Youngstown State University students gathered in the Kilcawley Center on Wednesday to watch the Student Government Association presidential debates between Max Gocala, with his running mate Paige Rassega, and Michael Slavens, with his running mate Jacob Schriner-Briggs.
Chet Cooper, a professor of Biology and SGA faculty adviser, moderated the debate.
“First of all, as an adviser to student government, I was very, very impressed with your comments tonight, and I will be very, very pleased to work with either or all of you,” Cooper said.
Cooper presented candidates with a series of questions concerning their platforms and the specific initiatives and changes they would spearhead if elected, then he turned the microphone over to the audience for student posed questions.
Slavens and Schriner-Briggs emphasized the importance of communication and exchange of ideas between SGA and students throughout the debate.
“We are going to try to control what we can control,” Schriner-Briggs said. “Communication — it is an equal opportunity thing. We are not choosing who we are communicating with. We are communicating with Youngstown State students. It doesn’t matter what walk of life you come from. We want to hear from you, and we want to apply the changes you want to see occur.”
Meanwhile, Gocala and Rassega stressed diversity and direct communication.
“I met you. I know you. You are a real person; you are a real student here at YSU. And I trust and respect you enough to come and say, ‘This is what I want help with. You are the person I elected for office. You should be able to fix this for me; I need help.’ Come to see us. We like face-to-face,” Gocala said.
Each candidate also spoke as to why they were qualified for this eminent position.
The Gocala ticket focused on the pair’s diversity, experience and connections in the community.
“Paige and I come from a very diverse background. We both represent commuter students and are involved across campus and are currently peer mentors,” Gocala said. “We both have a knowledge base that has provided us with a good leadership experience both on and off campus, and we feel that we coming in can reform student government to what it needs to be to accurately represent all students across YSU campus.”
Slavens pointed toward his experience with the administration and on the SGA body as vice president.
“I feel that our ticket has nice a diverse background,” Slavens said. “First of all, I have been executive vice president this year, so I have the experience, the connections that I need to get things done. I know who to talk to and how to get the policies we want to get implemented implemented.”
Other topics touched on during the debate included transparency, safety changing policies and tuition increase.
“I think the important thing to keep in mind is the current situation of the university. Sometimes, I think it is overlooked,” Slavens said “We are $6 million in deficit, projected two million more than that for next year. … I hate to see tuition increase, I really do. But, at the end of the day, if you are spending more than you are bringing in, it is simple economics, something needs to be done.”
Both candidates spoke on the shifts in administration — with Randy Dunn, former YSU president, gone and currently no provost — and how they would work with the new administrators.
“I know a lot of people are talking negative about not having two main people in office right now, but I look at it in a positive light. We are going to have two new faces,” Rassega said. “We need to be welcoming; we need to be helpful; we need to tell them what needs change. We need to be the student voice.”
After the debate, both candidates commented on how they thought the debate went.
“I think it went well. We were nervous coming in. Through social media, we had a lot of attacks directed toward us, so we thought that this would resemble that. But luckily, it wasn’t, and everyone was very nice and professional and courteous, which is what we respected,” Gocala said
Slavens also said the debate turned out well, with both sides able to express their views accurately.
“I was very excited to see how well both platforms were able to come out. I feel like we were both able to express our views and what we would bring to student government very well. I thought it turned out very well,” he said.