The Student Government Association (SGA)’s presidential candidates signed onto Microsoft Teams Thursday for a virtual debate hosted by The Setonian and the Teaching, Learning, and Technology Center (TLTC).
Senators Stefan Ferreira and Julia Nicolls discussed issues including mobile computing, parking and sustainability at the live meeting, moderated by The Setonian’s News Editor, Nicholas Kerr.
The debate began with a discussion of the mobile computing program, which the University is considering phasing out. Both Nicolls and Ferreira have said they were in favor of eliminating the program in the past but walked back their stances during the debate.
Ferreira indicated that while he personally does not benefit from the program, he might consider reviving it as president.
“I may have an opinion that caters to my own needs, but here’s the deal,” Ferreira said. “My job is not to pass policy and advocate for my own opinions. So if when I’m president I see an overwhelming amount of students who need the program to survive, that’s no problem to me.”
Senator Nicolls said that she favored an opt-in program, which would allow some students to use school-provided laptops.
“Some students who do struggle to pay for college might want to have their own computer or maybe save money, buy a Chromebook with their money so it will last them the four years, while other students like the benefit they get out of the mobile computing program,” Nicolls said. “When it comes down to it, it’s options.”
The two candidates also sparred over each other’s records on diversity and inclusion.
After discussing each other’s past involvement with organizations such as PRIDE and the Concerned 44, Ferreira alleged that Nicolls lacked strong support for the student organizations she represents in SGA.
“You’ve gotta be genuine,” Ferreira said. “When Concerned 44 was camped up in Presidents Hall, I personally made sure as a freshman I was there to get their side of the story. I showed up in person and I can say that I personally have never seen my opponent at a Black Caucus meeting or a [Black Student Union] event.”
Nicolls responded that she does not attend events to “check them off the list,” but engages in the conversation about diversity and inclusion regularly.
“I think that it’s important to, yes, be a consistent participant, but it’s more than just showing up to a student organization for thirty minutes to check it off your list,” Nicolls said. “It’s more or less a conversation that we can continue to be having with different students on campus.”
Another source of tension was sustainability and recycling.
Nicolls, who has served as the commissioner of the SGA’s Environmental Protection and Conservation Commission (EPACC), explained that the main reason the University struggles with recycling is due to challenges in South Orange Village, which currently has limited capacity to recycle.
Ferreira responded that Nicolls has not tried hard enough to bring recycling to campus, and he hopes to explore new avenues for access to recycling.
“It’s a well-known fact that our campus still doesn’t recycle to this day… you say the South Orange government won’t do anything about it and that’s the last I heard,” Ferreira said. “I’m not going to stop until every solution is exhausted. When the Village stops, we go to the county.”
Nicolls rebutted by calling into question Ferreira’s credibility on sustainability.
“Might I say, during the year that EPACC has met every single week, I have maybe one time seen Stefan present at one of those meeting advocating for these issues,” Nicolls said.
With regards to parking, neither candidate had a clear plan to improve the parking lot on campus, despite a slogan seen on a Ferreira campaign flyer, which reads “the parking spaces are too damn small.”
Near the end of the debate, Kerr noted that Ferreira is running without a ticket, as Nicolls has the backing of the only candidates for Vice President, Treasurer, and Secretary. This means that if elected, Ferreira would have to work closely alongside Nicolls’ picks for SGA cabinet, ad-hoc Senator Charles McGarry, Senator Ron Babiak and Senator Raven Campbell.
Ferreira blamed an SGA “culture problem” for his lack of a ticket, but said he would love to work with Nicolls’ ticket.
“Julia, you have a great ticket,” Ferreira said. “I’m really, really excited that you chose extremely hard-working and qualified people. I know things are going to get done and I’m so excited to work with your ticket, Julia.”
The candidates then made their closing statements. Ferreira finished with an appeal to students of all backgrounds.
“I want to remind every one of you, no matter your political, social, cultural backgrounds, we are all a pirate at Seton Hall.”
Nicolls, speaking for the first time since Ferreira discussed her ticket, emphasized the dynamic she has with her team of uncontested cabinet candidates, while also mentioning her desire to improve.
“I’m just a portion of the executive board, so us working collectively and working as a team has been an amazing process that I want to continue moving forward,” Nicolls said. “I’ve made mistakes. There’s things that I could have done better during my past two years. there’s always going to be room for improvement and I will continue that during my year.”
The student body will decide which candidate will work with Nicolls’ ticket on March 30 and 31. Electronic ballots will be emailed to the student body on Monday.
Daniel O’Connor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @itsDanOConnor.