The Volunteer Channel, UT's student television station, will host UT's first ever live SGA debate Tuesday at 8 p.m. in the Baker Center's Toyota Auditorium, broadcasting on campus cable channel 12.
The debate will feature discussion between all three SGA parties: Amplify, Engage and Baker-Atchley. Each president, vice president and student services director candidate will have the chance to converse with the other contenders in the category. The format also allows for students and UT media outlets to ask questions of the nominees concerning issues the student body cares about.
Kelsey Keny, producer of TVC News, is one of the people who collaborated to make the event possible. Her enthusiasm for the event and what it stands for has been a driving force in the debate coming together.
"I am so excited," Keny, a sophomore in journalism and electronic media, said. "TVC has done televised debates in the past, but they didn't really reach that many people. It wasn't benefitting anyone because no one was really getting to interact with the candidates and hear what they have to say."
The event will stream live at www.utdailybeacon.com as well as on the TVC website, where it will also be posted afterward for students to watch. One of their goals is for students to be as informed as possible when going in to vote on Wednesday.
"When we were developing the format and the questions, we asked ourselves, 'If I were a student who didn't know anything about SGA or campaigns, what would help me make that decision? What would I need to see or hear?'" Keny said. "We would want to hear what they stand for and offer to the student body as well as check their credibility to see if they can follow through with their promises."
Lindsay Lee, the presidential candidate from Amplify, hopes the debate will educate students and encourage them to care about issues that SGA can help with.
"There is a crisis of apathy when it comes to SGA, demonstrated by the extremely low voter turnouts in the past," Lee, a junior in mathematics, said. "Only about 10 percent of students voted in the campaign last year, and that was the highest it had been in a while. This event will definitely help take SGA out of the Shiloh Room of the UC and actually into the lives of the students it is supposed to serve."
“My fingers are crossed that students will come and want to be here,” Keny said. “If one student comes and this helps them make an informed decision on who to vote for, then it has been worth it to me.”
Christian Powers, presidential candidate for Engage, stressed the importance this debate will have in giving students a look into how SGA actually works and what it can do for them.
“The previous debates limited the transparency and accessibility of SGA,” Powers, a junior in architecture, said. “Now we can actually be out in the community and tell people about what we can provide.”
Most importantly for Keny is the way this live debate will urge candidates to address student concerns and to answer questions on their feet.
“Candidates have been giving the same campaign spiels for a month now,” Keny said. “We didn’t want it to be the same thing. They will have the opportunity to answer questions and respond and talk with the other parties.
“It will be a real debate, not little rehearsed answers, because that doesn’t show anyone’s credibility at the end of the day.”
Because this is the first time a live SGA debate has occurred, TVC is unsure how big the turnout will be. However, Keny hopes the event will set a precedent for future years as a way to inform students and give them a greater voice.