After watching the Oct. 23 debate and interviewing members of all four tickets, The Daily’s editorial board has decided to endorse Vanessa Meraz and Jake Mazeitis for president and vice president of the Student Government Association.
Meraz and Mazeitis are both well-qualified individuals who know how student government works, but they also acknowledge the need of student government to reach out to students and have a strong vision for how their satellite office hours would operate. They have tangible ideas for addressing the issue of sexual assault among college students and have built relationships with different groups on campus that will serve them well in office. Their ideas for making SGA more transparent are also admirable.
We are somewhat concerned by the size of the platform, which, at 14 pages long, may be overwhelming if elected. We would also caution them against relying too much on the mechanisms of student government. If a student brings a concern to the executive branch, that student likely doesn’t want to become part of SGA – the student instead expects SGA to address their question without having to be an active participant.
The ticket of Dan Williams and Lauren Lyness is in many ways similar to that of the Meraz/Mazeitis team. They are experienced with SGA and have perhaps too large a platform. While we think their hearts are in the right place with a lot of their platform, we are concerned that their plans for addressing some issues, such as adding a social worker at Goddard to help with mental health, will not be feasible. They do seem knowledgeable and engaged with sustainability issues on campus, and we hope whoever is elected runs with some of these ideas.
The ticket of Yaseen Shurbaji and Hannah Hardin has some strong ideas but lacks experience. Shurbaji’s experience creating Swipe-to-Share shows he is talented and cares for students, but we are worried he and Hardin together may not have the knowledge of SGA necessary to create widespread change. Their campaign seems more narrowly focused on Housing and Food issues, which is where Shurbaji has experience, but we are not sure his success there will be replicable across other parts of campus. Their idea for a video series to better publicize the actions of the executive branch is a good idea, and we applaud their desire to reach students in a more digital-friendly way than a post on the SGA website or some sort of newsletter.
The ticket of Chandler Hiatt and Jack Aubel is by far the least experienced of the four and also has the weakest vision. Hiatt failed to articulate fresh ideas during the debate, often simply agreeing with a speaker who went before him. There is nothing inherently wrong with an outside voice, but the Hiatt/Aubel platform is short and vague, lacking specific proposals for change. One bright spot is a focus on SGA’s social media presence, which would be smart for another campaign to adopt.
There is also the issue of Hiatt’s now-deleted Twitter account, which arose during the crowd-sourced question portion in the debate as OU students discovered he had liked tweets that many took to be racist, misogynistic and transphobic. Aubel confirmed it was Hiatt’s account that was deleted – we appreciate his addressing this directly – and that his running mate has grown up a lot over his college career and should not be judged by old social media activity. While this may be true in some part, at least one of the tweets in question was from April 2017. The rest of their campaign is not nearly strong enough to overcome these concerns.
We hope that all students will take the time to learn about each ticket and to vote next week. Overall, we believe Meraz and Mazeitis provide the best chance for real improvements on campus. Their experience, specific goals and unified vision are what this campus needs.