North Texas Daily

UNT SGA presidential candidates present their plans for student involvement

UNT SGA presidential candidates present their plans for student involvement

UNT SGA presidential candidates present their plans for student involvement
March 19
14:20 2014

Joshua Knopp // Senior Staff Writer

The UNT Student Government Association presidential and vice presidential candidates for the next academic year took the stage to discuss how they would serve in their prospective positions in front of about 50 students Tuesday night.

The three presidential hopefuls – communication studies sophomore Pedro Ortiz, general, choral and instrumental music sophomore Troy Elliott and pre-interior design senior Katrina Gibson – spent much of their time discussing how they would make SGA more open to students and make the student body more cohesive as a whole.

Ortiz wants to establish a new branch within SGA specifically for students and administrators to come from outside the organization to voice concerns. Elliott wishes to reach out to more specialized student groups, forming a council of other organizations and focusing SGA on furthering the other organizations’ goals. Gibson argued for a summit to bring students from all corners of campus together.

Elliott’s arguments were often met with loud applause, while Ortiz’s nerves got the better of him at times.

Ortiz said his plan for another branch of SGA would be a hefty change, but that the branch would survive past next year. Ortiz said the other candidates can not make this guarantee.

“If we’re going to work on it, we’re going to work on it permanently,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz pointed to several projects he and his running mate, political science junior Donald Poer, have been involved in. Ortiz and Poer have been involved in SGA since coming to UNT and in that time have worked on a student survey on the smoking ban, parking issues and voter registration.


In terms of external plans, Poer was critical of UNT’s decision to go from smoking to non-smoking without transition, and said that was a reason he and Ortiz had put the student smoking survey together. He advocated smoking zones as a solution, and also said the Ortiz-Poer administration would make recycling more prominent on campus. Ortiz pointed to the “Look Both Ways” drunk driving presentation SGA held earlier in March as something students could expect more of going forward.

Elliott emphasized that he has already used his model as president of the Black Student Union, uniting and representing 25 black student organizations with various interests over the past year. He said the BSU has been a more capable organization than SGA, which has been mired in internal issues for most of the year.

“We’re getting much more done with a much smaller organization with much fewer resources because we’re unified,” he said.

Elliott has experience as an SGA senator, as do Gibson and Ortiz. But unlike his competitors, Elliott has been an executive and said he knows how to run an organization instead of being a part of it. Event and sport management sophomore Kamaeron Willard, running with Elliott as vice president, was also involved in BSU’s president’s council.

Gibson has experience as president of the Phi Theta Kappa chapter at Cedar Valley College and is the current president of Sigma of Texas, the greek organization’s UNT alumni association.

Elliott said an important part of his ticket would be making sure students were informed and eager to make a decision when it came to a student vote. He and Willard plan to rearrange the executive board to condense some positions and to expand others. Notably, he would ask the public relations officer to do more to reach out to students and news media. Elliott pointed to the student union fee increase, which was approved after just 2,200 students voted on it, as an example of the problem they’re trying to solve.

“Did you know you’re still paying the student union fee?” he quipped. “When’s the last time you’ve visited the union?”

Gibson said her summit would help students from all walks get involved in SGA and produce a governing body with more diverse interests. Gibson is a transfer student and said she had difficulty establishing herself in SGA because of it, despite working with her community college’s student organization.

“That’s something that needs to change, because SGA is for all students,” she said.

Also a former commuter and with a graduate student running mate, Gibson said a primary goal of her ticket would be to represent these and other traditionally underrepresented student groups. She said the summit would be a big part of this, but she would also focus SGA members on reaching out to students.

“Even if a senator just goes up to someone they don’t know and says ‘hi,’ you could change that student’s life,” Gibson said.

The vice presidential candidates discussed their qualifications to serve as speaker of the senate, with Gibson speaking for her running mate, interdisciplinary master’s student Le’Dean Arnold, who missed the debate for class.

Poer emphasized that he is the only vice presidential candidate with SGA experience. Willard said the fraternity Omega Psi Phi, in which he serves as president, operates by the same parliamentary procedure SGA uses. Gibson said Arnold also has experience through her service on the Graduate Student Council.

Still, Poer said personal connections were important to the speaker’s role.

“There’s a certain flow to senate meetings,” he said. “Things get heated. Things slow down. Sometimes there’s not enough legislation and a meeting gets canceled. Knowing each and every senator and knowing what’s going on is a vital part of that.”

Poer, Willard and Gibson joined Elliott in criticism of the current Zachary Brown administration, saying they would increase senate accountability through the point system that SGA passed last summer but has largely not enforced. Gibson went so far as to say the current administration’s turmoil was derived from “personal drama” and she and her running mate would make dedicated efforts to increase respect between SGA members.

Center photo: Presidential candidates Katrina Gibson, Troy Elliott and Pedro Ortiz deliver their closing statements during Tuesday’s debate. Vice presidential candidates Kamaeron Willard and Donald Poer look on from the front row. Photo by Joshua Knopp / Senior Staff Writer 

Feature photo: UNT Student Government Association logo. Graphic courtesy of UNT SGA.

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