With subjects ranging from gender-inclusive housing to sexual assaults on Ball State’s campus, Thursday’s debate served as the first of three debates for the 2019 Student Government Association (SGA) Election.

Hosted at 6 p.m., Feb. 14 in AJ 175, here is a brief overview of the questions asked and the main points raised during three-slate debate:

Do you think Ball State does enough to foster a welcoming and inclusive campus and what would you do if dealing with similar situations [to the John Schnatter controversy] in the future?

To watch a full stream of the debates, check out NewsLink Indiana's coverage.

Aiden Medellin, presidential candidate of Elevate, said inclusivity means immediately responding during a similar situation and disagreeing with it regardless of who the person might be.

Jake Biller, presidential candidate of United, said he would’ve handled the John Schnatter controversy by “calling it out for the lack of respect and the disgusting statement that it was.”

“[United] believes that every student on Ball State’s campus deserves to be treated with respect and with dignity,” Biller said.

Julian Simmerman, presidential candidate of Empower, said he doesn’t believe Ball State responded quickly enough to the issue.

“It doesn’t matter how much money that you donate to Ball State University or really any college," Simmerman said. “When you use words like that and you target a group like that, that’s unacceptable.”

What other steps would you take to expand and ensure the success of programs [like gender-inclusive housing], if at all?

“I believe in starting small and gradually going up if we keep seeing success,” said Joel Johnson, vice presidential candidate of Empower, about such programs.  

Vice presidential candidate of Elevate, Cameron DeBlasio said he would reach out to Ball State administration and housing and see what SGA can do to try to make this a more a successful program.

“While this issue is not currently incorporated into our platform, we believe that this program has met with a lot of success,” Biller said adding that some refining can be done in preparation to scale up the program.

Jake Biller, presidential candidate of United, speaks at the Presidential and Vice Presidential Debate Feb. 14, 2019 in the Art and Journalism Building. Biller is the current Student Government Association parliamentarian. Scott Fleener, DN

In what ways will you work to ensure that all students are represented in SGA and that SGA is accessible to the balance of the student body?

“We’re committed to being representative of the entire student body,” Biller said mentioning their platform point that suggests allowing students to voice their concerns to the senate during a time allotted in senate meetings.

Simmerman said the minimum GPA requirement for senators should not be changed. Speaking of inclusivity, he said SGA was a relatively unknown and under-advertised organization.

“[By] keeping that threshold there and doing more to attract people to learn more about SGA and get involved, I think we could garner a more effective SGA that better represents the entire student body,” Simmerman said.

Medellin said it would be irresponsible as a slate to lower the GPA requirements, which he says is only an indication of a student’s organization skills and not one’s intelligence. He said SGA should rather try and build [the student] up and get the GPA to the point where they could be a senator.

Do you think Ball State does enough to combat problematic or concerning practices in Greek Life? What role or stance on such issues do you think SGA should take?

DeBlasio said sexual assaults is an issue that isn’t unique to Greek Life and the solution starts with understanding the conversation that needs to be had between the university, the students and Greek Life.

Biller said the Greek community has been accused of something that’s not entirely its fault. He said his slate wants to cooperate with Greek Life to make them “part of the solution.”

Simmerman said sexual assault is “a real issue at Ball State that hasn’t been properly addressed.” He said part of Empower’s platform points was making sociology Professor Melissa Holtzman’s self-protection course to combat sexual assault an optional Personal Fitness and Wellness (PFW) course for all students.

Elizabeth Latham, vice presidential candidate of United, speaks during the Presidential and Vice Presidential Debate Feb. 14, 2019 in the Art and Journalism Building. Latham is a former Student Government Association senator serving as chair of the at-large caucus. Scott Fleener, DN

SGA is currently hearing a proposal to draft a letter to Indiana representatives concerning the creation of a hate crime legislation. In what other ways do you think SGA should be involved in governance outside of Ball State?

Simmerman said it is important to not condone hate-crimes and take the legislation further to identify the origin of the problem and put a stop to it.

“It is our job not only as students but as citizens … to mould the people that are younger than us and older than us to be better — just better human beings,” Medellin said. “You can make a difference regardless of where you’re at.”

Biller said SGA’s letter to Indiana representatives and a previous letter to the U.S. Department of Education regarding the department’s Title IX changes proves SGA is also concerned about local, state and national issues.

How do you feel about Ball State leaving the Midwest Student Exchange Program, how will it impact future students and how can the slate make Ball State more welcoming?

Biller said he had mixed feelings on the issue. He said it was a ”travesty” that the price of education is as high as it is and he sees it as “an essential part of our society.”

Latham said through promoting technological resources, United would be able to make the campus more welcoming to future students. 

Johnson cited a personal story of being an out-of-state student, and how the Midwest Student Exchange Program gave him and other students an opportunity to go to a school from a different state. 

Simmerman said Empower’s childcare grant platform point would give students the opportunity to apply for a grant that would aid with a student’s childcare costs.  This would apply to both in-state and out-of-state students. 

DeBlasio said the issue is “about the people, not the money you’re saving or re-allocating or redistributing.” He also said attracting students from beyond Indiana is vital to Ball State’s success.

Empower's presidential candidate, Julian Simmerman listens as another candidate speaks at the Presidential and Vice Presidential Debate Feb. 14, 2019 in the Art and Journalism Building. Simmerman is a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. Scott Fleener, DN


What kind of implementations can your slate put into place to leave a positive impact as far as 2040

Medellin said Elevate’s peer mentor program platform point, which would allow freshmen to work with upperclassmen in their respective majors, could attract more students. 

Biller said he wants the changes to not affect the current students, but students yet to come.  

“Some of the ones that come to mind are the green initiatives, installing [LED] lights and also solar panels on those lights so they can be energy efficient,” Biller said. 

Simmerman said his self-protection objective platform point which is about Holtzman’s course could impact Ball State.

What is your most important platform point and what steps will you take to make sure it’s completed?

The self-protection objective is the most important Empower platform point, Johnson said. 

Medellin said all of Elevate’s points are important. He said senators must represent students’ experiences, not just their own.

DeBlasio said it’s discouraging to hear that students aren’t able to get the mental health they need when counselors are already booked, making mental health important to his slate.  

Biller said campus and student safety was one of the more important points to his slate, which was “quite baffled” when it learned hall directors were not required to be CPR/AED certified, which is one of their platform points .

Latham said United wanted to “extend and expand” on Charlie's Charter’s hours and services which ensures students get home safely during late hours.

Empower's vice presidential candidate, Joel Johnson speaks at the Presidential and Vice Presidential Debate Feb. 14, 2019 in the Art and Journalism Building. Johnson is the Alpha Phi Sorority Ivy Man. Scott Fleener, DN


What do you think has been the most important accomplishment of SGA in the past year and how do you plan to build on or continue such an achievement?

Latham said someone from Huffington Post reached out to her about his mental health and suicide prevention program. She said she had him come to Ball State and give his presentation and would love to get more speakers to come and talk at the university. 

Simmerman said he wants to update SGA’s website to appear more up to date and get people involved. Not doing so, he said, could make the association appear out of date.

DeBlasio said the SGA is “most certainly not out of date.” He said SGA’s resolution giving ROTC students priority scheduling was the most important thing SGA has done this year. 

How would you describe your goals to someone who is totally unfamiliar with the SGA and why should they care about the changes you hope to make for Ball State?

DeBlasio said it isn’t true that SGA doesn’t do anything and attending senate meetings will help people understand what SGA does. 

“You simply have to define what SGA is,” Biller said. He said the best people to govern students are the students. 

Simmerman said it would be great to show students what SGA is capable of how it affects students and the university.

Scott Fleener contributed to this story.

Contact Charles Melton with comments at cwmelton@bsu.edu or on Twitter @Cmelton144. Contact Rohith Rao with comments at rprao@bsu.edu or on Twitter @RaoReports.