OU students and faculty gathered Nov. 3 at a town hall forum where presidential candidates for Student Government Association spoke on important issues facing the university community.
The town hall forum, titled Formation: Stand Up, Stand Strong, Stand Together, was created and hosted by OU Unheard and Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
Four of the five SGA presidential candidates attended and took questions from a moderator, senior Jessica Roberts, on behalf of OU Unheard, and the audience. Candidate Sam Noble, computer science junior, was not present at the forum.
The forum was conducted in two stages. In the first, candidates Ryan Echols, Corey Abernathy, J.D. Baker and Matt Marks answered questions concerning their platforms and the upcoming SGA election.
Questions during this stage ranged from topics like sexual assault to diversity.
“We are running our campaign on three main things: mental health, sexual assault and Project Threshold … Enough isn’t being done (about mental health) because our students are still suffering,” said Abernathy, political science junior.
Abernathy: "Diversity should be a result of an inclusive environment for everyone. White institutions tokenize their minorities."— Regan Stephenson (@regan_leanne_) November 3, 2016
“We want to be the voice for other people … We want to bridge the gap, and we want everyone to have the best experience on this campus,” said Baker, public relations junior.
Echols, drama and economics senior, is shaping his campaign based off of his experiences within SGA and other student organizations on campus as well as aiming to address issues facing students at the university.
“What I find problematic is the response to protests on campus … I am seeing a lot of talk by the administration, but not a lot being done,” Echols said.
Echols: "We've come a long way but we have a long way to go... We have to focus on what diversity means to us."— Regan Stephenson (@regan_leanne_) November 3, 2016
Marks, broadcast journalism junior, is centering his campaign on making food available to all OU students.
“Food insecurity is very high on campus … 40 percent of students on this campus qualify for food stamps,” Marks said.
"I see this job as what we can do on campus, but also what we can do for the community."— Regan Stephenson (@regan_leanne_) November 3, 2016
The second part of the town hall focused on issues in the U.S. presidential election. Baker and Abernathy each discussed his position on the election, believing that the results will affect the next SGA president. Both candidates also discussed how the election results will affect the issue of police brutality.
Baker and Abernathy each said he would work with SGA to keep the policies that have created more inclusivity on campus.
“We must make sure SGA sticks to policies and resists interference from the state,” Baker said.
Baker on student debt: "We are supposed to pass on a will, not a bill."— Regan Stephenson (@regan_leanne_) November 4, 2016
“What we are seeing right now is a lack of accountability on our police force and our criminal justice system as a whole,” Abernathy said.
"I think that [internal investigations by police departments] should be eliminated. I think body cameras should be installed."— Regan Stephenson (@regan_leanne_) November 4, 2016
OU Unheard President Everett Brown said the forum met his expectations and that he was glad to see students coming together to discuss issues.
Vice President of University Community Jabar Shumate and current SGA President Daniel Pae were also in attendance.