The Student Government Association hosted its first, and only, debate Wednesday for this year’s election.
With both presidential and vice presidential seats up for grabs, four candidates spoke about their policies, ideas to improve the University of Memphis, and why they are qualified to carry out those changes.
Two parties represent the candidates running for president and vice president. For Empower, junior vocal performance and graphic design major Atlantica Smith is running for president and sophomore communication major Ansley Ecker is running for vice president. Smith is active in multiple organizations, including SGA senate, and is the SGA’s director of communications. Ecker is involved as well, working as the director of Tigers for St. Jude Fundraising and serving as an SGA senator.
The Initiative party is represented by junior health science major Madison Edmondson for president and sophomore business management major Coleby Stout for vice president. Edmondson has served on the SGA legislative council, and – among other groups – is the president of PAUSE, a student organization that provides workshops and other opportunities for women on campus. Stout is also the newest president of ZBT and serves as the current SGA Chief of Staff.
Voting begins March 29 at 8 a.m. and closes March 31 at 12 p.m., with students being able to cast their votes online on TigerZone. The results of the election will be announced April 1, and the inauguration to take place a week after.
An important topic of discussion centered around improvements that could be made to the U of M. Edmonson argued that more areas are needed specifically for students to unwind and chat.
“We don’t have many places for students to go relax and just have fun,” she said. "If you want to hang out with your friends in a group of more than four people, the space doesn’t exist.”
Smith on the other hand was critical of the university’s handling of culture on social media.
“During February, Black history month, the University of Memphis took two to three weeks to post something,” she said. “They didn’t post anything about Hispanic heritage month, they didn’t say anything about AGT... for Empower, we would like to acknowledge and work with the department of marketing, the department of history and a few teachers to see if we can bring forth an action plan.”
When answering a question on student safety, Strout called for better mental health provisions, primarily to make students better aware of the resources that already exist.
“Mental health is something that can immobilize a person,” he said. “No matter… how well rounded you are as a person, if you are not mentally ok, you are not going to be able to do what you want to do or need to do.”
Strout's plan to mitigate mental health struggles on campus called for a module on Canvas as a resource hub for students in need mental health assistance.
“If we could add something along those lines… tutoring even, to make you feel more safe, more at home, and more comfortable… mental health is very important, and it is something that I am very passionate about.”
Diversity and inclusion was another subject of conversation. Ecker believes the U of M is behind other universities in inclusive policies.
“We plan to include non-binary gender identifications on housing applications, and also offer an opt-in gender inclusive housing to better accommodate the non-binary community,” she said. “We really want everyone to feel accepted.”
Education was also discussed with Smith pushing for ensurance that syllabi are always given to students at least two weeks prior to the start of a semester, and that grades are posted with more quickly.
“I find those two points coincide with academic success,” she said.
Edmondson, on the other hand had career readiness in mind.
“What’s the point of getting your degree if you don’t know how to use it?” she said. “So getting that resume updated, knowing how to go into an interview, ready to go.”
The full debate will be available on the SGA’s Instagram @sga_uofm. To learn more about the candidates, their stories, and the parties they represent, their platforms can be found @empoweruofm and @initiativeuofm22.