Candidates test waters in presidential debate



Jessie Markovetz

In what will likely become a recurring theme for the campaign, the experienced were challenged by unproven hopefulsUpdated March 27, 2003Experience and enthusiasm became the two conflicting forces between the candidates for Student Government Association president and vice president in tonight’s debate in the Connelly Cinema. Candidates seeking their first terms at the executive level debated issues such as spirit, academics and student activities with seasoned SGA officials.Current SGA President Maureen Holland, who is seeking reelection with junior Gita Gupte, chief of staff, drew on her experiences in office to attract voters.The most important points on Holland and Gupte’s platform are centered on the classroom – the incumbent declared improved academic advising and online audits among her top priorities for a second term.”We feel that the advising system is not up to par with the rest of Villanova,” Holland said.The highlight of Holland’s current term is the campus video store, which will be open for business in the fall. Other accomplishments include improvements to SGTV, the campus movie channel, and the creation of, an online collection of student-authored reviews of University professors.”We have the momentum, credibility and infrastructure to go another 365 days,” she said.Also bringing considerable experience to the table were sophomores Nicholas Bouknight and Safeer Bhatti, senators from the colleges of Commerce and Finance and Arts, respectively. They focused their platform around student rights, emphasizing their unsuccessful bid to stop a tuition hike for the incoming freshman class and their response to West campus fire drills which resulted in property confiscations by public safety.The future was also an important topic to the pair of sophomores. When asked how they would help students stay competitive in a tight job market, Bhatti stressed a focus on technological ability.”Having computer skills is of more worth than leadership or GPA,” he said.Bhatti’s plan would call for a mandatory freshman class that would teach the basics of popular types of software as well as improved laptop technology and proliferation.The other candidates believed that alumni were a valuable network to build job contacts.”Anywhere Villanovans go, they are very successful,” Gupte said.Kevin Martens and Colin Raws, both juniors, felt the most pressing issue on their platform was the hope to integrate the various schools of the University.”There is absolutely no integration at all right now except for the [Summer Business Institute],” Raws said.The pair hopes to create a wireless campus network that would serve as a starting point for schools to work with each other, and is looking at the technology used by the engineering and business schools as a beginning.The fourth ticket, composed of juniors Nestor Fernandez and Tim McGovern, centered on school spirit and budget reform.”I love ‘Nova. I love this school,” Fernandez said.”But in the past two years there has been a lack of love, a lack of Villanova spirit.”One plan Fernandez has for restoring spirit is a budget reform which would effectively create a student panel that would award budget money to the various on-campus groups instead of allowing University administrators to do so.Martens seemed to agree with this plan, though he argued money must not be regulated through administrators.”The money needs to be allowed to flow into the organizations without restrictions,” said Martens.About 30 minutes into the debate, presidential candidate Jason Zola arrived at the cinema and took his place at the table. Dressed casually in a T-shirt and jeans, Zola confessed his own ignorance of how to work the system effectively while staunchly advocating his only goal – a drunk bus for students which has met resistance from University officials.”We don’t really know how to worry about money,” Zola said. “We’ll leave that to the professionals.”Approximately 100 people attended the debate.