By: Kevin McDonnell
NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. – This past Wednesday student-body Vice President, Nick Graham, and Class of 2020 Treasurer, Jake Bachner, went head-to-head in a moderated debate with the hope of propelling one of them to the presidency.
The debate format followed closely to what you would expect of a real presidential debate. It featured opening remarks by each candidate, both timed, alternating questions presented by a group of three panelists and closing statements, also timed. At the end, students were offered the chance to present their own questions to either candidate.
Both candidates prior to the debate seemed calm and collected. In a political climate where we find ourselves increasingly inundated with personal attacks both Bachner and Graham spoke only of the other candidate in high regards. A certainly refreshing change of pace, it was sometimes hard to see why the two even ran against each other in the first place.
Much like any political dispute it comes down to ideology, and both candidates have strong opinions about the future direction of our school. For Graham, changing the campus community isn’t enough for him. Niagara lacks a collective culture and he wants to be the one to bring it to fruition. For Bachner, he sees the only viable step forward as focused on action. He notes the lag time between a student complaint and the time that complaint gets addressed. In his administration, he sees NUSGA as a tool to execute the student body’s will.
Topics discussed ranged from sustainability to commuter engagement, parking, student outreach, diversity and facilities. Neither candidate distanced themselves from their participation in current-president Cheyenne Freely’s administration, showcasing the largely positive influence she has had on campus during her tenure as president. Under her leadership, she has brought some much-needed institutional change by creating the Diversity and Inclusion chair as part of the NUSGA Cabinet. The chair created as an ad-hoc position under the guidelines of the NUSGA constitution means that come the end of the year the position will expire unless it is brought before the NUSGA legislative body. To that end, the issue was presented before NUSGA this Sunday with both candidates expressing strong support for retaining the position. There is no indication the position will die in front of the legislative body when voting starts, but it’s certainly something to keep your eye on come fall of 2019 as cabinet interviews start. If it were to pass, the issue would be included on the presidential ballot this year to be approved by the student body and subsequently officially added to the NUSGA constitution.
When Freely was asked what it would mean to see the position disappear she had this to say,
“It would be a huge step backwards for NUSGA and I would be extremely disappointed,” said Freely. “Our goal is to advocate for the students as is stated by our mission ‘By the students, for the Students.’ If this were not to pass through the legislative body, we would be robbing students, especially under-respresented student populations, of the opportunity to decide on their own representation. This is by no means in line with our mission as an association or Niagara’s mission as a university.”
The polls open this week on March 28 at 10:00 a.m. and close March 29 at 3:00 pm. Students can select their preferred presidential candidate by logging in to myNU and following the instructions. Graham and Bachner both agreed that regardless of the outcome, NU would be left in able hands. Their passion for Niagara is palpable and certainly contagious. However, it is not enough for capable leaders to step forward. We as a student body need to come forward and make our voices heard. We need to work together to make change in our community because going to NU isn’t just about attending classes. For many of us across New York State and the country, this is our home and we owe it to ourselves to fight to make that home better wherever and whenever we can and that starts with showing up on election day.
Update: The Diversity and Inclusion chair has passed in front of the legislative body with one vote against and moves on to the presidential ballot to be approved by the students.
For more information on the candidates and their platforms, check out the Wire’s outline of each candidate in Issue 23 or click here.
Featured image by Brigid Gorman