Debates for Student Body President and Executive Vice President

Students packed the Connelly Cinema last Thursday to hear debates between the three pairs of candidates running for Student Body President and Executive Vice President. The candidates running are as follows: Connor Kovacs ’20 and Katie Connolly ’21, Maura Rose ’20 and Brendan Puszcz ’21, Patrick Treacy ’20 and Amanda Rappa ’21. The candidates sat side by side on stage facing the audience.

Harrison Jumper ’20 moderated the event for the evening. He welcomed the crowd as Chair of the Elections Commission, an impartial committee with SGA.  The candidates were posed six questions, rotating with which pair answered first; time was additionally left for rebuttal after all candidates were given an opportunity to ask the questions prepared by the Elections Commission. 

The first question Jumper posed to the candidates asked them to briefly describe their platform as well as the biggest issues they see present on campus. Puszcz answered first on behalf of the Rose Puszcz campaign. He emphasized its commitment to the University’s sustainability plan, with sights set on the future and following through with the plan that will positively impact future generations of students at Villanova. Rose added that as a pair they would prioritize basketball tickets for students, parking, updating the social event policy, and securing a Hoops Mania performer for next fall.  Students should come first,” Puszcz added.

Treacy and Rappa were next to answer. They publicized their platform as one that will improve transparency between the school community, student government, and the administration. Treacy and Rappa hope to push the University to “put students first.” They hope to increase transparency with students regarding tuition, money given to student groups and parking dilemmas. In the additional time, after all candidates had answered this question, the pair circled back to speaking about increasing equality and equity on campus. 

Connor Kovacs and Katie Connolly hope to improve relationships and culture on campus. They introduced an initiative they hope to enact if elected in which minority and multicultural groups would have ensured representation “for a better Villanova.” Kovacs and Connolly together emphasized their platform: getting real, getting empowered and getting social. The pair also hopes to work with Dining Services to introduce biodegradable utensils and cups on campus and promote diversity by broadening events allowed as ACS requirements. 

When all candidates had used the time allotted to address their platform and issues at Villanova, Jumper asked the candidates to elaborate about a project each had spearheaded as a member of SGA. Treacy spoke about his role as Director of Finance and the many opportunities he had that allowed him to work directly with administrators. Rappa mentioned her position on a committee that addresses the intellectual climate at the University and her accomplishments in organizing Pizza with the Provost. 

Kovacs referred to his work with organizing Feast with the Friars, and Connolly spoke about her work with Pals 4 Life that brought service animals to south campus during finals last spring. 

As Dean of the Senate, Rose spoke about her work with increasing study spaces on campus, her work with social justice on campus and emphasized the need for women in leadership at Villanova. Puszcz emphasized the necessary role of teamwork in all projects mentioned by candidates. 

During the rebuttal, Connolly added an explanation of her work with Spread the Spirit Campaign and SGA sponsorship of NOVADance. Rose also commented that one of her main goals coming back to school last fall was that no priests accused of sexual assault would still be on campus. Circling back to his work with finances and student government, Treacy mentioned phasing in full rembursals for SGA campaigns, and Rappa commended the freshman housing workshop she spearheaded.  

Jumper next addressed the “Vanillanova” stereotype and reputation at the University. All six candidates are caucasian, and he asked how the candidates would commit themselves to pushing diversity as a priority in the community. Kovacs answered first; he again emphasized their campaign initiative of providing minority groups seats with SGA. Connolly added to this, with the priority of having all members of SGA Safezone Certified. “We can’t do one thing…We need to start having more conversations,” Connolly said. 

Puszcz followed Kovacs and Connolly. He stressed the importance of opening up dialogue on campus and being accepting of all students of all backgrounds. Rose reiterated her point of the necessity of women in leadership at Villanova.

Treacy explained his work with the Diversity Skit that all students see during Orientation. He stressed the need of making visible these “unseen” parts of Villanova. Rappa then spoke about her work with the University’s Programming Board.  

Turning to the internal workings of SGA, Jumper asked the candidates how they would maintain the stability of SGA while continuing to expand it. With experience as the Dean of Senate, Rose acknowledged her past experience with an expanded part of SGA and commented on past experiences working with administrators. Puszcz spoke about his love of the flexible nature of the Executive Vice President’s position, and how he would be willing to work on any projects necessary. 

Treacy told students in the crowd about his previous experience with the expansion of the Executive Board this past year, and Rappa spoke about her expansive knowledge about the legislative nature of SGA, understanding the structure and necessary steps to get tasks accomplished. 

Kovacs spoke about empowering his peers and coworkers within SGA regardless of the hierarchy in place. He emphasized recruiting “doers” to maintain a stable but expansive nature of student government at the University. As the previous Chair of Constitutional Reform, Connolly expressed her understanding that leadership stems from the top, hoping to set an example for her peers but also work collaboratively with other leaders. 

During the rebuttal period, Jumper asked if any of the candidates had new ideas regarding the hierarchy of SGA. Connolly articulated a history within SGA of the appointment of friends to positions, and she hopes to change this with streamlined application processes for spots that go unfilled. Treacy hopes to expand the Senate, and Rose hopes to start new committees within student government.

When each candidate was done, Jumper moved on to the topic of the actual job of President and Executive Vice President. Explaining that previous leaders have described both positions as a “full time job,” Jumper asked the candidates how they would balance their roles with other activities on campus and asked if they were all willing to commit to these demanding positions.

Rappa began by talking about her work ethic; she expressed a passion for student government and participating in something bigger than herself where she can advocate for others. She added that it wouldn’t feel like a job, rather something she would be excited to do. Treacy added that he is more than ready to lead as a representative for his school community. 

Speaking about her position as a Resident Assistant, Connolly described her passion for working as an RA and helping her own residents with day to day problems. She added her understanding of that as a full time role and expressed how she would be more than ready to commit to her role within SGA if elected. Kovacs disclosed his significant work with New Student Orientation and participation on the Steering Committee but explained how this work would be over before the school year starts in the fall.

Rose gave examples of her experience with leadership, especially as a director in her sorority. She also pointed out her previous commitment to student government in high school and a passion to continue it at Villanova. As a physics major, Puszcz addressed that this might be a concern for some students; he emphasized that the workload decreases junior year, so he will have time to devote himself to SGA. He additionally revealed to the crowd that he has faced medical hardships this year but hoped to clarify that it would not get in the way of his responsibilities if elected. 

The last question posed to the candidates regarding the exclusionary club culture at the University, and Jumper asked what the candidates might do to change this. Kovacs reiterated his mission of “getting social,” hoping to meet with all clubs on campus if given the opportunity and reiterated his hope to increase inclusion and participation of different student groups with SGA. He added especially advocating for service groups and pushing for greater inclusion. 

Puszcz took time to address the University’s “bandana culture,” where students attempt to publicize their work with clubs and trips that have extensive application processes in which not all students are accepted. He and Rose hope to give smaller organizations on campus proper representation that larger programs already receive. Rose hopes to be an advocate for smaller groups on campus.

Rappa followed, explaining her mission to give opportunities to people on campus with similar passions by creating more events and clubs. Treacy hopes to lower these entrance barriers that prevent students from getting involved with organizations that are especially service oriented, and he hopes to advertise smaller organizations on campus. 

The period of questioning from the Elections Committee was then followed by some audience questions. The candidates were each allowed to reiterate their platforms and provide closing statements. Jumper thanked the audience for coming. Polls opened Monday at noon and will close Wednesday at noon. If no candidate pair wins a majority of votes, a run-off is set to take place in the upcoming week.

[Editor’s Note 3/20: The candidates and Elections Commission met to discuss the merit of a runoff election. After deliberation, the parties have decided to cancel runoff elections.]