The race for SGA president

The race for president and vice president is upon us, with the two-day Student Government Association election on April 10 and 11.

This year’s race pegs junior Cory Okular and sophomore Justen Vrabel against sophomore Robert Park and senior Patrick Bascom for president and vice president, respectively.

Both teams visited a meeting with my fraternity, Alpha Phi Delta, on Sunday to deliver a brief overview of what they hoped to do with their positions.

I grew interested and decided to get Youngstown State University students excited about the race.

To some, the role of SGA is negligible; it represents an entity that plays a small role in the actual policy making of YSU and exists mostly to allocate funds to student groups.

“In my experience over the last two years, I haven’t seen a whole lot out of student government,” said sophomore Leo Daprile.

“Honestly, I’m not even sure what they do or who is in it.”

I had previously viewed SGA as more of a resume builder for bright students interested in a career in law or politics.

SGA adviser Chet Cooper Jr. said this negative view of SGA comes from the fact that student activism comes only in “small pockets” within the student body.

“I think there’s a general apathy as to whether SGA operates or not,” he said. “I think that’s been reflected in the votes; around 500 [votes] is pretty sad.”

But after reading the platforms offered by both teams, I think we all need to realize the importance of SGA, based on how ambitious and impactful a fully executed plan can be.

The most ambitious initiative comes from Okular and Vrabel, who have made it a goal to raise the bulk tuition rate from 12-16 credit hours to 13-18 credit hours.

With the rate at 12-16 credit hours, a student could consistently schedule classes within that range and still require 11 semesters to graduate. Going over that range costs more.

The team feels that raising this rate will encourage more students to push themselves and graduate in four years without spending extra money.

In the spirit of graduating on time, Okular and Vrabel both believe the most important leg of their platform is the introduction of a first-year experience program.

As a first-year lecture class, Okular said he believes the class could help new YSU students build a bond with their campus, learn who their advisers are and improve retention rates.

“Ninety-six percent of universities in Ohio have an FYE program,” said Okular, who is part of a student success committee working on a formula for such a program. “YSU is in the 4 percent that does not.”

Other pieces of their platform include a healthful reform to student meal plans, a heightened encouragement for students to study abroad and an honors college that encourages more gifted students.

I commend Okular and Vrabel for the thorough ambition expressed through their platform. Though lofty, I believe their positions and goals are innovative, insightful and laced with potential.

“‘What is SGA?’ is a question I have heard far too often while campaigning thus far,” Vrabel said. “YSU’s student government needs to become more visible and accessible to the general population.”

Park and Bascom are SGA newcomers, but as brothers of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, they know how to work with each other and the university as a group.

“It is our belief that student organizations at Youngstown State University are the heart of our campus,” Park said. “Being part of the Greek system, we feel that we would best represent a student organization that comprises a significant portion of the student body.”

That being said, their platform leaves much to be desired.

For instance, there is dialogue about retention rates, but the lack of an actual plan is disguised by some eloquent, yet repetitive, prose about improving YSU.

Their main initiatives seem to be in the category of improving communication; they discuss building a stronger foundation through the use of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

In addition, they promote the use of listservs to be able to communicate directly with the student body via email without being bothersome.

“We hope to use media to inform and receive feedback from students,” Bascom said. “We hope to represent the students to the best of our ability with an open-door policy in the office.”

There needs to be more discussion of policy changes that would be made easier with the use of social media, not just discussion on social media itself.

As outsiders, we might view the team’s lack of experience as detrimental to their campaign.

Based on SGA experience, Okular and Vrabel have a tremendous advantage: Okular is the current vice president for financial affairs, and Vrabel is the chief of staff.

But Cooper said he believes experience should not play as big of a role as it probably will.

“It doesn’t take much to learn the ropes of SGA,” he said. “A working knowledge of how the university works is more important.”

Park agrees.

“We believe that experience is not the only qualification for a great candidate,” he said. “We believe that the quality of a candidate’s ideas and the willingness to go forward with those ideas is what best qualifies a great candidate.”

I have known Okular and Bascom for the majority of my college career and must clarify that this is not personal and should not be taken with spite or anger by anyone.

So don’t be apathetic about an election that will affect your future at YSU. Be informed and vote Okular and Vrabel for the job of SGA president and vice president. 

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