By Amethyst Martinez and Jake Tiger
AS the university faces a pinnacle point since its inception, from mass faculty retirements within the next two years, financial difficulties and major program cuts, to controversial topics such as Title IX and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), the Student Government Association (SGA) opened their annual elections on April 3 with two candidates taking the ballot for student body president.
The options, junior economics major Joe Tufo, and junior political science major Naa’san Carr, have a variety of different ideas and initiatives to put in place during their win-dependent tenure next year, with voting opening up on April 3 and closing on April 12.
In addition to a debate open to the public on March 30, The Rider News conducted interviews with both candidates on April 3, where they were given 30 minutes to answer a variety of questions on topics such as SGA’s role on campus, DEI, communications with the student body and the relationship between SGA and the administration.
Carr and Tufo have both served in all levels of SGA during their three years at the university, from senators, to committee chairs, to their current positions on the executive board.
“It’s really important to be able to bring experience from all three levels from SGA,” said Tufo. “You can kind of get some insight into how members of all three of those levels kind of see themselves in terms of what SGA is able to accomplish throughout the year.”
Tufo, who also has a political science minor, currently serves as vice president of student affairs and oversees all of the DEI initiatives made by SGA. Outside of SGA, he is a tour guide for the Office of Admissions, a Student Conduct Board member and a brother of Sigma Phi Epsilon, serving as its academic and outreach chair.
Carr is currently serving as vice president of class connections. Outside of SGA, Carr is a member of the Black Student Union, a public relations chair in Black Men Unified (BMU), a student worker at the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI), a member of Rider Democrats and Rider’s Political Science club and on the executive board of 107.7 The Bronc.
“I want to enhance the experience here,” said Carr. “Being involved in all these clubs has given me knowledge as to what I can do to enhance the student experience through the clubs, because they are a big part of what SGA is about.”
Mission as SGA president
Carr and Tufo have varying visions as to what they’d like to accomplish as SGA president in the next school year.
Carr’s plan heavily revolves around implementing more justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) initiatives at Rider, from LGBTQIA+ Safe Zone and disability training, to having resource guides for “cultural identity-based communities,” outlining certain groups and businesses on and around campus to assist students.
“This will be getting local shops in the area, whether it be beauty supply stores, barber shops, places to eat, so we can harvest what we have here,” said Carr.
Carr hopes to charter a NAACP college chapter for Rider during his time as president.
Outside of JEDI initiatives, Carr’s overall hope is to enhance the student experience on campus.
“Students always come first,” said Carr. “It’s the reason why we’re here, it’s the reason why Rider is here.”
When asked what he wanted to be known for personally, Carr stressed his overall mission statement of changing the world.
“I just want to be … known as someone who made a change, and a good change, so just putting my best foot forward and getting things done,” said Carr
Tufo’s main draw as a candidate is his proposed shadowing program for incoming freshmen, allowing them to receive mentoring from current Rider students in their desired field.
“This would be a really great way to get first-year students to be able to experience our sense of community that we have here at Rider,” said Tufo. “This would also be a really new and interesting mentorship opportunity for our current students here on campus as well, to be able to interact with new students from the moment that they step onto campus.”
Along with his shadowing program, Tufo plans to implement a discount program that would give students special offers at local businesses, as well as a biweekly newsletter to improve and encourage communication between SGA and the student body.
“I’m sure all of us have been … finding it, sometimes, a little bit difficult to be able to afford the full college experience here at Rider,” said Tufo. “My goal with that is it’ll still encourage students to be able to explore the outside community off campus, but also kind of keep killing the bank account in that process.”
SGA’s role on campus
Both candidates agreed that the primary goal of SGA is to serve Rider students first and foremost.
Carr described SGA as the “roots on trees,” for its responsibility to the student body.
“We’re rooted, we’re grounded, we’re intertwined,” said Carr. “Whatever affects one of us really affects us all…The role is really to serve students and elevate their voices to talk to administration.”
Tufo expressed a similar sentiment, restating the fact that SGA and the priorities of the president are specifically student oriented, acting as the student body’s “voice,” and the “liaison” between students and administrators that orchestrates change.
“The main priority of SGA is to enhance the student experience on campus, in all different areas,” said Tufo. “It’s really just trying to be that sort of channel that students can go to, and to bring those issues to faculty and to administration. We are sort of the acting voice of the student body in real time.”
Voting for the SGA student body president, executive board members and select board representatives closes on April 12. Votes can be cast on BroncNation or in-person. In-person voting will be held April 6 at 12:30 p.m. at Cranberry’s, April 7 at 11 a.m. in the Student Recreation Center (SRC) and April 12 at 3 p.m. in Daly Dining Hall. Results will be announced on April 13 at 11:15 a.m. at the SGA Senate Meeting held in Sweigart Hall 115.