Executive alliance candidates focus on inclusivity, sexual assault awareness in debate

Samantha Ketterer

At the Student Government candidate debate Monday night, executive alliance candidates discussed how to make SG more inclusive to students on campus.

Fifteen percent of the student body voted in SG elections last year — something all candidates mentioned during the debate.

Candidates David Maly and Steven Svatek, as well as Xavier Rotnofsky and Rohit Mandalapu, said the number is not high enough. Braydon Jones and Kimia Dargahi said the number reflects the national and statewide election turnout, although they said more can be done to increase voter turnout.

“There are things we need to fix,” Jones said. “Let’s keep in mind that this is a similar problem we’re facing in the United States as well.”

Jones said the national voter turnout is a good indication that student voter turnout is on the right track.

“Fifteen percent of students turned out to vote in last year’s election, as similarly, 17 percent of people voted in national elections and midterms last year,” Jones said. “We’re spot-on.”

Maly and Svatek both said 15 percent was not representative enough of the students on campus.

“Hardly anybody I know has ever participated in Student Government in any way,” Svatek said. “The fact that only [15] percent voted last year is terrible. I feel like the biggest problem Student Government has is inclusivity.”

Mandalapu said the biggest issue SG faces is “being relevant to 90 percent of the school” and reaching out to smaller student groups.

“You would be wrong if you said Student Government wasn’t heavily [composed of] spirit groups and Greek life — that’s a big demographic group,” Mandalapu said. “I feel like there are times when certain minority groups aren’t reached out to, and they don’t get full representation in Student Government.”

The candidates unanimously agreed that sexual assault awareness needed to be increased on campus.  

“There are serious issues with how UT records [assault] incidents,” Maly said. “We need to revamp the system.”

Jones and Dargahi suggested bringing in sexual assault awareness campaigns to UT, using social media and increasing awareness of preexisting campaigns.

“We need to raise awareness about existing sexual assault prevention programs at UT, like Rape Aggression Defense classes,” Jones said.

Mandalapu said UT could implement programs, such as ones similar to AlcoholEdu, to increase sexual assault awareness. AlcoholEdu is an alcohol awareness program all UT students are required to complete before starting at the University. 

Voting begins March 4 and ends March 5.