SGA debate heats up with talks of gun violence, ‘elitism’

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At the debate, Jackie Palacios, student organizations senator and diversity affairs chair, left, and junior screen acting major Arianna Ngnomire, right, spoke about their campaign platform, For the People. Photo by Bonnie Cash

Vice presidential candidate Arianna Ngnomire accused student government president Mitchell Rosenberg of using a gun safety presentation to his campaign’s advantage during the student government debate March 8.

While Ngnomire said that she appreciated the email that Rosenberg, who is running for re-election, sent March 5 that notified students of an active shooter situation presentation, she wishes student government would talk about resources when it’s not “convenient during campaign season.”

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Mitchell Rosenberg, student government’s current president, said his experience and successes make him most qualified to hold a second term. Photo by Bonnie Cash

“I have no control over when tragedies happen in our country,” Rosenberg responded, adding that it was “insulting” to insinuate that he would turn a tragedy into a campaign strategy.

“Gun violence has been an issue since I stepped on this campus and before,” said Ngnomire, a junior screen acting major. “You chose to do it this week during campaigning just to get your name out there. I haven’t received any email like that prior to that. I think your response isn’t honest.”

It does make it seem like student government is elitist. It’s higher than the students that we serve, and that doesn’t make any sense.”

While candidates don’t run on an official ticket – students can vote for presidential and vice presidential candidates separately – Rosenberg is running unofficially with Speaker of Senate Alex Ballard, and presidential candidate Jackie Palacios, a student organizations senator and diversity affairs chair, is running alongside Ngnomire. All four spoke at the debate, which was moderated by The Panther.

Palacios’ campaign, which uses the slogan “For the People,” is centered around a lack of diversity on campus. When she first arrived at Chapman, Palacios said, she struggled to find a community that gave her a sense of belonging. At the debate, Ngnomire, who is president of the Black Student Union, suggested increasing resources for minority groups on campus.

“(The Cross-Cultural Center) is not supported very well on this campus,” Ngnomire said. “Students aren’t supported well. There have been some budget changes within the past semester, and that’s something I think (student government) should at least have some opinion on.”

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Speaker of Senate Alex Ballard, who is running for vice president, said he wants to give all students opportunities, not just those in the film and business fields. Photo by Bonnie Cash

Rosenberg and Ballard both highlighted the “wildly transformational” year that student government has seen, including vast mental health reforms, a popular fall election and the organization’s larger on-campus presence.

But Palacios and Ngnomire were concerned that student government gives the impression that it is above students. Palacios said that giving senators business cards has created a hierarchy, and that the purchase of the cards wasn’t a productive use of student fees.

Ngnomire, who is the only candidate of the four who has never served on student government, said that her outside perspective is necessary.

“It is for the students. You have to be involved outside of (student government) in order to know what the students want,” she said. “I’m a little bit speechless because it does make it seem like (student government) is elitist. It’s higher than the students that we serve, and that doesn’t make any sense.”

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Mitchell Rosenberg and Alex Ballard highlighted student government’s successes this year, while Jackie Palacios and Arianna Ngnomire hope to make the organization less “elitist.” Photo by Bonnie Cash

To Rosenberg, the business cards were only a tactic to add to the organization’s professionalism and accessibility, he said in response to Ngnomire. His year as president already under his belt makes him more qualified to assume the position again, he added.

“I have experience getting things done,” he said. “I’ve seen (student government) work at every level. I’ve seen what doesn’t work and where we’ve failed, and where we’ve done great. I want to have that second term so I can continue to fulfill those promises.”

In that second term, Rosenberg hopes to make Chapman more student-centered, as he said the university is too business-focused. Ballard added that it’s an “unsaid truth” that Chapman’s film and business students have more opportunities and resources.

“I think that students today feel very left behind,” Rosenberg said. “Chapman is often focusing on their students 10 years from now, and not focusing on their students today.”

Voting will take place March 12-14 on chapmanvotes.com.

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