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Student Senate Presidential Debate recap

(graphic/Student Senate).

(graphic/Student Senate).

Monday, Jan. 26 was the annual Student Senate Presidential Debate. The two parties running this year are Gina Grandillo/ Zach Woods and Jaired Birks/ John Hartman. Gina is a junior Political Science major. Zach is a P4. Jaired is a senior Music Performance major. John is a junior Engineering Education major.

The debate lasted about an hour, with questions coming from this year’s current President and Vice President Joe Railey and Brian Bruin, Secretary of Judicial Affairs Tara Marks, and the attending audience, which was much larger than last year’s debate. Questions were answered in an alternating fashion. ONU Senate live tweeted the event, which is still publicly available on Twitter.

Voting is open from Tuesday until Thursday at midnight at onu.edu/election from any computer, or at the election table in McIntosh during mealtimes.

Here are the questions and candidate’s answers from the debate:

Opening Statements

Jaired and John: Students aren’t always fully engaged but it’s important that we are. John and I have been going around a lot, talking to various secretaries, and we have realized that we have a student body who want to be engaged, who want to lead. We asked students what they want from senate. What we discovered is that students don’t know what senate is or what it does. We will work hard to bring people together, be more cooperative, and bring leaders to life. I’ve talked to people who have never had a Senate representative at their meetings and we want to change that. We stand for bringing people together, for empowerment.

Gina and Zach: I (Gina) am a 3rd year poli-sci and Zach is a P4. We have a total of 5 years of student senate combined experience. One of our advantages is that this has allowed us to see all aspects of Senate. Outside of Senate, we represent a combined total of 16 organizations. This gives us a wide perspective and connections all over campus. We want to increase senate productivity. When we all participate, we’re stronger. That’s why we want to earn your vote.

What has inspired you to decide to run?

Zach: I was on senate as a sophomore and junior, when I was a young student on campus. I got to see what senate does, but then stepping back and being in other organizations has shown me how Senate can evolve to work with other groups to get involved.

Gina: We’ve seen the power that senate has and we both view it as an opportunity and privilege to make campus a better place.

Jaired: I’ve always been engaged on campus. From high school, I knew that I wanted to be a part of Senate. We have so many opportunities at ONU. We have faculty and an administration that cares what we want. We can tap into that. I love working with people and I see this as an opportunity to come together.

John: My inspiration comes from my desire to be a teacher. I enjoy watching people grow and change and figure out what they want to do with life. People grow outside of class. I want to be a part of that and Student Senate can contribute to that. We can get people to work together better so they all get to enjoy that kind of growth.

Please highlight your leadership roles on and off campus.

Jaired: I am currently the President of Ohio Collegiate Music Education Association, and the former President of University Singers and American Choral Directors Association. I have learned about working with students on campus and bringing lots of organizations together. I have the experience to lead and be the president of an organization.

Zach: Gina is a student athlete, which is usually not well represented on Senate. She is also president of a professional organization, involved in her sorority, and currently serves on senate. I am the president of my class’s honors program, hold a leadership position in my fraternity, am involved in multiple pharmacy organizations, Leadership Council, and Presidents’ Club. What sets us apart is the outreach we’ve had with students, graduates, and alumni to share current students’ thoughts and concerns.

How will you effectively manage your time in the next year at board meetings and the other committee meetings that your President/ Vice President position will include?

Gina: It is a huge privilege that Senate holds representation on important committees. I’ve stepped back and looked at which organizations I’m willing to let go to take on this commitment. Student participation is key in anything that goes on on campus. We’d like to make Senate more of an open forum to increase student participation. Our main goal is getting opinions from students to be informed in every decision.

John: We want to visit different organizations on campus. What we bring to these groups is our desire to find student opinion. We’re going out and asking “how can we help?”. We’ll budget our time so we gather information and find the right things to say.

Senate is about bringing changes. What would you change to make campus a better place for students to learn and live?

Jaired: More than listing beneficial things, it’s important that students know we are here. Dining services have improved immensely over the past year. We’d work with administration to lower prices. We’d work with organizations. This is a place where students’ lives can be improved. When we attend their meetings, they know we care.

Zach: As a sophomore on Senate, I traveled to Denison University and worked with their student government. What set them apart from ONU is that Denison has extraordinary school spirit. ONU has more passion and pride in our school, but sometimes it gets lost in translation. Gina and I want to create events that students get excited about. We want people to walk away from Northern, talk about it, and be proud of it. We want to spark that passion to unify all of us.

Can you explain your outreach plan to include all students, including law students who have a lack of involvement on campus.

Gina: Great question! Outreach is something we’ve struggled with on Senate. Having the privilege of having 2 cabinet members who are law students this year has changed my viewpoint. Zach and I want to have a diverse cabinet: law students, athletes, multicultural. We want to pull from all groups so everyone has representation. We’ve also talked about changing senate times so more people feel included and to show people they’re welcome at Senate.

Jaired: John and I think it’s important for Senate to be accessible. But it’s more important that we go. When it comes to integration, we want to take a day to take willing senators to go to those individual colleges on campus. It’s not our job to sit here and figure out what comes next. We need to go out, shake hands, and hear what students need to say. In that way, we’ll hear what students think.

If elected, what is the first task you’d like to accomplish?

Jaired: On day one, we’d like to start planning retreats for Senate. We’re joining together for a common cause. But I didn’t know the people around me when I was on Senate. We should be closer and I’d like to plan that.

Zach: A problem administration is having is that no one runs for student government anymore. Lots of positions sit empty. This is unacceptable. Senate should be something people have time for and willing to make time for. We want to make it more acceptable, to find people on campus who are leaders. We want to hold open forums. We want to be a connection between students and leaders. We want to be a right way for students to share their opinions, because there are wrong ways to share those opinions, but Senate is the perfect conduit to share students’ thoughts and opinions.

What is your plan to fill cabinet positions? What skills are you looking for that would help promote your view? Give specific examples.

Gina: We believe cabinet is essential to Senate’s productivity and success. It should be a diverse tool. We’re looking for leaders who may not have thought about being a part of Senate before. We’re looking for people who will work with us and with their peers. It’s about finding those clear leaders on campus who are essential assets from all areas of campus. We want to find the best candidate for each position.

Jaired: Cabinet is a tool to advance what Senate is doing. We want to empower each Senate member. We want people who want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. We want people to run committee meetings, to be leaders within the group, to reach out to all of campus. Senate should be an empowering organization. We shouldn’t bring people in, we should go out. We’d pull from our friend base and find people who really care.

What is your plan to communicate with the student body?

John: Our plan is to send senators out, visit organizations and administration. We want to take responsibility to personally talk to organizations. We want to be initiators.

Zach: People want to communicate when they know you’re passionate about what you do. It starts with an attitude change. We have to believe we’re doing something important. On our campus, communication is a lot of word of mouth. And it starts with passionate students. Passionate people on Senate will draw people in and that passion will spread. We’re looking to reinvigorate that. We’re a small school and it starts with a small attitude change.

Jaried: [Zach] Woods is correct. When it comes to Senate apathy, it’s a result of being overwhelmed but not because we’re uncaring. We think it’s because senators don’t feel empowered and I want to change that.

There are A LOT of student organizations on ONU’s campus, over 200 currently. How many organizations is too many? How do you plan to handle the large number of organizations that keep coming forward?

Gina: Currently, I am the Secretary of Student Organizations so I work with organizations a lot. Zach and I have both sat on budget appropriations committees. I don’t believe there can be too many organizations. Everyone has the right to start a movement they believe in. That’s a part of college -- finding yourself and your niche. That is a huge privilege we have on our campus.

John: 200 orgs is a lot to manage. We believe we have a room full of people who want to reach out to each organization and see what passions they have. We want senators who will want to find the drive of others and bring it back.

What activities and events would you like to bring to campus to improve student morale?

Jaired: People get stressed during finals and the long winter months. College is like that. We’d like to work with SPC to bring in stress relief. We’re here to learn and to be together. We’re initiators to bring people together to plan these things. Some organizations we have are better suited do this, they just need to be shown resources or combine resources with other organizations to have a common vision.

Zach: One thing I’d like to bring to our campus I learned from my trip to Denison. The biggest thing the Student Senate there does is D-Day. D-Day is basically a giant party with vendors, local business, organizations, student performances, everything. The students there are excited for D-Day. Students at Denison say budget appropriations and D-Day when asked what their Senate does. It’s a big event. One event that ONU used to do was Tunes on the Tundra. Gina and I believe if we work with administration and students, we could bring it back and have that excitement.

How does past involvement in Student Senate make you the best candidate?

Jaired: I will openly admit I have never been in cabinet, and I’m not as experienced. But John and I realize we need something new. It’s not experience that truly matters, it’s passion. I’ve been on Senate before in regards to past involvement. But I believe we’re the best to empower people to complete their goals.

Gina: Zach and I have 5 years combined experience. What makes us superior ticket is that we’ve seen all areas of Senate. We’ve seen the good, the bad. We’ve been frustrated at times, excited at times. We know what we’re getting into. We both know it’s huge job and we respect that. Zach and I have the tools and the knowledge to make Senate and campus better. We know our limits and boundaries, but we plan to push boundaries to create positive outlooks.

What excites you about Senate? What is your favorite thing about ONU?

Zach: For Senate -- the people excite me. I’m not a rockstar. Gina and I are students just like everyone else. This is the time in our lives we can put ourselves out there and do stuff we won’t be able to  do soon. Our opportunities here are fleeting and it excites me to be able to take advantage of that.

For ONU -- what excites me is the opportunity for people to come from anywhere and redefine themselves. We don’t have many chances in life to go somewhere new and decide who we’re going to be. It’s exciting to see how freshmen come into ONU and see how ONU and the people here change them. People here will pick you up when you fall, but also knock you off of your high horse.

John: For Senate -- When Jaired first asked me to run, I was terrified. But his excitement and then my excitement when we started talking to people really got me going. We could lead the charge for people who could use Senate. We can help people through Senate and being able to help with that gets my blood pumping.

For ONU -- It’s tight knit community. We’re a small campus and I love the fact that no matter how my day is going, I always see someone I know smiling and waving at me. It takes the edge off the bad days, and makes the good days better.

President Dan and his wife Chris place a large emphasis on community service. How will you lead the student body in this?

Jaired: We want to work with service organizations the most. Service is a way for us to reach out beyond our borders. A liberal arts education is meant to help us reach out and learn about people other than ourselves. Service teaches us to do something good, something we may not have an opportunity to do later. We have a lot Senate can do to organize and come up with a big plan to put ONU on the map and make the world a better place.

Gina: ONU doubles Ada’s population. This provides us a huge opportunity to show our presence isn’t just to be students. We’re a part of the community. ACE day (the freshmen service day) is successful. We can pull from those events that we already have and accentuate opportunities for students. As Secretary of Student Organizations, I have been able to work with award nomination and recognition for organization of the year, and a huge part of that is looking at community service. Community service on our campus should be rewarded and encouraged. We as Senate can be the tool to encourage and reward service. We will work to accentuate this by giving opportunities to reach out. Senate is a great platform to do that. And the freshmen housing reps this year did a great job with the service event they began. I’d like to continue ideas like that to see service on our campus continued.

If you don’t win this election, how will you still be involved to support all your ideas?

Zach: First, we’ll burn down Mac. But seriously, if I lost it wouldn’t be the first one I’ve lost. I think the best thing is to dust yourself off and get back up. The big idea is to ignite student spirit. Senate is good to do that from but from our involvement in other organizations, we can make it a grassroots effort. Whether on senate or in effort with our other organizations, we can share that enthusiasm. A loss wouldn’t get in our way from seeing that through.

John: My favorite part of campaigning has been visiting organizations I’m not a part of. The organizations I am involved in can work with other organizations. I’d like to connect to other groups. I’ve had a blast visiting so many different ones. I don’t want to stop that, win or lose. Although, since there are still college rep positions open right now, I’d definitely consider that.

Come this time next year, what would you like to look back and say you did a good job on?

Jaired: I wouldn’t. I would look back and see what else I could have done. We’d like to believe we did a good job if we made campus a closer place. If we empowered senators, inspired leaders, and helped to leave a new generation at ONU. We’d like to build that culture.

Gina: This time next year, we’d be able to gauge how well we did with student involvement by how full this room is at the next Student Senate Presidential Debate. We want people to want to come to this event. We want people to feel comfortable enough to come to us and say “Hey Gina, the sidewalks are icy. Can you get some salt out there?”  When we all participate, we know we’re stronger.

Do you commit to give 100% to make sure we have a solid student senate from this point on? and will you make the time out of your schedule?

Gina and Zach: Yes.

Jaired and John: Oh yeah.

How would you better school safety in regards to things like icy sidewalks, flu, tobacco?

Jaired: There have been concerns about the health center. Health is important. We would seek to be open to people coming to us and telling us their issues. We’d be in close contact with the health center to be a bridge to the student body. Another example is last semester when the man from the Lima prison got loose. We want a better communication response and to let students know how they can be more safe.

Gina: You already asked us the first thing we’d do, but the second thing we’d do is have an open forum. Fares Alrubaish, the current Secretary of Campus Improvement has a list of things to take to p-plant after every meeting. We want people to keep coming to us with those suggestions. To represent students, we will make sure all safety concerns are addressed.

Closing Statement: why should we vote for you?

Zach: You know we have experience, but that’s not why you should vote for us. We’ve been frustrated for Senate. At the same time, we’ve been proud to serve. We want you to vote for us because you believe we’re good people. We want to rise to the challenge set before us. We’ll use both our positive and negative experiences to do something. The school apathy we feel, we want to replace with school pride. We’re excited for the chance to lead. It’s a privilege and we thank you for that opportunity. We’re only here for a short time and that’s a shame because ONU is a great place. We want to help continue to provide that to you.

Jaired: Thanks for coming out. It’s great to see so many people and we hope to see more in the future. Allow me to philosophize. We distrust people trying to sell us things. We’re afraid to dream and dream big because that has stepped on us time and time again. I want to remind you nothing good has ever happened when it hasn’t come from vision and passion. When we seek to empower, we care so much about this campus. We want to be your conduit. You should vote for us because we’ll come to you and ask how we can help you. We’ll create a storm to make this campus a better place.

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