Jessica Henry
Student Writer

From left: Todd Abbott, Marianne Ramirez Gomez, TJ Culclausre Laurel Hicks and Sarah Fe Harris

Diversity and difficult conversations were key topics addressed by the candidates running for student body president and vice president Wednesday night at the SGA Presidential Debate.

The candidates themselves are diverse with a range of experiences. As such, they have different perspectives on the issues they would like to address if elected. This is a change from last year: the current SBP and SBVP ran uncontested during last year’s election season.

Todd Abbott emphasized his experiences on Student Senate and as a Student Ambassador as a means of being able to empower others, especially when conflict arises

“We need to make every student feel valued and loved,” he said. Abbott mentioned “controversial wording in the student handbook” in relation to that.

Abbott and Marianne Ramirez Gomez have some specific goals they hope to accomplish if elected. They plan to address the overload facing the Engle Center’s counseling services, push for the installation of new internet routers, and establish a calendar of events outside Lottie and in the Union.

“If students are not heard in the little things, they are not able to make a connection with administration of the school,” Ramirez Gomez said.

Ramirez Gomez shares Abbott and her vision.

“I really like Todd and Marianne’s vision for what they are hoping to accomplish on campus,” senior psychology major Marissa Showalter said. “They have attainable goals that will help to continue propelling our campus forward in a positive way.”

TJ Culclausre and Laurel Hicks asserted their plan for a mental health collaboration between the Engle Center, Minds Matter, and the Office of Disability.

Culclausre wants to “bring awareness to students that don’t know how to handle friends struggling with mental health problems.”

They also want to hold “town hall meetings” to increase student involvement in SGA. “There is a lack of communication between SGA and the student body,” Culclausre said.

Sarah Fe Harris highlighted her plans to engage the student body in conversation, focus on club collaboration, and encourage a relationship between the student body and the city of Harrisburg.

“We need to realize that we’re not just individuals floating through space—we impact each other,” Harris said.

Mahoney speaks through a pre-recorded video.

“I feel that Sarah Fe’s passion and her energy for what she wants to do both within the Messiah community and outside the Messiah community is really awesome and something that needs to happen during this time of heavy things happening in the world,” senior communication major Molly Gallagher said.

Harris’ running partner, Tim Mahoney, was not able to be present because he is studying abroad. However, in his prerecorded opening statement, he said he hopes to “affect not only next year but the next five years” if elected.

After the debate ended, students received an email with a link to vote for the pair they would like to see leading the student body next year.

“Participating in the SGA election is a great way to practice your civil rights in a safe space that will be able to support you through the learning process,” Student Body Vice President Megan Eaton said.

Voting is open now. Cast your vote at Results will be announced on Friday, March 2.

Applications are currently being accepted for 2018-19 SGA Executive Cabinet positions. Find them on SGA’s website.