Editor's Note: Derek Gilmore was a writer for The Collegian.
Derek Gilmore and Will Emerson debated for the presidency of the Richmond College Student Government Association March 20 at 7 p.m. in the Brown Alley Room of Weinstein Hall.
Lauren Oligino, won the presidency of the Westhampton College Government Association, according to an email from Mia Reinoso Genoni, dean of Westhampton College sent on March 20.
One of her top priorities is simplifying the information available to students about opportunities like scholarships and grants.
“It's very hard for people to navigate all the different UR websites,” Oligino said. “That makes it really inaccessible to a lot of people and people are missing out on opportunities due to that.”
Oligino is also concerned about student burnout, she said. She supports increasing the number of academic breaks while encouraging students to use the time off to rest rather than overworking themselves, she said.
Oligino ran unopposed and will serve for the 2023-2024 term as president. The second round of elections for the WCGA will take place next week, Genoni wrote.
The election for the RCSGA president will take place on Tuesday, March 21. All Richmond College students are eligible to vote.
During the debate, moderated by current RCSGA president Joe Coyle, Emerson and Gilmore discussed key issues like student well-being, the hours of the Heilman Dining Center, funding sources for student organizations and communication with the WCGA.
Emerson, the current vice president of the RCSGA, said that his experience with the body makes him the most qualified candidate for the presidency. His role working at the Well-Being Center will help him improve student well-being if elected president, he said.
“I’ve seen people crying because they’re so stressed out with work,” Emerson said.
The university should expand the range of counselors it employs to make sure everyone who needs one can connect with someone who suits their needs, he said. His goals align with UR President Kevin Hallock’s priorities, which makes his vision more feasible, Emerson said.
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Gilmore, who has been a part of the RCSGA since his freshman year, also said he believes that student well-being is important. During the pandemic, he worked with the faculty senate to pass a policy allowing students to take one class with a pass/fail grading method to reduce the stress they were feeling, he said.
Gilmore also proposed supporting students by extending the break before finals.
“If you’re like me, you have four cumulative exams at the end of the semester,” Gilmore said. “There is room for a one-day break, a two-day break, for people to catch up.”
When asked how realistic his promises are, Gilmore responded that the university’s Board of Trustees is already leaning toward accepting the policies he proposed.
Emerson addressed another key issue in the race, how student organizations are funded. A recent decision by the student governments limited the sources of funding for selective student organizations. Mistakes were made in the process of arriving at that decision, with the main issue being a lack of communication, Emerson said.
Selective student organizations should receive funding from the university, Emerson said, and he wants to help them connect with more sources of funding including RCSGA contingency grants for events like a capella concerts.
Gilmore was re-elected after returning from study abroad, meaning that he was not serving on the RCSGA when the student organization funding policies were changed. Having clubs that are open to everyone is important, though we should not forget about selective clubs, he said. Gilmore also offered to connect selective organizations with alternative funding, giving the example of a selective business club that could receive funding from the Robins School of Business.
Another way to support student organizations would be to give multicultural clubs more space to have events, Gilmore said. The upcoming renovations to the third floor of Tyler Haynes Commons could make this space available, he said.
Expanding the hours of the Heilman Dining Center was something both candidates agreed could be beneficial. Gilmore emphasized the issue throughout his campaign, saying that Dining Services could be open to extending the hours of service on a trial basis.
“We have the capacity to hire more d-hall workers,” Gilmore said. “I know that the capacity is there, and I know that the openness is there. What it needs is a hand to push it more firmly.”
Emerson said that the role of the RCSGA president should be to motivate the senators and the student body rather than to focus too heavily on specific projects like making the dining hall open later or changing the academic calendar. Goals like these are more appropriate for individual senators to take on, he said.
“Motivating individuals within this body means letting everyone know that they play a role in how this organization functions,” Emerson said. “And not only that, but letting them know that their role is essential.”
The candidates also discussed their journeys toward more effective leadership. The pandemic shutdowns made Gilmore feel isolated during his first year to the point he was ready to transfer, he said. But as life on campus got back to normal, he began to appreciate how much the university had to offer.
Emerson shared a similar story, saying that watching the campus emerge from the pandemic inspired him to get more involved with the student government.
“Being able to see our campus come out from that, it’s really helped me to realize that I have a passion for serving this campus community,” Emerson said.
Emerson and Gilmore both said they believe in holding members of the RCSGA to a tight standard of ethics.
“As president, I would have no tolerance for if I thought that our values were being challenged by a senator in an inappropriate way,” Gilmore said.
Near the end of the event, Oligino asked the candidates how the two student government bodies could work together. Gilmore and Emerson agreed that it was important to repair the relationship between the bodies that has suffered during the last year.
“I'm very fortunate to have worked with both of them before,” Oligino said. “And I have seen both of their commitments. I think they're fantastic. And I'm very much looking forward to working with both of them, and especially whoever becomes president.”
Contact news editor Kalina Kulig at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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