by Alicia Cherem
The final debate for Student Government Association elections took place Tuesday night at Mckeldin Library with the One Party and an unaffiliated candidate left running on the ticket.
The One Party, represented by A.J. Pruitt for president and Christine Hagan for vice president of academic affairs, debated against freshman Christopher Boretti who is unaffiliated. The election became uncontested after the Unity Party dropped out of the race on April 14.
According to reports from The Diamondback, the Unity Party failed to disclose campaign contributions from Turning Point USA, an organization that encourages conservative students to run for student government positions. Emails exchanged between the Unity Party and Turning Point showed that Turning Point had given the Unity Party logos produced by Turning Points’ graphic designer.
SGA’s campaign finance regulations state that a party must disclose any monetary or non-monetary contributions or donations, which the Unity Party failed to do so and therefore led them to drop out of the race.
During the hour-long debate Pruitt, the vice president of student affairs, expressed his disappointment in not having a more contested election, and said that it is especially important to have more parties involved because SGA decisions impact the entire student body.
Topics discussed ranged from affordable textbooks to student engagement in SGA. The candidates began with opening statements. Boretti claimed a main platform of improving discourse between students and SGA as well as improving textbook affordability. Pruitt stated that the Health Center should be open 24 hours a day and that the Title IX Office needs to be properly funded.
Boretti heavily criticized SGA’s current cabinet, including the $10,000 honorarium that the president of SGA receives. In addition, he heavily criticized SGA for not granting student organizations funding requests.
“The past five years have been the worst time for SGA. They haven’t been representing the students in the same capacity that they should have been. There needs to be another voice at the top of SGA that will listen to students,” Boretti said. “If we keep giving the same positions to the same people who have been previously involved, it’s just not logical.”
Boretti said that student turnout for SGA was at six percent this year, down from 14 percent in 2015. Pruitt said that he is aware of the dismal turnout of students, but said that he has been involved with SGA since freshman year and has a record for not only increasing student input but creating a high turnout from students at SGA events.
Ajay Mahesh, a student in the crowd, asked both candidates how they would handle the recent pro-deportation chalkings drawn by Terps for Trump students that were found outside Stamp Student Union on Tuesday. Pruitt said that students reacted appropriately by washing the messages away and writing over them, but Boretti disagreed, saying that if students felt offended by the message, they should have stood up to “fight for what they believe in.”
“It is not in the best interest and health discourse to simply wash away the message; sentiment doesn’t just disappear like that. This situation demonstrates the need to have as much discourse and debate as possible,” Boretti said.
Boretti and Pruitt ended the debate by stating their leadership positions and why they believe they are qualified for the job. Boretti reiterated his main drive for his campaign as opening up connections with students and creating a larger platform for open discourse, as well as his past experience in working at a congressional office in Washington. Pruitt talked about his previous experience in working with the Title IX Office to prevent sexual misconduct and his experience in working with SGA and being efficient in addressing student body issues.
SGA voting ends Friday.