SGA to host first presidential debate since 2018, The Cluster to moderate

Graphic+provided+by+SGA

Graphic provided by SGA

Mercer University’s Student Government Association will host a debate for student body presidential candidates.

The debate will be held March 24 in the Connell Student Center at Bear Necessities at 7 p.m. A virtual option is also available via Zoom.

Current SGA President Savannah Lackey said that a debate hasn’t been held in three years.

“There was no debate my freshman year — there was only one candidate on the ticket — and then last year there was (the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic), and so we actually did not get to have a presidential debate between me and the other candidates I ran against,” Lackey said.

The candidates for SGA president this year are current Vice President Ashton Bearden and Sophomore Class President Rylan Allen. Both candidates have been involved with SGA for two years. Their running mates are SGA Senator Caleb Mills and SGA Senator Natalie Yaeger, respectively. Yaeger is also the Lead Lifestyle & Opinion Writer for The Cluster.

“We think it’s really important for the student body to hear why people are running, what they’re passionate about and their stance on different things so that the students can make the best, informed decisions for themselves,” Lackey said. “Mercer is a great school, but there is always more to improve.”

This is the first year that The Cluster will be involved with the debate, which in years past has been moderated by the SGA Election Marshal, who oversees candidates and their campaigns. Managing Editor Mary Helene Hall will deliver questions and talking points to the candidates.

Lackey said that SGA has discussed involving The Cluster in the past, but it came to fruition this year in order to have impartial discourse among the candidates.

“We think it’s important to have the most unbiased debate,” Lackey said.

Students can submit their questions for candidates using a form distributed to students via Mercer email.

In previous elections, about 40-60% of Mercer students participate in the student government elections, and Lackey is hoping the debate will improve participation.

“People have been clearly active in making sure their opinion is heard,” Lackey said. “I would love it if students would come out and vote and also hear what their candidates have to say because I think it really matters to vote for someone who cares about the same things you care about.”

Presidential elections will be held March 29 – 30. Students can vote through their MyMercer accounts.

“I think that the students have a really hard choice ahead of them for who they vote for (…)  because all the candidates are so wonderful,” Lackey said. “I honestly don’t think the scales are tipping one way or the other at this point. I think it’s pretty even, but that’s because the candidates are that good.”