Poor attendance and makeshift location hinder speech night


A clogged, impromptu hallway venue and missing candidates marked a messy start to the Student Government Association Candidate Press Night Wednesday, as hopefuls spoke about their goals for the 2013-2014 school year.

At first members of campus media organizations, student government seat-seekers, and a small audience crowded into the SGA office in the bottom of Piano Row. When the tight room overflowed with the 22 attendees, the decision was made to move the speech night into the adjacent hallway.

But for a night that was supposed to be dedicated to speeches, not many candidates were present to talk about their goals. Of the 17 balloted students, 15 ran unopposed. Nine candidates—including all five from the class of 2015—were not present to give speeches at all.

The only contested position is that of SGA president. Paul Almeida, current marketing communication senator, and Benjamin Halls, class of 2014 senator, are running for the seat.

In his absence, Nicholas de la Canal, the current class of 2015 president, had Jasmine Reyes, the elections commissioner, read the brief statement, “For shit actually getting done,” as his speech to the audience.

De la Canal appeared later in the night and said that although a class forced him to miss the event, he has never attended any speech night.

“To be brutally honest, no one comes [to speech night],” he said. “I don’t think it matters at all. Everyone does their campaigning on social media anyway.”

The gathering has traditionally been called Speech Night, but Reyes, who was appointed to her position two weeks ago, said she changed the name to Press Night to sound more formal. She said a lack of student awareness about the evening caused the low attendance.

All candidates but Halls and Almeida delivered their speeches in the doorway of the SGA office. When a nearby room became available, the group shifted there, where the mood remained hectic.

Tau Zaman, the current SGA president, asked a series of pointed questions to Halls and Almeida, citing specifics from their SGA careers.

Zaman asked Almeida why his print credit initiative, something he has been working on all semester, has not been processed. 

“I was just wondering, since my official deadline was last Friday at 5 p.m.,” said Zaman. 

Almeida said he drafted the initiative on his personal computer, but has not officially submitted it yet. 

Zaman curtly asked Halls what he has contributed to the organization this year. 

When Halls began to explain his work toward implementing a safety initiative written by Abagael McCauley, the former communication studies senator, Zaman interrupted him and asked him to be more specific. 

During this portion, the room grew tense and quiet. Zaman, Secretary Melyssa Cantor, and Vice President Caitlin Higgins, shot one another glances, texted, and whispered throughout the entire debate. 

Zaman, using his personal Twitter handle @TauZaman, tweeted throughout the event. Two tweets mentioned how he felt current assistant treasurer John Dentinger and class of 2014 President Jon Allen would make great presidents. 

The event came to a close after two and half hours.