Sydney Fox and Sydney Mack

Staff Writers

On Thursday, February 4, students gathered in the Lilly Gallery for the SGA presidential debate, where candidates Nate Harding ‘17 and Ben Callinder ‘17 discussed their platforms and fielded student questions. The event, hosted by the SGA Elections Council and the Davidsonian, aimed to inform students before they cast their votes on Monday.

“What struck me the most was how many people were there,” said Daisy Jones ‘19 after attending her first SGA debate. Students filled the rows of chairs and stood in groups at the back of the room. The strong turnout indicated student engagement in the race, as did the long audience-driven question and answer session that followed the main round of questions. Davidsonian co-editor-in-chief Will McDuffie ‘16, who moderated the event, said, “There was a lot of time for audience questions at the end, which I thought was really great.”

Callinder and Harding began the debate with opening statements about their platforms and ideas for next year. Following this, McDuffie questioned the candidates about specific issues of importance on campus and in their platforms, including race, student activism, housing on and off campus, new SGA by-laws, and meal plan services. In particular, McDuffie asked Callinder about his plan to create a student EMT training program in order to promote safety for students consuming alcohol and to avoid unnecessary hospital fees.

Harding joined the dialogue by asserting that a student does not have to be SGA President to implement Callinder’s proposed service. He then fielded questions about his ambitions to bring students together through a digital space.

“I thought they had a good back and forth about Ben’s EMT service plan,” McDuffie recalled.

After the debate, the floor opened to student questions, whose topics ranged from a proposed wellness and health center to diversity on campus, sexual assault, and the moral qualities required of a leader.

Callinder hopes a new wellness and health center will combine mental health counseling with physical fitness and gym services. This plan, Callinder asserted, would create one center to encompass various health-related services as well as increase ambiguity about the reason for a student’s visit to the counseling center, protecting his or her privacy.

Callinder recalled a particular moment, when a student asked the candidates about their leadership characteristics. “At one point I said ‘I’m a hustler as a reflex,’” Callinder said. “I said that along the lines of, ‘I’m hardworking.’”

Harding enjoyed the debate, saying, “I think my favorite question was when Xiang pointed out that there was a possibility that one of the presidential candidates would be elected with their opponent’s running mate elected as Vice President, and he asked us to speak to the capabilities and qualities of the opponent’s running mate. I really appreciated that question because when I look at the four of us who are running, I think we have an awesome group with talent.”

Grant Koehl ’19 felt that the debate went very well, leaving with the impression that “both of them have a lot of ideas and things that they are passionate about.”

Jones was glad she attended, saying, “A lot of the things they brought up are things that I’ve wondered about,” and continuing, “Something that struck me was that both the candidates said something about a revamping or reforming of the current SGA model,” referencing the new SGA bylaws that were passed at the beginning of the semester. The Davidsonian outlined the major changes to the bylaws in its January 27 issue (“SGA hopes new bylaws bring more student involvement,” page 3).