Passion and experience went head-to-head on Wednesday, Feb. 28, as the final candidates for the 2018 Allegheny Student Government presidential and vice presidential election participated in the General Election Debate. The debate was held between ASG Chief of Staff and presidential candidate Camila Gomez, ’19, and her running mate, ASG Director of Finance Gillian Greene, ’20, and Class of 2020 President and presidential candidate Jason Ferrante and vice presidential candidate Zach Rohan, ’20.
The debate allowed the candidates to discuss their platforms and answer any questions asked by those who moderated the debate and students in the audience. Topics such as Title IX, off-campus housing, effective communication between administration and the student body and why they decided to run for office were discussed between the four candidates.
Gomez and Greene focused on the experience they bring to the table which they claim separates them from their opponents.
“What really distinguishes us from Jason [Ferrante] and Zach [Rohan] is one simple word: experience,” Gomez said. “We have five years of experience combined [and] we definitely aren’t strangers to bringing our experiences outside of student government into the ASG room.”
Gomez joined ASG her freshman year as an ex-officio member of the Communications and Press Committee. Since then, she has served as a member of the Public Events Committee and the College Committees Council, become a senator for the Class of 2019 and served as the Class of 2019 president. Her running mate, Greene, has also been a part of ASG since she was a freshman when she sat on the Finance Committee and a sophomore when she was appointed to director of finance.
While Gomez and Greene discussed their experience, Ferrante and Rohan said they see not only their combined experience inside and outside of ASG as an asset, but the passion they lead with.
“If there is one statement that will set us aside, it’s our passion,” Ferrante said. “A passion to make change, a passion for advocacy and a passion for transparency.”
Ferrante has also been a part of ASG since he was a freshman and served as both the president and vice president for the Class of 2020. His running mate, Rohan, has no ASG experience, but is actively involved on campus and said he plans to use this to bridge the gap between the student body and ASG.
Both parties said they thought the debate went well and the event had been more of a civil conversation, rather than debating opposing ideas.
“It felt like a conversation among friends,” Gomez said.
Greene also saw the debate as a friendly conversation and mentioned how similar both candidates platforms are.
“Our platforms do align in a lot of areas,” Greene said. “Regardless of how the election carries out, Allegheny is going to gain a more transparent student government advocating for its students, which is the job.”
Ferrante, agreeing with the friendliness of the debate, explained the different ways he and Rohan would lead the campus in student government.
“Each person brings something a little different to the table, and I think that’s what we hoped voters saw on the stage tonight,” Ferrante said. “We agree on issues. We agree that Title IX needs to be reformed. We agree that mental health needs to be a concern we care about on campus, but we have different ways of approaching it and different things that we can bring to the table like outside experience for us on diverse issues.”
The most difficult part for the candidates was not the intensity of the debate, but the lack of student attendance. An audience member brought to attention that only 25 students were in the Henderson Campus Center watching the debate which makes up about 0.013 percent of Allegheny’s student population.
“It was difficult knowing that there’s a lot of people out there that weren’t watching or weren’t paying attention. We want to make sure those people are informed when they go to the polls, reading bios, platforms, asking questions,” Ferrante said.
The gap between ASG and the student body was very noticeable as the night progressed and the audience began to dwindle even further as time went on. The candidates still brought their A game and are planning on being as transparent and available as possible for any students who have questions, according to Greene.
“Ultimately we want the same thing,” Gomez said. “And that’s an effective student government that pays attention to the students and gives you guys what you want.”