Presidential candidates address budget freeze in debate
By Sajedah Al-khzaleh
Student Government Association held a debate for the candidates running for SGA president, March 30.
The candidates include Samer Hassan and Ali Kleiche who are both current senators of SGA, and Heller Lopes, a student worker at Harold Washington College.
At the beginning of the debate, each candidate took the floor with a speech on why they would best fit the position. Current SGA president, Kevin Woo, asked the candidates four questions that had to beanswered in no more than three minutes. Candidates were allowed to rebuttal each other’s arguments in the last two questions.
“It will be my number one goal as your student president to make absolute sure that we have the same playing field as anyone else in this city, in this state and in this country that takes the college road to success,” said Hassan.
“If I become president, not only will you have someone that is determined and dedicated to the organization, but someone who alreadyhas abilities needed for this position,” said Kleiche.
Lopes described what he would want in a president and how he fits that role.
“I want someone who’s been through what I [have] been through because they will have more sympathy for us,” he said. “They need to understand what it’s like to struggle, what it’s like to pay your own rent and meals.”
The budget freeze that hit City Colleges was the biggest issue discussed by the candidates.
“Harold Washington College along with the other six schools that make up the City Colleges are approaching an uncertain time; a time where the budget impasse in Springfield is going to hit us in a way that we haven’t seen before; a time where the opportunitiesof our community colleges will either be cut or severely limited,” said Hassan. “Next semester is going to be the hardest semester we have had at Harold.”
Kleiche spoke of his frustration of the freeze.
“We are sick and tired of being the victim of the ruthless politics in Springfield,” he said. “It’s not Loyola, University of Chicago, not DePaul [facing the freeze]; it’s the City Colleges of Chicago, where the majority of us come from lower socio- economic backgrounds.”
Kleiche and Lopes however, spoke on the importance of focusing on other issues besides the budget freeze.
“It’s not up to us as candidates to tell you guys what are the main things we have to work on. Its up to the students; we need to hear from the students,” said Kleiche.
Assisting students to achieve “financial independence” should be another focus besides clubs, according to Lopes.
“We need to see how we can get more student workers, grants and scholarships,” he said. “Money is a high key factor on what these student need, so that they can succeed and get one step closer. Students cannot focus in their class or success if they are worried about ‘can i pay my rent or pay a bill’.”
Hassan, however, plans on moving ahead from the freeze by working independently from Springfield and fundraising instead.
“We can’t rely on springfield anymore; they have failed us for the past two years,” he said. “We can no longer afford to play the reactionary role, we need to start planning ahead. We can’t afford to be passive; we have to be aggressive.”
His goal is to raise $20,000 through the help of students, partnerships and fundraising websites like GoFundMe.com. “Springfield is no longer in the equation, we have to think about the students. The City Colleges come first,” he said.
Kleiche rebuttaled Hassan’s argument indicating that the City Colleges cannot completely remove Springfield from the issue.
“We can’t just like drop Springfield and say it’s not in the equation because that’s what [Springfield] want us to do, to just raise our hands and say ‘ok we’re done’,” Kleiche said. He plans to fight Springfield for the budget, and even speak with local newspapers.
The candidates were asked what they plan on doing during their first 30 days as president.
“I will establish communication; communication between the SGA and every single member of the SGA, and every single member of the SGAs of the other six community colleges,” said Hassan.
Kleiche discussed having a suggestion box “so that there is constant contact and communication with the students.” He plans to bring their concerns to SGA meetings and district.
Hassan said he would seek students personally in their classrooms, instead. “They don’t even know we [SGA] exist, the majority of these students,” he said.
He plans on involving staff, establish transparency and go to nonprofit organizations under 501(c)(3)s. “I will go to every single business in this city and gain their resources and ask for their man power, see what they are doing and bring it back to the school.” he said.
Lopes plans on communicating with HWC students on how to utilize the resources the school already has.
Kleiche said he would focus on safety, creating facilities for students that take night classes, and creating more events for students who are not majoring in Business (an issue he believes HWC has).
The candidates promised full dedication to SGA and their students, indicating that they will step down from all their other leadership roles to commit to their roles as president. Hassan and Kleiche are in the process of finding replacements as senators and club presidents; Hassan said he would work part time at his regular job to work full time for the students; and Lopes promised to work hand in hand with the students.