Huston and Smardz take part in presidential debate, vice president candidates deliver campaign speeches as well

By Adam Duke and Janelle Harb

Griffin Editors

In a stark contrast to last year’s Undergraduate Student Association (USA) election, in which every position on the Executive Board was uncontested, this year is seeing all but one of the positions uncontested.

This year’s only uncontested position is vice president for marketing and public relations, which will be granted to sole runner, Jakai Harrison.

The two bids for president were placed by Matthew Smardz, current vice president for marketing and public relations, and Dylan Huston, former vice speaker of the Senate. At the debate held on April 9 in the Science Hall Commons, the two had the opportunity to address the students in attendance and answer questions from a panel of three student leaders – USA President Amelia Greenan, Griffin Editor-in-Chief Janelle Harb, and senior senator Timothy Utz.

Smardz focused his platform around creating a better community at Canisius and making USA a more visible organization, ensuring that people know and are comfortable with talking to their senators. Huston discussed the establishment of greater communication between students, senate, and administration, as well as the representation of student ideas and initiatives in USA.

In Smardz’s opening statement, he spoke on rebuilding the community and bringing everyone together. He emphasized wanting the USA to care for the students to better their experience here. He discussed his past roles as a leader, both in USA and as an orientation leader and resident assistant. He recalled how he has helped the Student Programming Board in the past and how he wishes to make senators more accessible to the general student body.

Huston began his statement by discussing his upbringing in the south and famous “southern hospitality.” He said that the current senate needs to be more hospitable to students. He stated that this year, USA has refused to represent the will of students. He said under his leadership, the senate will have a commitment to Canisius and once again emphasized that the senate needs to be an organization that supports its students. “Let’s build a better Canisius together,” he said. “A truly bold Canisius of tomorrow.”

At this point, the panel began asking questions for the candidates to respond to. The candidates were asked general questions regarding what would be their motivation as president, and what their main initiatives would be. Smardz focused on giving back to the Canisius community and leaving it “better than [he] found it.” Huston said that his motivation would be helping students translate their ideas into reality through the use of the Senate.

Smardz explained that one of his main initiatives would be to help students better connect with their senators, and increase the visibility of USA. Huston focused on the longevity of Canisius and better promoting the Jesuit identity and ideals such as looking to increase the number of Jesuits at Canisius, as well as well as standing with the facilities workers in their hopes to keep their current pension agreement.

When asked what they will do in regards to communicating with administration, the two had different answers.

We need somebody bold, somebody who doesn’t mind ruffling some feathers sometimes,” said Huston with regard to dealing with administration. He expressed that more pressure needed to be placed on administration. Smardz said that he is focused on building a good relationship with administrators and working together to create a better community.

The debate then transitioned into discussing two of the major problems that Canisius students are currently facing: apathy and diversity.

In regards to apathy, Huston explained that in his time at Canisius so far, he has strived to be involved and has encouraged others to do the same. He detailed his time being a club leader and starting the New York Civil Liberties Union club.

Smardz responded to apathy by promoting his goal of USA visibility. Though USA is currently trying to have senators attend and promote events, Smardz hopes to get this to happen more consistently.

In response to diversity, Smardz and Huston agreed that events held for diversity should be promoted more on campus. Huston also explained that the ALANA (African American, Latino/a American, Asian American and Native American) Center is a very underutilized resource and he would like to work more closely with them to host more events. Smardz noted the increased visibility of minority-based clubs such as the Afro-American Society within the past few years and said that the school needs to work to further celebrate diversity. Neither candidate, however, mentioned working with Unity for more LGBTQ+ representation and events.

Finally, when asked what USA has done in the past that the candidates disagreed with, the two once again gave differing answers. Smardz said that he disagreed with the implementation of the griffin statue outside of Science Hall, and wished those in charge of its  gotten more opinions on it before purchasing.

Huston disagreed with the dissolution of the vice president of student organizations and the Council of Representatives, both ways in which club leaders were directly involved and represented in USA. He felt that this was Student Life encroaching too much on USA’s power, and that USA needs to have more interaction with clubs and their leaders.

The presidential debate concluded with both candidates explaining why students should vote for them in just one sentence.

Let’s lead our campus, uphold our values, and retain our commitment to our mission together,” Huston said.

“I am committed to you all, and this college, and leaving it better than I found it,” Smardz concluded.

The event continued with the candidates for the other E-Board positions explaining their platforms with short speeches.

This began with the second most contested position, executive vice president (EVP), with three candidates – Ryan Boorum, current president of the Residence Hall Association (RHA), Victoria Carringi, and Olivia Owens. Carringi was unable to attend the debate due to the birth of her niece. Boorum spoke about his dedication to the college and his leadership experience. Owens began her speech by thanking her fellow candidates and her passion for making Canisius a better place.

The third position campaigned for on Monday was vice president for business and finance (VPBF), with two students running. The first candidate, Luke McCoy is currently studying abroad, so he sent in a video message on behalf of his campaign. He explained his passion for the position and for Canisius. His opponent, Cameron Rosenecker, then took to the podium and explained how he would lead in the position. One of his main changes as VPBF would be to supply more money to club trips as he felt it would improve individual students’ experiences at the college.

Finally, Harrison spoke on making both USA events, as well as other club events more widely known of.

Students have until Friday at 4 p.m. to cast their votes for each of the four positions, in addition to voting for best club, adviser, and Division I team. Because candidates from each position took such varying sides to their approaches, the future of USA will once again fall into the hands of the voters.

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