SGA Presidential Candidates Clash in Debate


Shauntelle Thompson

Sparks flew in some moments of the SGA Presidential debate where moderators let candidates press each other about platform goals.

Alaina Laster and Brea Smith

The Marshall 2022 presidential candidates met live on WMUL Monday, Mar. 29 for the annual debate. 

         On the first ticket is the Griffiths/Tatum campaign. Bella Griffiths, the current vice president, is running alongside Walker Tatum, a current senator in the College of Science. Griffiths is a junior health sciences major and Tatum is a sophomore studying biology. Their main goal, if elected, is to create more student engagement within the campus and community. 

         On the opposing ticket is the Donohue/Raffinengo, which goes by Cam/Nico, campaign. Cameron Donohue (who goes by Cam) is a junior student who recently served as the student government pro-tempore. Donohue is majoring in political science and math. Running alongside him is Nicolas Raffinengo, who goes by Nico. Raffinengo is a freshman student majoring in political science and international business. Their main goal, if elected, is to better the Marshall community through a four-step process. 

         Each party began the debate with a thank you to their team as well as the WMUL staff for hosting the event. Following this, the moderators asked a set of seven questions where each party responded to the best of their ability in under two minutes. 

Following the seven questions was a set of open-ended questions where they were given permission to interrupt and question the opposite party’s claims. The Cam/Nico team was set on their plan to create the family that Marshall markets through four steps that revolve around “Justice, Innovation, Community and Marshall.” 

“Justice aims to level the playing field so that students have equal access and equal opportunities to whatever it is that they are looking for,” Donohue said. “Innovation is really just changing the way that students can interact with the university, whether it be by joining organizations, by studying, going and taking their classes or even the way that the university looks.…With the community, it’s really hitting home on why students feel disconnected from the university. It’s because we market a family environment, but we haven’t done it though. We don’t have one…. Really taking that idea of it being a family environment and opening it up to all students to be able to feel connected. Marshall… what we really want to do with that is make a culture.” 

The Griffiths/Tatum team set on using the “three simple E’s” to build a better Marshall. The three terms include “Engage, Equip and Empower.” 

“We want to focus on the engagement of students,” Tatum said, “with not only one another, but with the Huntington community, the Marshall community and with alumni through alumni mentorship programs and community service projects… We want to equip all Marshall students here at Marshall University with the correct resources, mental health initiatives and pre-professional planning to really be able to excel mentally emotionally and academically… We want to empower Marshall University and our Marshall family to its greatest potential.” 

The debate style questions gave the candidates an opportunity to question one another. Donohue and Raffinengo said they wished for change on campus. Tensions rose, however, as the candidates went into the open-ended portion of the debate. They told the audience that they feel the student government is stuck in its ways, leaving no room for change. 

“Nico and I have enough experience for everyone on the cabinet with SGA,” Donohue said. “There is no need to go any deeper with having different senators or other students that really-The senate has had the same track of thought since I came to Marshall. That’s been my biggest gripe with the senate and with student government: that things don’t change. That things stay the same.”  

The Griffiths/Tatum team explained to the audience—as well as the opposing party—that having such a small cabinet may not be a good idea. Griffiths asked the Cam/Nico team if they could list any of the members of the current cabinet. Raffinengo responded by saying that the current cabinet is so large they would have to have a “grocery list” to keep track of everyone. Neither person listed any names. 

“Just a piece of advice, as the current vice president,” Griffiths said, “there are a lot—a lot—of things you have to do and a lot of events and programs that student government has and sometimes it takes more than five people. I think that’s fine either way to have a smaller cabinet or to have a larger cabinet. But I would not trade our current cabinet for the world, nor would I trade our future cabinet. We have a lot of ideas and a lot of goals and I believe that we have the team capable and necessary for getting the jobs done.”  

After the seven questions, the moderators asked the candidates open debate questions which came from the student body had been submitted over various social media platforms such as Yik Yak, Instagram, and Twitter for each ticket. This is where the questions grew more personal. With the anonymity of the student-based questions, they could ask whatever they wanted.  

One student sent in a question for Donohue and Raffinengo that asked, “How does Cam intend to work with SGA if elected in light of his recent resignation and dismissal from his summer job? Do you fear past actions within the organization may slow your progress?”  

“How do I plan to work with the SGA given the recent fact that I have resigned? Well, the same way that I have,” Donohue said. “I’m very eager to get back to working with SGA. It would be from a different position. I wouldn’t be dealing with the Senate, but I have the utmost faith and Nico’s abilities to man the senate.”  

He continued to say, “I would do much of the same in that I would continue to advocate for students to continue to believe in them and empower them.”  

The debate was just the beginning of the politics this week, with voting opening at 12:00 a.m. on Wednesday, Mar. 30, and closing at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, Mar. 31. At that time, the winning candidates will be announced.