The University of Maryland SGA 2024 executive candidates debated several key issues Friday night in Stamp Student Union.

The debate, which included the Student Government Association’s Reimagine Maryland and Uplift UMD parties, took place ahead of the 2024 SGA elections from April 15 to April 17. Candidates spanned several positions, including SGA president and vice president.

Reese Artero, a junior criminology and criminal justice major, headlines the Reimagine Maryland ticket as its presidential candidate. Artero will be on the ballot against Ian Gould, a junior government and politics and philosophy major, who is Uplift UMD’s candidate.

Both candidates described their plans to expand student engagement in SGA during Friday’s debate.

Gould, SGA’s current South Campus Commons representative, hopes to provide more avenues for student expression. This includes events where students are comfortable discussing issues important to them, Gould said.

“One of our priorities… is [to] increase venues for students to speak on issues that are important to them and encourage that freedom of expression which belongs on campus,” Gould said.

Artero, one of the SGA’s current off-campus neighboring representatives, also highlighted the importance of student engagement. Many students do not feel like their voice is heard by SGA, Artero said, which would be a top priority to address.

“There’s a large portion of students on campus that feel like you don’t listen to them,” Artero said. “That’s one of the first things that I do plan to correct as soon as I get into office.”

Promoting diversity, equity and inclusion on campus was also a focal point for the presidential candidates.

Artero said she would prioritize anti-bias training, additional prayer spaces and food accessibility for students of different cultures and incomes.

Food insecurities make it difficult for students to perform and pay attention in class, Artero noted.

Gould said he hopes to expand gender-inclusive housing and build upon existing environmental initiatives.

Gould acknowledged that this university has done a “great job” in its sustainability goals, but hopes for more community involvement moving forward.

“I think there’s still some lack of transparency,” Gould said. “I want the community around to be incorporated in our sustainable future.”

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SGA vice presidential candidates also shared their priorities ahead of the election.

Gannon Sprinkle, Reimagine Maryland’s executive vice president candidate, said he supports providing angel shots, free drink test cards and Title IX training for undergraduate teaching assistants to address sexual assault on campus.

Elise Donnellan, Uplift UMD’s executive vice president candidate, highlighted the importance of addressing hazing in fraternities and sororities on campus.

Donnellan, SGA’s Greek residential representative and coordinator of recruitment and retention, said her experience is especially important after this university issued a cease and desist order in March for Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association chapters due to an investigation into hazing-related activities.

“[Hazing is] something that people do experience and it’s something that I am very committed to ending on this campus by working closely with other members of Greek life,” Donnellan, a junior environmental science and policy major, said.

For Uplift UMD’S vice president for financial affairs candidate Pranav Ramesh, mental health is a pressing issue.

“We’re being bombarded with all sorts of tragic events, Ramesh, a junior finance and government and politics major, said. “Our student body is diverse enough that really everyone on campus has some tangible relation or connection to everything that is happening in the world.”

Increasing the availability of counseling sessions is a major part of his ticket’s platform, Ramesh, SGA’s current treasurer, said

According to Uplift UMD’s website, the party plans to address mental health by expanding counseling drop-in hours for underrepresented students, specifically for religious minorities.

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Vice presidential candidates also focused on expanding student engagement on Friday.

Sprinkle, the deputy student liaison to the College Park City Council, said he hopes to publicize SGA meeting minutes, voting sheets, bills and budget allocations.

“We have such a stigma about student government,” Sprinkle, a sophomore government and politics major, said. “We have to get students engaged whether they like it or not.”

Chinmay Parwatgoudar, Reimagine Maryland’s vice president for financial affairs candidate and sophomore finance and information science major, said having more international students involved in SGA is also important.

Before the debate, students were allowed to fill out a form to ask the candidates questions. Two questions were randomly selected for candidates to answer.

Daniela Colombi, a sophomore astronomy and physics major, attended Friday’s debate. She said the lack of student engagement during the debate was “concerning” as many candidates discussed the issue extensively.

“My anticipation was that we were going to be able to actually ask questions of the people that are hoping that we are going to vote for them,” Colombi said. “I think [this] just highlights big defects with the SGA as a whole.”