On Tuesday, March 9, the Technical hosted the annual Presidential Debate of the undergraduate Student Government Association (SGA). The event has gone hybrid this year, with many students, including one of the vice-presidential candidates, tuning in virtually to hear platforms from both teams.
This year, two teams are vying for the position of President and Vice President of the Undergraduate SGA. The first team is made up of presidential candidate Rohan Sohani, third-year AE, and his vice-presidential candidate, Grace Swift, third-year EIA. The second team included presidential candidate Srija Somaka, third-year ECON and Granger West, third-year PUBP and INTA double major.
The hour-long debate kicked off with each team making five-minute opening statements that provided insight into their respective platforms. Sohani and Swift were in an interesting situation, with Swift connecting virtually from Tech’s Lorraine campus in Metz, France. As a result, it was decided that she would make the entire opening statements and allow Sohani to finish the rest of the debate without her.
Swift spoke about their experience, explaining that she and Sohani had a combined six years of SGA experience and discussed how they would use that prior knowledge and involvement to help make the most of SGA’s resources. Swift explained how Sohani was involved in a multitude of student work groups, while she herself helped oversee many events and initiatives throughout her time at Tech, including the successful free fridge project. Midtown.
Swift also claimed that SGA chairs have, in recent years, only delivered 18% of their campaign promises while in office.
While she did not blame former applicants, she mentioned that many projects can take longer than a year, resulting in many projects being transferred to incoming administrations and often forgotten.
Swift promised to regularly listen to and assist multicultural and underrepresented communities, and to work with them to advocate, “at a much higher and more productive level” while placing the opinions and desires of students above and beyond. above any other concern.
After Swift’s opening statements, she handed the reins over to Somaka and West, who then made their opening statements.
Somaka claimed that they had no intention of running for office until two weeks before the election, but eventually decided to do so due to issues they observed with the structure of the SGA. They claimed that reforming the SGA’s structure was key to helping the organization more effectively assist the student body.
The team highlighted their platform, “It’s time for REAL change,” as how they would get there.
Their campaign acronym represents their platform’s focus areas, including: “Reforming SGA to make it work for you”, “Empowering all communities”, “Advocating for better mental health and better wellness” and “Caring for campus infrastructure and sustainability”.
After the opening statements, the debate moved on to the more traditional phase of questions.
Here, both sides asked the same question and were given three minutes to respond.
These questions included talking about the top issues facing students today, assessing which parts of their platform can realistically be completed in their first 100 days in the office, and how they will work to include diversity, equity and inclusion into their governance structures if they were to take office.
Following this, the two candidate teams moved on to targeted questions. This round was structured differently from the round of group questions, with each team receiving a question tailored specifically to their campaign and their pledges.
Somaka and West were asked the first question about why they would want to lead an organization that is “disorganized, ineffective, overly secretive and tainted by organizational politics”, which were words their campaign’s social media outlets used. to describe the current structure of SGA.
In response to this, Somaka pointed out that structural problems were the cause and promised to fix them so that SGA would no longer be plagued by such problems. Sohani was then asked a question about how he got the data to back up his claim that only 18% of SGA presidential candidates’ promises had been kept, and how he would be different from them. he should be elected.
Sohani pointed out that many of the goals were ambitious and how he would make sure to keep his ideas realistic and grounded in things he could accomplish with the help of the student body. However, before answering this question, he took the time to respond to Somaka’s previous response regarding the issues within the SGA, stating that he had not received more than one email from him. while she was the transfer student representative in the Undergraduate House of Representatives (UHR) and accused her of being hypocritical for condemning SGA for not effectively reaching out to students despite not did not do herself in her position as SGA. West asked for time to defend himself after that, which the moderator granted, and Somaka continued to accept that call, but also pointed out the lack of material and initiative the UHR was allowed to take due to the bad structure of SGA. Following this, the debate moved to questions from the audience until it was finally time for closing statements at the end of the hour.
Both campaigns were able to effectively present their case to the public, providing the student body with an opportunity to learn more about the candidates and make an informed decision about the next student body president.
Voting for undergraduate SGA elections opens on March 14. Surveys close March 18 at 5:00 p.m. and undergraduates can visit elections.gatech.edu to vote.