Joseph Knuckles and Meagan Verbillion, candidates for vice president of Student Activities Council, listen to the other opponent, Brandon Burtner, at the Student Government Association debates Tuesday. (Ben Kleppinger)

By Marty Finley

Students will have the chance to log on and vote April 15 for the newest members of the Student Government Association, but some business had to be taken care of this week. The SGA candidates gathered Tuesday in the Keen Johnson Ballroom to present their ideas and dreams for SGA among a small, but responsive, crowd.

The ideas of awareness, apathy and diversity exploded to the forefront at the beginning of the debates, and became a recurring theme among the three branches of SGA.

SGA debates

SGA Presidential Candidate Alex Combs opened up the debates, and the only number smaller than the crowd was the number of candidates standing against Combs.

“As I look to the [podiums] on each side of me, they are vacant,” Combs said with some regret.

Combs and his running mate, current SGA Executive Vice President Lindsey Cross, are running unopposed, and Combs and Cross said the lack of opposition illustrates the hurdles they face in the upcoming year.

Combs said he wanted to look to repair the “disconnect” between Eastern’s student body and SGA. He said SGA needs to expand and grow, and plans to do this by actively pursuing students at summer orientation, and recruiting throughout the year, to get people involved in SGA.

“The potential for change and effectiveness is here; SGA can make a difference,” Combs said.

Combs said he wants to work closely with alternative transportation in Richmond to begin curbing the current siege of parking troubles. He said by communicating and working with the company, Kentucky River Foothills Development Council, Inc., which provides transit through Richmond and is planning to expand, the university could give students the option of public transportation from apartments, which could save money and help Eastern avoid building parking garages.

Cross stressed the importance of looking at student fees and understanding where the students’ money goes, especially in the midst of budget cuts.

Cross also spoke about the appropriations process, which awards money to student organizations, and said members of SGA have discussed the idea of putting a cap on the amount of money an organization could receive. While other administrations have avoided it in the past, Cross said she felt it was the most appropriate way to make the process fair for students.

While the two are unopposed, Combs and Cross said they did not take the jobs of president and executive vice president lightly.

“We promise a government that works,” Cross said.

RLC debates

The first spirited debate of the day came by way of the candidates for vice president of the Residence Life Council: David Anderson and Sara Spurr.

Both candidates stressed the issues of keeping students on campus on weekends, cleaning up the dorms and expanding programming for students.

Anderson told the crowd his plan could save the university $40,000- $50,000 on housing each year and would open up a rapport among residents and RLC.

Spurr agreed with the idea of broadening communication, particularly between Housing and RLC.

“One of the biggest things we [face] in SGA, especially RLC, is a lack of communication,” Spurr said.

Anderson said he wanted to begin hosting open forums to help RAs, residence hall councils and RLC move forward and make changes that could benefit everyone in the dorms.

Spurr said she believes open forums are valuable, but said she wanted to extend grants that would bring funding directly to the residence hall councils.

Anderson countered, saying that grants were a bad idea, and posed the question of where the money would come from. He said the administration would not pay for grants during a barrage of budget cuts, and said it is not fair for students to pay for it because they already pay too much.

The debate built to a boil when the candidates directly targeted each other’s positions.

Anderson said Spurr’s desire to make campus “damp”-which would allow alcohol on campus in limited amounts-is a futile effort.

“I know this administration; I have worked with them…it’s not gonna happen,” Anderson said.

Spurr targeted Anderson’s idea of increasing RA training, claiming the idea of hiring more people is counterintuitive to saving the large amount of money Anderson said he could.

SAC debates

The debates wrapped up with the three-pronged candidacy for vice president of the Student Activities Council. The candidates-Brandon Burtner, Joseph Knuckles and Meagan Verbillion-presented their positions with a heavy focus on programming. The three agreed that having a large, and diverse, amount of programming was a key role of SAC.

“When you take it down to brass tacks, SAC is about the students,” Verbillion said.

While the group agreed that programming was essential, they did not see eye-to-eye on how to approach it.

Burtner said he wanted to see more diversity in concerts. He said he feels the emphasis on certain genres leaves the minority, small though they are, out in the cold.

“It is not fair for students to pay four years into that student fee and not get [anything] out of it,” Burtner said.

The group also discussed using surveys to gauge student interest.

Verbillion said the idea was good, but that some of the surveys in the past were not formulated correctly, nor given the right amount of time to work. She said surveys need four to five months to become effective.

Burtner said he believed in surveys as well, but said getting people involved by setting up mobile laptops at Powell Corner would add the human touch-and possibly more results.

Knuckles said one of his chief platforms was to see more “intellectually stimulating” programming, like the recent N*W*C* program at Eastern. He said he would explore the topics of race, sex and politics as vice president.

But Burtner warned against overprogramming, and the act of planning two events together, which caused N*W*C* to be moved from Brock Auditorium to the Student Services Building Auditorium-ultimately causing many to miss the show. He, along with Combs earlier in the night, argued good budgeting and proper communication could prevent this in the future.