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SA Presidential Forum: Meet the Candidates

By Henry Fisher | April 10, 2023



From left to right: Vice Presidential Candidate Ekemini Etor, Presidential Candidates Ciarra Medrano and Jalen Rose, and Vice Presidential Candidate Amelia Crawford.

Photo Credit: Henry Fisher / The ASP


In lieu of a normal University at Albany Student Association (SA) Senate meeting, SA held the Presidential & Vice Presidential Forum on Wednesday, April 5. The candidates for President and Vice President were introduced and asked a series of questions. This began with those created by the SA elections commission – which neither candidate had seen – followed by audience questions. The election itself will begin on April 10 at noon, and conclude on April 14 at noon.


Running in this election for SA President are Ciarra Medrano, the current Vice President, and Jalen Rose, currently a senator for Dutch Quad and the Chair of the Committee on Appropriations.


Alongside Medrano on the “Experience the Change” ticket is Ekemini Etor, a former Executive Assistant, Vice Chair, and briefly the Chair of the Board of Finance.


Running with Rose on the “Fight the Power” ticket is Amelia Crawford, current Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Government Operations.


Overseeing the debate and leading candidates was Catherine Devaney, Chair of the Elections Commission. Audience questions were submitted through a Google form.


The Candidates


Medrano is a UAlbany junior with a major in Psychology and a minor in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. She is a first generation college student, with both of her parents being immigrants.


“The reason why I’m running for president is because I think it’s quintessential that we really instill change, and change is going to happen with the amazing ticket that I have,” Medrano said. “All of the people on my ticket have been advocating throughout the years for important issues that they feel would really impact all students on campus.”


Rose is a sophomore at UAlbany, majoring in Public Policy with a minor in Political Science. His ticket, Fight the Power, is focused on addressing issues between the university and the student body.


“I am running to be your Student Association President because I believe that our Student Association has said ‘no’ too many times. I think we can start saying yes for the students… the university constantly denies us and takes our money, and takes our bus stops, and takes our gyms, and takes our dorms, and then they give us nothing in return. I think that that is wrong. I’m running on the Fight the Power ticket because I think we need to fight the power, and the university is that power,” Rose said.


Crawford is a sophomore at UAlbany, studying Political Science and Public Policy. She is in her second term as a Senator, formerly representing all first year students, and currently representing Liberty Terrace.


As the current Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Government Operations, Crawford said, “I believe in holding people accountable and doing the job they’re supposed to be doing, which not only stops at Student Association officials, but also goes to administration, which connects back into Fight the Power, because we believe that our administration isn’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing in helping students and using our tuition in the correct ways.”


Etor is a UAlbany junior, majoring in Human Biology with a minor in Spanish. While not a current member of SA, Etor was a former Presidential Candidate for the election of Spring 2022. She serves as Corresponding Secretary for the African Student Association and Treasurer for the Posh Daily.


During the audience questions section, Presidential Candidates were asked what their biggest accomplishment during their time at SA was.


“I think that my biggest accomplishment so far in the Student Association has been advocating for others as a whole, and I think that’s something that everybody in the Student Association should strive to do,” Medrano said. “...I think we should really think beyond ourselves and we should be selfless in what we do.”


“I think one of my biggest accomplishments this year while I’m in the Student Association has been reorganizing what our directors do. So I think before that a lot of directors were a little bit confused on the direction of what they wanted the department to do,” Rose said. “...part of the reason why I did that was to make sure that the money that students are paying – that $5,000 – is being used properly for the right programs.”



Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates after the Forum.

Photo Credit: Henry Fisher / the ASP

Goals for the Student Association


Candidates were asked what they believed was currently wrong with SA and how they would change it. Both agreed on the issue of SA outreach, though they differed in what roles should be primarily reaching out.


“I’m gonna say our outreach and who we talk to and how we talk to them. I think a large part of the problem is our Student Association Senate. There’s – what, 46, 48 senators – and they represent at-large all of the quads, all of the academic divisions, and… most of them don’t go out in their free time and reach out to people that elected them, to their constituents. I think a large part of the problem is that the Senate is not as active as it should be,” Rose said. “If you live on a quad, one of your main concerns should be the people on that quad and the problems that they’re facing.”


Medrano largely agreed with Rose, but disagreed in some aspects, saying “I don’t think that the sole focus should just be on Senate… there’s also other branches within the Student Association that can do work in terms of outreach. The executive branch is a great place to start, and that’s why I am heavily promoting programming within all of our departments. Programming is a great space for people to come together and get educated about people that are outside of themselves and outside of their communities.”


Another audience question concerned the candidate’s vision for the Student Association. While Medrano discussed resources for minority groups on campus, Rose largely focused on voter turnout.


“...when I think about the legacy that I want to leave, I want to be able to make sure minority groups have the resources and the support that they need to be successful in higher education,” Medrano said. “I’m a Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies minor and I advocate every single day, even outside of my job at the Student Association, for minority groups, for women, for queer people, for people of color. And I think the biggest way that we’re going to do that as an organization is to change the resources that are currently offered and make them more aligned with diversity, equity, and inclusion.”


“My biggest goal since I came to the Student Association has been to increase voter turnout and I would like to be remembered as the person who got people to be involved in the Student Association. When I first got here, I came in with 474 votes for Senator at-Large,” Rose said. “I think that that number is, I’m sorry, a shame… as much as I appreciate every single person who voted for me…. I would want every single person on this campus to care and know about the Student Association and that is what my legacy would be if I were to lead.”


A member of the audience asked about the Presidential Candidates’ first policy implementation should they be elected.


Rose brought up parking tickets and free printing, saying “One of the first things that I want to address if I were to get into office would be – I want to say – parking and free printing, only because we pay a $730 comprehensive fee every semester… [that fee] should go towards making sure that nobody has to pay for parking on campus, and that parking tickets are eliminated, and making sure that students either have free printing all year round or that they have a quota of how much money they can spend every semester because we’re constantly paying the university all of this money, all of these fees, and we don’t even know what they go towards.”


“I think that the biggest policy is going to be bringing the advocacy center back,” Medrano said. “That is a massive issue that survivors are not being supported on campus… [the Title IX Office] is looking to hire one person currently that’s working on advocating for survivors. One person is not going to help 1,000 people on campus.”


Medrano also said that she believed that as members of SA, “we need to open our doors… letting people know that we’re here to listen to them, not only just for concerns, but as people. I want to know how your day was, I want to know who you are as a student, I want to know what you do outside of this.”


Rose highlighted the additional responsibilities of being in student government, saying “as much as we are students, we are elected to serve a different role on this campus. We want to be an advocate for students and not just be a student.”


Role of the Vice President


Much of the Vice Presidential Forum pertained to the role of the Vice President as a representative of the student body and the Student Association. When Vice Presidential Candidates Crawford and Etor were asked what they envisioned for their role as Vice President, both commented on the role of directors. Etor referred to the Vice President as an extension of the executive branch, whereas Crawford highlighted the different priorities of the President and Vice President.


“I think the presidential and vice presidential partnership should work in a way where one focuses on internal issues and one focuses on external issues,” Crawford said. “Now that doesn’t mean that they won’t collaborate together on those issues, that just means that one person puts more emphasis on one thing than the other. I think the Vice President should put more focus on internal matters.”


“The role goes into how the Student Association runs as well as making sure that the Student Association is a well-oiled machine,” Crawford said.”


“I want to be the overseer of directors, and really see what all my directors are up to… I want to be an extension of the executive branch and another resource for them to come to me and ask what my directors are up to and what the executive branch as a whole is up to. And then on a student-wide policy, I would say I’m another open door person,” Etor said. “Especially [have] an open door for student [organizations].”


Both agreed on the importance of SA’s directors, though both hinted at plans to consolidate certain directors to save money – as the directors are a paid position. Etor and Crawford also concluded that directors were a valuable resource in reaching out to underrepresented groups.



Audience and Vice Presidential Candidates during the Vice Presidential Forum.

Photo Credit: Henry Fisher / The ASP


The Student Association’s Relationships


As part of the elections commission’s initial questions, the Presidential Candidates were asked what they would do to better sustain SA and the university’s partnership or what they would change about their dynamic.


“I think the power is really in our hands and we need to really see that and engage in the power that we have on this campus. We paid to be here. Without us, this university would not be a thing,” Medrano said. “...It is our right to get the resources that we need to get all the support that we need. I think that’s a big way that we can reassess our relationships.”


“It’s important to sustain our university partnership, because as much as we are the Student Association, they’re the university. It’s their job to make sure that we’re safe on campus. As much as we have the power, they’re the ones that implement change…. the university comes to us and asks us exactly what we want to see change on campus, and then they turn around and ignore that,” Medrano continued. “That is a relationship I cannot sustain if I were to become President, because we are here to empower the student voice and empowering the student voice isn’t taking no for an answer.”


In a different question, Rose also brought up his concerns that the university’s faculty did not reflect the diversity of the student population, with “around 6% of faculty and administration” being from minority groups.


Another question prepared by the election’s commission asked Presidential Candidates about their engagement and connection with the student body.


“I could start by saying that as of right now, in my campaigning, I’ve emailed over 100 student groups and I’ve been to a lot of student group meetings and the one thing that I’ve seen and heard the most is that they’ve never had someone from SA come speak to them. I think that is shocking, because they come for our money, and our budget seasons, and our new and unfunded funds, and they don’t even know who we are,” Rose said. “...one thing that I would like to see, and one thing that I would continue to do, is to meet with student groups on a weekly basis. I may not be able to get to all 260, but I damn sure will try… students should know exactly who we are and what we do for them.”


On the same question, Medrano said, “when it comes to student organizations, they know us on a money basis… but over half of the population here on campus are not a part of student organizations. So when we really look at how we’re pertaining to people and how we’re communicating to people, I think the Student Association should also be focusing on the students that aren’t a part of student organizations. The biggest way is bridging that gap, opening the door to the office.”


Finances


Neither Presidential Candidate plans to increase the Student Association budget. Rose emphasized the high amount of SA internal spending, saying that he had plans to “decrease the budget over the next two years, because, constantly, we’re spending more money that [we should be] giving back to students on ourselves.” He added that the only instance of increasing the SA budget that he would approve is one that gave a larger budget to UAlbany’s student groups.


“...we need to really reevaluate and sit down and think about what we’re doing with our money, who we’re supporting, who we’re advocating for. I think that’s the biggest thing: we’re not going to go ahead and increase the student activity fee when the Student Activity Fee isn’t doing what it’s currently supposed to be doing,” Medrano said.


On the topic of the Student Activity Fee, which is up for a referendum vote as to whether it will remain mandatory for all students or whether it will become optional in this upcoming election, both candidates did not see the end of the mandatory fee as a disaster waiting to happen.


Medrano emphasized financial responsibility, saying “This is something we’ve been talking about in leadership meetings. What happens if this goes optional? I don’t think that it’s that big of a deal. One thing that I’ve been preaching in Senate is financial responsibility and fiscal responsibility. You don’t need thousands of dollars to hold a big banquet. You don’t need thousands of dollars to show up to an event and support your peers.”


“I am going to agree. I don’t think it would be the worst thing in the world for the Student Association to see that we don’t have that money,” Rose said, speaking as a member of the Board of Finance that oversees SA’s budget. “The fact that students are saying that the Student Activity Fee should be option means that we, as the Student Association, aren’t doing enough to prove to them that it should be mandatory.”


In another question relating to making SA more fiscally responsible, Rose focused on holding people accountable for any misuse of funds as well as having a strong Board of Finance and Appropriations Committee that know the rules of the Financial Literacy Handbook. Medrano discussed SA’s wilderness retreat, Dippikill, which is intended for students of UAlbany. In reality, less than 10% of Dippikill’s bookings are from students, even though SA spends $300,000 a year on Dippikill, according to Medrano. With Dippikill, Medrano believes it best to decrease the amount of money put in while also increasing profitability for the property.



Audience and Presidential Candidates during the Presidential Forum.

Photo Credit: Henry Fisher / The ASP


Campus Climate


The final section was Campus Climate, a new section compared to last year’s forum. In it, audience members could ask about specific issues on campus that they would want to be discussed. There were some overlapping questions concerning the recent protest at Turning Point USA’s (TPUSA) on-campus event on April 4 and viewpoint neutrality from SA.


“When we look at viewpoint neutrality and when we think of free speech, we really have to look at to what extent is it free. I think that’s the biggest conversation that came from what happened last night [April 4],” Medrano said. “I just want to commend all the people that went out and protested for what they wanted to see on campus…but I think when we think of free speech, when it doesn’t come free, and when it comes at the cost of safety of other students, we really need to evaluate what we’re doing as a Student Association to provide spaces for both parties to go ahead and express issues that they have and share ideas that they have… I definitely think that that’s something that the Student Association can work on next year is allowing ideas to coexist in spaces, but also allowing other parties to feel safe….”


“We have to be fair,” said Crawford, “and even if we have personal beliefs on what groups are saying or what people are speaking about, it really can’t affect how we give away money. What we can do is we can advocate for the things in our roles that we think are important… in regards to last night [April 4]... if there were things said that people want to see said [or] that people disagree with, and you want to uplift that certain voice or you want your opinion heard, then you should come to Senate and you should say that opinion. We can work with you on ways to make your voice heard – other than money. ”


Rose spoke on a different question concerning safety for members of the LGBTQ+ community and making them feel safe on campus, saying “We want to also hear what they have to say, but remember that our voice and our opinions matter to us – those opinions, don’t let them go away. Don’t silence yourself and don’t let the other side use that and weaponize it against you. Make sure that you are continuing to protest. I think the people who were arrested last night [April 4], I think that should be wiped off their records. The university should never hold that against them, they should’ve never been arrested in the first place.”


Another campus climate question was regarding sexual assault allegations within student organizations, as well as potential policies each ticket may hope to implement.


“The university thinks that it’s appropriate that there’s no other repercussions when these allegations are brought,” Rose said. “These people are still allowed to be in e-board positions, in leadership positions. That further reinforces that the university does not care about what we have to say. I think that they need to actually care about what we have to say because we’re the ones funding them, and giving them their money. They need to actually focus on what makes people feel safe on this campus…The university needs to address this immediately, not tomorrow….”


“We have students that come to Senate and express that they don’t feel safe within their organizations. Where do we go past there? That’s really the question that we need to answer. I think that there needs to be more policies put in place to hold people accountable for [their] actions… There should be no reason why people feel uncomfortable going to a place that is made for them, with them, a part of them…,” Medrano said.


“To piggyback off of that, I think what we also need to do – student groups have constitutions and bylaws of what they stand on, what they run for – I think we need to add a subject regarding Title IX assaults, sexual assaults…” Etor said. “...we need to have steps for our e-boards, what they know, what to do, and where they can go….”


“The major issue is that a lot of these are just questions,” Crawford said. “It should never be a question. Was this person in my org? Did they sexually assault someone? Are they rapists? That’s crazy that [there isn’t an] answer to it. Then you’re just in this org and you get told, ‘oh, that’s none of your business. Why do you care? Stay out of it. You don’t know what you’re talking about.’ All of this – it’s just – that is 100% not the way to make people feel safe. There needs to be answers.”


Information on Election


The election, which will run from April 10 to April 14, will conclude at noon. The results of the election will be announced later that day at 4:00 p.m. in the Campus Center Boardroom. To follow both tickets, visit each of their Instagram accounts, @fight.the.power.ua and @experiencethechange.ua.



Supporters and members of the “Fight the Power” ticket.

Photo Credit: Henry Fisher / The ASP


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