Candidates hash out opposing platforms in 2019 presidential debate

Keely Brewer, Contributing Writer

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Marquis Hollingsworth and Harrison Adams, the two candidates vying for this year’s position as president of the Student Government Association (SGA), stood in the Ferguson Center ballroom on Sunday evening surrounded by friends, family and peers eager to root for their favorite candidate during this year’s presidential debate.

Students filed into the rows of seats extending from the stage to the back of the ballroom. Some students arrived wearing the buttons of their candidate of choice pinned to their shirts, greeting attendees and offering their support before the debate began.

The crowd was buzzing. Many in attendance conversed with those next to them until Hollingsworth and Adams approached their respective podiums, and then silence fell over the crowd.

Each candidate was introduced before delivering a brief opening statement, taking the opportunity to introduce their platforms to crowd members who might not have been familiar.

Adams addressed his platform’s priority for student experience and well-being, outlining his three years of previous experience within the SGA that has led him to this position and introducing the specific issues within these areas that he hopes to tackle if given this opportunity.

Hollingsworth recounted his time as a member of the Million Dollar Band, an Avanti serving at Bama Bound and other on-campus organizations that he believes have prepared him to take on this role. He said that although his involvement has not been the stereotypical path of someone pursuing this position, it has prepared him to take on this role in a servant-like manner that he believes would benefit the SGA.

Immediately following the opening statements, each candidate responded to a series of questions asked by the moderator. Hollingsworth and Adams gave insight into the ways they plan to utilize the recently added positions of diversity and inclusion officers, addressed the lack of effective communication between the student body and the SGA as well as the perception of the SGA as an unethical organization and outlined their plans to expand the SAFE Center and its services, among other issues.

Each candidate was asked to explain how their specific leadership experiences so far would guide them in this position.

“I’ve been able to touch every single community on this campus,” Hollingsworth said.

He said he credits this to his involvement with the Million Dollar Band, a group of more than 400 individuals, and his time spent serving at Bama Bound, which has introduced him to an extensive number of students on campus. He spoke of his connections to people in all areas of life on campus.

“I always try to conduct myself with a humble, servant-like attitude,” Adams said.

Adams said his involvement with different spheres of campus through organizations like Capstone Men and Women and University Fellows has given him insight to the wants and needs of the student body.

The next round of debate consisted of questions specific to each candidate’s campaign. Adams was asked to outline the actions he has taken to accomplish his goal of extending Thanksgiving break and providing students with online counseling services, while Hollingsworth explained his intentions to make Dining Dollars transferable between students and reiterated the preparation for this position that he received from his time in Senate.

Each candidate was then given the opportunity to pose a question to the other. Hollingsworth began by asking Adams about the presence of the notorious Machine on Alabama’s campus and the negative consequences it presents. Adams replied by denying the existence of any organization or his association with it.

Adams took the opportunity to question Hollingsworth’s proposed plan to provide students with free refills during the second half of home football games. Hollingsworth’s reply gave details on how he plans to accomplish this while also specifying that this would only apply to home games with early kickoffs.

Audience members were then given the opportunity to pose their own questions online. Submitted questions addressed each candidate’s affiliation with organizations that are not approved by The SOURCE and asked them to explain how they stand out from previous SGA presidents. They also outlined the ways they plan to expand and promote current awareness weeks.

The candidates were asked to address the issue of students running unopposed for executive positions.

Adams said he wants to see more students run for these positions, but he also commended the work of the students holding them.

“I think every student is afforded the opportunity to run,” Adams said. “I don’t necessarily see it as a problem if some offices only have one candidate, because I think the candidates that are running, if you’re referring to this year, are all incredible.”

Hollingsworth pointed out that his platform addresses this topic by providing information and guidelines to students on how to run for these positions.

Each candidate’s closing statement brought an end to an informative presidential debate.

“I feel like I just got done with a halftime show,” Hollingsworth said, following the debate. “All that adrenaline, all that energy. That last speech was off the cuff. It was something that I’ve been thinking so much about these last few days. Obviously the numbers don’t look our way right now, but I need everyone to stick with me just a little while longer. I feel like we might really have a chance this time around.”

Hollingsworth said this evening re-energized his campaign and will carry him and his team through the week ahead.

As Adams approached and the two greeted one another, both candidates said that they regretted having their first conversation in person at the debate.

“It was surreal to me to see all the support I had here,” Adams said. “I feel great about tonight and I’m excited for the rest of the week. We have a lot of work to do before Thursday. I only get to do this one time.”