The Wednesday night debate setup was more formal than in previous years. In the end, the concept was the same: two students representing each Student Government party sat in front of their peers to present and defend the platforms they say will make FGCU a better place to go to school.
The first party to introduce itself was the FGCUnited party, represented by treasurer candidate Zachary Livesay and vice presidential candidate Rachel Whittaker. Presidential candidate Jack Emmer was unable to attend the debate because of a personal tragedy.
Livesay and Whittaker are both transfer students from other Florida universities — Livesay from the University of Florida and Whittaker from the University of South Florida.
The Nest party was represented by current FGCU student body president Thieldens Elneus and Emmalyn Green, the SG director of civic engagement.
After three-minute introductions, the candidates were asked specific questions about the initiatives of their platforms.
FGCUnited’s platform focuses on targeted projects, such as giving students 50 free pages of printing at the library each semester, creating a parking app for students to find free spaces on their phones and organizing a textbook swap each semester for students to trade their textbooks instead of buying them.
Livesay said the reason the platform has such focused projects is to show students that FGCUnited has firm plans behind its platform.
“Students want to know why they’re voting for you,” Livesay said. “The point of Student Government is to be transparent.”
“Who doesn’t want to study smarter?” said Whittaker, referring to one of the broader platforms of her party. “We back it up.”
Green defended The Nest’s platform and said the broadness of its initiatives will give the party flexibility to complete a lot of smaller scale projects.
“We have a board out every day where we take student ideas and feedback,” Green said.
The Nest party frequently referred to the diversity of its party members and the experience of the candidates.
“If you look at our party as a whole, we are representative of FGCU,” Green said. “How are we going to just start joining all of these organizations? We don’t have to; we’re there.”
When asked about whether he thinks burnout would be an issue for him serving a second term as president, Elneus referred to the difficulty of his role as president and the understanding he has gained of how the university and its Board of Trustees works.
“It’s not something that’s easy,” Elneus said. He said he did not think burnout would be an issue.
When asked whether they think space to park on campus is an issue, the two parties gave opposite answers.
Whittaker said that parking is a problem and said FGCUnited’s proposed parking app is a solution.
“What this will do, it will allow students to know if a garage is full and if there are spaces,” Whittaker said.
Elneus disagreed and said FGCU does not have a parking problem.
“I don’t believe it’s a problem,” Elneus said. “It’s more of a convenience factor.”
Elneus said that a large parking concern is not spatial, but financial — students paying parking tickets.
He proposed that each student’s first parking ticket fee be waived.
The two parties also disagreed on an audience question: whether the FGCU Marketing Department should continue to use the “Dunk City” motto to represent FGCU, even though it has been several years since the men’s basketball team earned the nickname.
Livesay and Whittaker said FGCU should stick with the motto.
“That was a great revenue builder,” Livesay said. “If we can ride it as long as we can, we can benefit.”
Green said the university should not focus on the motto.
“Not building it back, but making it better,” Green said.
Elneus said students should not use the basketball team’s performance to measure their pride.
“People at FSU and UF don’t buy those shirts because they’re big football or basketball fans,” Elneus said. “They buy them even when they lose. This university should be our pride and joy no matter what we do.”
The debate was more formal than previous SG debates. It began with an elections ceremony complete with a presentation of colors by the Estero High School Junior ROTC, a national anthem performance by FGCU student Davena Stewart and an introduction by Dean of Students Michele Yovanovich.
Aside from differences in pomp, there are also differences in the SG election itself this year.
In the past, students have only been able to vote for senators and executive representatives by filling out a paper ballot. The voting process is usually run by employees of the Lee County Elections Office.
This year, students will be able to vote online through EagleLink from 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 1 to 5 p.m. Thursday, March 3. Students without access to an electronic device can vote via laptop stations provided by the Elections Rules Committee. Details on where and when students can use those stations will be announced on Monday, Feb. 29.
Julie Gleason, the director of the Office of Student Involvement, said the move to an online voting system was made for several reasons.
“We’re being a little more green,” Gleason said, “and a little more accessible to our students.”