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The Northerner

Candidates’ debate gets personal

Amanda Van Benschoten

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Regardless of which candidate is elected this week, Northern Kentucky University students can expect their next Student Government Association president to lobby for university funding in Frankfort and to “rebuild bridges” burned between student organizations and the current SGA administration, according to remarks made in the April 12 presidential debate.

Executive Vice President Eric Fegan and former Vice President for Public Relations Andy Hixson agreed on little else during the debate, which became intensely personal as the candidates addressed accusations of mudslinging and campaign misconduct.

“Running for president, you know all the cobwebs and dirty stuff is gonna come out,” Hixson said in response to questions about the conduct that resulted in his recent impeachment from SGA. Hixson was removed from office on April 12, but filed an appeal of the decision April 13 with the Dean of Students’ office.

“I had nothing to do with your impeachment,” Fegan told Hixson. Hixson has charged the current SGA administration with trying to discredit him during the election because he spoke out against its proposed constitution in January.

Fegan, accused of distributing fliers depicting Hixson as a puppet of the administration, said that mudslinging was not a part of his campaign strategy.

“I didn’t do that. I don’t think any of my people would do that,” he said. “(But) I can’t fully guarantee one of my people didn’t do that.”

“There was a clear split in the audience on who supported who,” said Dean of Students Kent Kelso, who moderated the event. “I wish we had had more neutral students there.”

He said, however, that he was “pleased” with the turnout of approximately 150 students, faculty and staff.

The candidates also disagreed on the merits of the proposed new SGA constitution, which will be on the ballot in today and tomorrow’s election.

The constitution is described as “proposed changes in the SGA constitution as approved by the SGA Senate” on the ballot because, although it is fundamentally different from the current constitution, it was written and proposed to the Senate as an amendment, not a new document, according to Chief of Staff James Pollitt, Fegan’s running mate.

Fegan praised the constitution because of its emphasis on an initiative called “shared governance,” which would give SGA more influence over other student organizations.

“Students have to work together,” he said. “We can gain a lot more for students.”

“I’m all for student empowerment,” Hixson said, “but SGA sometimes goes too far.”

He said the new constitution “gives more power to the executive board, but less accountability. In theory, it’s great; but in practice – watch out.”

Fegan said Hixson had supported the initiative at the SGA January retreat. He quoted Hixson as saying: “‘Fuck yeah – let’s get APB,'” a claim that Hixson did not deny.

The animosity between the Activities Programming Board (APB) and SGA has increased since last August, when SGA proposed “increased collaboration” with APB.

Some members of both organizations viewed the proposal as an attempted takeover of the organization, a belief that intensified during debate over the proposed new constitution in January and February.

After the Senate ratified the constitution Feb. 18, APB members said they were satisfied with the modifications made.

Students openly challenged Fegan’s commitment to international students during the debate.

They alleged that Fegan failed to fairly allocate funds to the African Student Union last year while he served as chair of the Legacy Fund, an account designated to finance student organizations.

“We only have a finite amount of money,” he said. “We try to fund things as fairly and equitably as possible.”

Fegan said he had referred the ASU to the Dean of Students’ office because its request was for programming funding, and Legacy funds were geared more toward organizations’ travel expenses.

Fegan said that he realizes that international students suffer the most when it comes to tuition due to fluctuating exchange rates.

He promised to “work to give full control of student dollars to students.”

“In politics, money’s what’s important,” he said.

Hixson disagreed, saying, “Money is not power. Without the student, SGA is nothing. It’s your voice that gets carried from SGA to the administration.”

One student in the audience criticized Hixson’s ticket as lacking diversity because he and his running mate, Jeff Iker, are president and vice president of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity.

“Together, we’ve taken ATO to new heights,” Hixson said.

“It’s not because he’s my ‘yes-man,’ He provides good balance. I don’t think that either ticket could be criticized for lack of diversity.”

Both candidates said they feel qualified to lead the student body based upon previous administrative and business experience, as well as a strong desire to do so.

Both also said it is important for the next SGA president to “take NKU to Division I, socially and academically” as well as athletically, and said they would collaborate with administrators in order to achieve the maximum benefit for students. The SGA election will be held April 14 and 15.

Students can vote online from 7:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. Students can find the Web site by visiting the either the NKU or SGA homepages, www.nku.edu or www.nkusga.org.

Students can also vote at polling booths in the University Center, Norse Commons and Nunn Hall from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.

Fegan and Pollitt are running for president and executive vice president. Hixson and Iker are their opponents.

Students will also vote for three other executive board members, 15 senators, two judicial council justices, and decide whether to approve the proposed constitution.

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The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.
Candidates’ debate gets personal