”

“The only way to deal with incoming troubles and questions from students would be to be honest and straightforward with them,” Nicholas explained. Nicholas believes that inviting students to student government meetings to air their opinions and concerns would not only enhance the relationship between the elected officials and the student body, but also give the students a sense of openness when it comes to SGA. “We are not perfect. We are students too. I want students to be comfortable in communicating with us.”

Ravi believes the “best thing about transparency is allowing the students to know what we do. Even if it is shooting out emails or have the SGA logo on even flyers. People should realize that the SGA is here to support the students and the events they care about.  We need to be all about increasing student awareness on what we do as an organization.”

Every candidate possesses their own reasons for joining and wanting to service the Rutgers-Camden campus. However, one thing that each of the candidates share is a love for the community, family and student population of this great campus. They are all willing to spend countless hours improving the quality, name and reputation of Rutgers-Camden.

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