By Jordan Unger
Student Government Association presidential candidates and their running mates discussed LGBT safety on campus, increasing communication and their initiatives during a debate on Thursday in the Kilcawley Center.
Youngstown State University students Rayann Atway, SGA parliamentarian, and Sydney Vegoda, former SGA Student Life committee member, are competing for the presidency.
Their respective running mates are Ernie Barkett, former president of College Democrats, and Dylan Edwards, current president of College Democrats and YSU Model UN.
The campaigns took turns answering questions in front of a crowd of students. The safety of the LGBT community was one topic of discussion. Barkett said he and Atway want to create more inclusive spaces on campus.
“It’s something we really want to bring up with the administration,” Barkett said. “To have something here. A building, a room or an area where people can congregate [in] a safe place and be able to express who they are.”
Dedicating a section of student housing for LGTBQ students and adding more unisex bathrooms are a couple ideas that the Vegoda-Edwards campaign has.
“One of the things we have been talking about wanting to do is creating a gender-inclusion wing somewhere in housing on campus so that LGBTQ students are able to reside there and feel more comfortable,” Vegoda said.
Edwards said it’s important to make students of any sexual orientation, race, sex or religion feel welcomed at YSU.
“When we don’t bring them in, we lose them,” Edwards said. “When you don’t give students a reason or a community to find themselves involved in, they have less of a motivation to come back. If we don’t, we’re going to continue seeing retention rate problems that are simply unacceptable.”
Ideas on improving campus communication was discussed by both campaigns. Atway said using social media to relay important information to students may be more effective than sending e-mails.
“Less than 30 percent of students and even faculty members aren’t reading their emails that are being sent,” Atway said. “We need to make sure that information is…more accessible to everyone on campus.”
Edwards said the campus community needs to provide more information about student organization events and programs offered by the university. Vegoda mentioned that the YSU App should be used as a tool to access this information.
Textbook affordability is an initiative that was created by Ashley Orr, former SGA president, and Gabriella Gessler, when she served as Orr’s executive vice president. The Atway-Barkett campaign plans to carry on this initiative.
“We want to take this initiative and expand it to encompass more than just gen-Ed textbooks. That way we can save students more and more money,” Atway said.
Atway said the student food pantry, also started by Orr’s administration, is successful, but she and Barkett would like to build on the idea.
“We have a lot of students who face food insecurities,” Atway said. “Ernie and I want to see fresh produce in the food pantry. To do this, we need to make sure we have a refrigerator and freezer in the pantry as well as have a bigger space.”
Edwards said he and Vegoda would like to work towards making facilites at YSU open later, and improving their quality.
Students can begin voting for their favorite candidates on April 4, and polls will close on April 6. To vote, go to the YSU Portal, click on Student Organizations (under “e-Services for Students”) and follow the instructions. Or, go to Kilcawley to cast your ballot.