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Student Association Hosts Presidential Forum

By Shawn Ness | April 1, 2024

From left to right: presidential candidates Jaden Gabb, Nayeka Edmond, Luke Johnson, and Jalen Rose during the presidential forum.

Photo Credit: Shawn Ness / The ASP

In lieu of the University at Albany Student Association’s regular Wednesday night meeting, the Elections Commission hosted a presidential forum ahead of the SA general election that starts this week. 

The forum featured the four candidates and their running mates: current president and vice president duo Jalen Rose and Amelia Crawford, Senator Luke Johnson and his running mate Emmett Fetherston, Jaden Gabb and running mate Hansel Ortiz-Rosario, and current director of Gender and Sexuality Services Nayeka Edmond and running mate Lex Halpin.

The forum was broken up into three sections: a presidential and vice presidential forum, and campus climate discussion featuring all candidates. Candidates were asked a series of broad questions not specific to candidates, with each candidate allowed two minutes for a response. Spectators were allowed to submit questions for the candidates via a Google form. 

Presidential Forum: 

Gabb’s main policy focus is budget transparency. He said that he has spoken with many people on student organizations’s E-boards and they cited budget cuts after the cash surplus SA had after the pandemic ran dry. 

Violence on campus was another of Gabb’s main policies in addressing violence on campus, which he addressed to the body during a previous meeting before he announced his campaign for president. 

Edmond’s campaign has a similar viewpoint, just broader, her campaign is hinged on policies that will increase student engagement in SA and bring back the “Great Dane spirit.” She also mentioned violence on campus but in a different context. She believes that there is a lack of activities for students on campus which forces them to go to downtown Albany where there is more crime, specifically around Hudson Avenue where many of the fraternities are located.

“We want students to stay safe, but there’s nothing on campus that’s engaging students and that’s wanting them to stay on campus, which is why they continue to leave campus,” Edmond said. 

Johnson kept his campaign promises short and sweet, simply saying that his campaign wants to address issues that are the most important to the student body, because “that’s how I roll,” he said. He ended his opening promises with a quote from Samuel L. Jackson from the movie “Pulp Fiction,” “mmm hmm, this is a tasty burger,” Johnson said.

Rose had a similar policy platform to Edmond on increasing student voices and cited that he has already been implementing his policies as the current SA president. He also said he would fight hard against things like the Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies and Africana Studies department merger, which he called unpopular among the student body. 

Opening up the first round of questions was: what made the candidates decide to run for office?

Both Rose and Edmond cited similar reasons: developing a stronger sense of community amongst the student body.

“The Student Association is not just everyone in the Senate and Supreme Court, it is every undergraduate fee-paying student at the University at Albany. So it’s not just people who represent you, it’s all of you,” Rose said. 

Edmond said that as someone growing up in Brooklyn where there was a strong sense of community, she did not feel that when she began attending UAlbany.

“I want to be the person that people come to and I definitely don’t want anyone to experience what I did my first two years here,” Edmond said. “I just want to be that person that people can connect to and see like ‘Oh, this happens to everyone else, too.’”

Gabb said that his experience as an orientation leader and resident assistant has given him a unique outlook on how he can serve the students, despite never holding elected office in the Student Association.

“As president, you need to take yourself out of the issue. You are not the issue, you need to solve the issue,” Gabb said. “That’s why I’m running.”

On how to increase student interest and engagement in the Student Association, Edmond said that the body does not do anything for the students, and that if they decide to come to a meeting, the Senate is not discussing things that can directly help the student body. She believes that the Senate needs to increase more direct participation with members of the student body and student groups.

Johnson held a similar belief.

“We need to get on the people’s [students] level. It doesn’t always have to be formal, it can be informal meetings. It could just be two students talking instead of one official and one student,” he said. 

Gabb also semi-echoed Edmond’s statements on the Association not doing a lot for students. 

“I’m here to add, not to reinvent the wheel, but to ask ‘how do we make the wheel better?’” 

He has a new operation titled “Operation Flush,” which has a mission statement of enhancing student engagement in the community, which would do away with the Senate’s “legal jargon,” posting meeting minutes and making documents public. 

Vice-Presidential Forum: 

The first question asked how the vice-presidential candidates plan to support the Executive Branch, which consists of the president, vice-president, and various branch directors.

The question was posed to Fetherston first, who simply wants to employ qualified people to serve in the branch, increase student relations, and help keep the Supreme Court “low-key.” 

Crawford, who is the current SA vice-president wants to continue the traditions of the current administration, which is employing people who are knowledgeable in their fields to help guide her and Rose effectively. 

Halpin had a similar approach, to listen to the directors carefully.

“Everybody’s voice should be heard, everybody should be included in the conversation,” Halpin said. “So I would want to foster an amazing relationship with each and every one of you individually and make sure that your ideas are being heard.”

Ortiz-Rosario followed a similar trend, he wants students to feel comfortable coming to SA and speaking with their representatives.

“I’ve had an open dialogue with the executive branch and Supreme Court and the student body as a whole. And there shouldn’t be any reason why students don’t want to talk to each other or they feel uncomfortable talking to their own Senators and things of that sort,” he said. “So that will be an issue that will be resolved in Service over Talk to create a more harmonious and more peaceful situation here on campus.”

The spring general election kicks off on Monday (4/1) and voting will remain open throughout the week. Students can cast their vote on MyInvolvement. Results will be announced on April 5.


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