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“Student government has a really negative image right now and I think that I really can change that. I will change that,” sophomore Matt Marotti promises change to an audience of about 50 students during the Marist student government association’s (SGA) open debate night on Monday, Feb. 19 in the Murray Student Center. Marotti, current Vice President of Club Affairs, is running for Student Body President (SBP) against Tom Ciravolo, current Historian of the Heard administration.

Marotti is running alongside Executive Vice President (EVP) candidate, Ed Oser, sophomore VP of Athletic Affairs, due to their working relationship on the SGA board and similar agenda concerns for the new 2017-18 term. Ciravolo has no EVP running mate at this time.

SBP candidates Matt Marotti (left) and Tom Ciravolo (right) at Sunday night's debate

SBP candidates Matt Marotti (left) and Tom Ciravolo (right) at Sunday night’s debate

The debate extended for an hour, as moderator Daniel Torres, son of Assistant Dean of Student Engagement & Leadership Robin Torres, posed questions concerning topics such as the 2016 Presidential Election and Inauguration, sexual assault on campus, campus nightlife, Marist’s decision to go to Duke and how SGA will move forward from their suspension—questions that require responsible decision making skills and accountability.

SGA is returning from a recent suspension that began last Nov. 2016. They recently announced their return to campus in a lowly publicized press release on Jan. 20. This memorandum written by current president Brandon Lee Heard referenced reason for suspension due to “unprofessional use of office space, misappropriate use of funds, and on/off campus events that were not registered by the institution,” although no students were formally found guilty or penalized. 

These events directly contribute to Marotti’s concerns to SGA being seen in a “negative” light at the moment, as students are still inquiring regarding the fall’s events. As online voting began this Monday, Feb. 20, renewing trust between SGA leaders and the student body appears to be a paramount priority in this election cycle.

Marotti expressed his admiration for Ciravolo’s unconventional campaign, as Ciravolo is running without a campaign team behind him.  When given the opportunity to pose a question to his opponent, Marotti asked why he [Ciravolo] lacked a larger campaign team and social media presence in the process.

DSC_0554“This is something Ed and I have really wanted and that we have put a lot of effort into, so I have to ask you why I don’t see all of that?” Marotti said.

Ciravolo explains opting for a policy of “going from door to door” instead, explaining his lack of concentration on formal strategy and social media. “I’m being really transparent with you guys [student body],” said Ciravolo.

When asked how SGA will encourage students to invest trust in a future administration, Marotti called on an audience member to get up and open the outside door.

“It’s open, but nobody is coming in,” he said. “Unless you got out there and ask them to come in, they won’t.” He expressed that the same policy must be adopted when fostering communication between SGA and the student body.

However, not all students were convinced. Ciravolo challenged his opponent saying, “You call yourself a “game changer,” but you’re doing everything that has happened in past administrations,” said Ciravolo, referring to Marotti’s slogan “#GameChanger,” his running with a traditional team, flashy social media strategy and potentially recycled points from previous years. DSC_0549

“I don’t have the funds to make really nice salmon colored shirts,” adds Ciravolo good naturedly, referencing Marotti’s “Matt for Marist” campaign shirts.

“People identify the issues every year, I absolutely agree with you,” Marotti responded. “At the end of it, you’re having the same problems,” he said, citing college affordability, textbook exchange program plans and other past platforms that identify recycled issues.

“It may be your opinion that we aren’t a game changer, but I definitely believe we are,” he said.

Both candidates pointed out President David Yellen’s choices in communicating with the student body regarding both the Marist v. Duke basketball game in Nov. 2016 and the Marist Band’s decision to play at the Jan. 2017 Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C.

“We should have had an open forum where President Yellen sat down with students to explain the decision to go there,” said Ciravolo.

Marotti addresses the campus-wide email that Yellen dispatched regarding Marist’s decision to travel to Duke, as being insensitive in regard to the student body.

“It is not a college’s right to take a political stance,” he said, while expressing his disappointment in not seeing enough steps taken forward upon Marist’s return from Duke to continue the conversation.

“I think that more should have been done. It was a great experience, but how much more of an impact did that have beyond that trip?” he said. “We needed to continue that conversation.” Marotti claims that he has planned solutions that will involve increased student body input over his potential term’s course.

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Marotti and Ciravolo stand together after the night’s debate

As current SBP Brandon Lee Heard prepares to part with his position, he talks about leaving his legacy with a strong foundation for the next organization. “One thing they don’t tell you about this position is that budgeting happens right away,” he says addressing the future leaders of the organization. “Make sure you’re executing and not spending half of your administration planning.”

“In order to help the students, you have to start from the internal side,” he said.

Taking a look back at Heard’s campaign priorities last Feb. 2016, the SBP mentioned the importance of teamwork, “Marist deserves someone who will use their presidency wisely and effectively to get as much done as possible. I’m not talking just one thing, or two things, or three. With a strong team I believe I can achieve anything.”

“It’s important to me to be an outlet for other students,” Heard says, continuing to stand by this idea a year later.

Voting will continue until Wednesday, Feb. 22. Online election ballots are to be found on the main Marist website under SGA Elections. However, there appears to be an error in the spelling of Tom Ciravolo’s last name, as on the website his name is incorrectly spelled “Ciravalo.” Additionally, no candidate biography exists for Ciravolo in the candidate PDF file.

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Candidate Ciravolo’s last name is incorrectly spelled “Ciravalo”

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Candidate Ciravolo’s last name is incorrectly spelled “Ciravalo” and lacks a biography on the candidate biography PDF

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