It was a race to the finish line for the SGA executive teams running for office during a final debate held Monday night in the MUC to convince students they’re the best candidates to represent the student body.
Hosted by the Political Science League and the Rushmore Public Policy Institute, presidential candidates Cameron Frentress and Nathaniel Steinlicht, along with their vice presidents Anna Madsen and Michelle Novak, respectively, spoke to a crowd of about 50 students about their plans for SGA and campus if elected.
Student safety and improved internal/external SGA communication were among some of the reoccurring discussions of the night.
“It’s our job to make sure that communication is happening and keep it open,” Steinlicht said. “Forums are very powerful for things like this.”
Frentress echoed these thoughts.
“We are the voice for students,” he said.
In talking about student safety, sexual assault and whether or not the USD administration is taking enough preventive and educational measures to curb a rising problem across the U.S. was a main point of focus.
Both teams agreed various forms of mandatory training are important steps in raising awareness and ending this issue.
“Sexual assault is an issue that happens on campuses all over the U.S. Bystander training is really important,” Madsen said.
Madsen said while she and Frentress believe sexual assault prevention and bystander training can partly contribute to ending the issue, they want to also make sure students are made aware of the resources available to them if they find themselves in these kinds of situations.
Team Steinlicht-Novak also expressed their support for requiring mandatory sexual assault prevention training for all students. Steinlicht criticized university officials for not truly enforcing the online training courses they send out to students at the beginning of each school year. He said it’s “sneaky of them” to say the training is mandatory but then not follow up with students who don’t complete it.
“You have to explore the options and work with the Title IX coordinator,” Steinlicht said.
Debate moderators Dustin Santjer, president of Rushmore Public Policy Institute, and Chad Peterson, president of the Political Science League, also questioned candidates on their stances on campus diversity and how to improve voter turnout, as well as what some of the biggest campus flaws are that students face.
Improving student diversity on campus has been a major push for USD the past few years, and Novak listed this as one of USD’s greatest problems that needs to be addressed.
Madsen noted a distinct disconnect between student communities, particularly among Greek life, athletes and students not involved in either group.
Frentress cited lack of campus dining options for students.
Steinlicht said USD has a lot of internship opportunities for students, especially in the political science department, but that USD could work to get more scientific and computer science research going for students. The problem, he said, comes partially from lack of funding and grants.
“We are just as good as Harvard and Yale, we just need more grants and opportunities,” Steinlicht said.
Polls to vote for SGA president and vice president opened to students March 2 at 7 a.m. and will close March 3 at 7 p.m. The ballot can be found via the MyUSD Portal.