Forum for senate hopefuls

Just over half of those running for Student Senate were present at a public forum yesterday, at which all candidates essentially agreed with one another on nearly every issue.  As in past years, fewer candidates are running than there are vacant senate seats.

Just over half of those running for Student Senate were present at a public forum yesterday, at which all candidates essentially agreed with one another on nearly every issue.  As in past years, fewer candidates are running than there are vacant senate seats.

“Basically if all [of] the positions don’t have enough people running for [them], each candidate only needs one vote to win,” said Elections Board Chair Debra Porta.

Last year’s election was the first in several in which more candidates ran than there were positions.

During the forum, candidates answered questions regarding potential restructuring of the university’s budget, how to effectively time-manage while serving in a leadership role and understanding the processes of the university and student government. The candidates each expressed a desire to ensure that the needs of as many students as possible are recognized and addressed by ASPSU.

The event was filmed by PSU-TV and will air on MetroEast Community Media stations.

Only a handful of student-media representatives and current ASPSU-affiliated students were present at the forum. A contributing factor to the low turnout may have been a last-minute change of venue. The university scheduling office mistakenly overbooked Parkway North in the Smith Memorial Student Union and a musical performance pushed the forum to a room on the second floor, according to Porta.

From the “Viking Strong!” slate—composed of only senate candidates—Makoto Matt Blasa, Sephinesh A. Guild, Alejandro Hoyer and Armenia Sarabia were present at the forum. Patricia Binder was not in attendance.

Senate candidates from the “Students First” slate at the forum include: James Au, Matt Fleskes, Cathy Symes and Karen Ulbright. Lucius Shields was not present.

Commenting on why there are so few senate candidates in the running, Porta said, “There are systematic, [structural] things that need to be addressed with the senate. That’s why I asked all the candidates ‘what are you going to do to engage students’ participation in this year’s election?’ because we need student participation to enable us to do what we’ve set out to do from the beginning.”

A question asked by the moderator, E-Board member Amina Ali, concerned potential budget restructuring of PSU. Every candidate echoed the same sentiment: Students should be involved in the process to ensure their interests and voices are taken into account. Both slates contain tenets to the same effect.

The candidates were also asked how they would effectively juggle the responsibilities of being a senator in addition to any other commitments they may hold.

“I would be prepared to take extra time to graduate to take care of student needs,” Ulbright said.

Symes, a full-time graduate student, said she is accustomed to the responsibilities because next year would be her third year on the senate.

Sarabia said the lives of she and the other candidates on the Viking Strong! slate already revolve almost entirely around school.

“I enjoy that tremendously,” she said.

Because of time constraints, only two questions were taken from audience members. Current senate Pro Tempore Daniel Lyons asked the candidates how they would get to know the technical processes of serving in the Senate. Most said they would utilize the summer months to get to know the operations of the university and ASPSU.

Current SFC member, Jill Heimensen, asked the candidates if they would be willing to serve on All-University Committees, which are usually understaffed. Everyone answered “Yes.”

Viking Strong
According to the group’s Facebook page, the Viking Strong! slate is collectively opposed to any corporate governance of PSU, is in favor of sensible budget cuts and allocations and believes students should have a great say in tuition.

Students First
Aside from several senate candidates, the Students First slate includes the presidential and vice presidential candidates, Katie Markey and Selina Poulsen, respectively. Also on the slate is Student Fee Committee Chair candidate Krystine McCants and SFC member candidate Aaron Baker.

The Students First slate also believes students should have their interests protected and a voice in the discussion over any potential restructuring of PSU’s finances, according to its Facebook page.

The members of the slate also plan to continue to operate and expand the current ASPSU food pantry project that provides food to students in need. They also hope to start a book exchange to help make textbooks more affordable.

The group also claims to support gender-neutral spaces on campus, protection of prayer areas and greater access for students with disabilities. The slate’s mission statement also says that students should have greater control over their student fee dollars and the services provided by them.

The ASPSU Student Senate consists of 25 voting members and three non-voting members and is the legislative branch of student government. Though most members are elected, the ASPSU president appoints several each year.

The senate is responsible for representing the interests of the student body, as well as approving the Student Fee Committee budget and confirming appointments, constitutional revisions, the ASPSU budget and any revisions to the ASPSU bylaws and guidelines, according to ASPSU’s Web site.