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Student Government Association presidential candidates went head-to-head, answering an array of questions at a debate moderated by the Tropolitan on Monday night.
Olivia Melton and Patrick Rodgers both brought their political best, defending their platforms, responding to student queries and questioning each other’s goals.
When asked what they considered to be their greatest accomplishment in SGA, Melton said that under her role as director of representation, voter turnout was increased by 37 percent. She also mentioned the establishment of homecoming philanthropy, allowing incumbent Homecoming Queen Shelby Scott to donate $500 to charity.
Rodgers said that his homecoming survey allowed him to implement what the students wanted for the annual celebration, including more events and less emphasis on homecoming floats.
Melton and Rodgers were then asked what one thing they would change about Troy University, which resulted in a rebuttal from both sides.
“There’s one area that I really think we need to change, and that’s our focus on retention rates,” Melton said. “Our retention rates are really, really bad compared to other schools.
“At Alabama and Auburn, rates are in the high 80s, 90s — we’re at the 70 percentile.”
Melton suggested a required survey for students who choose to leave Troy in order to find out why students are leaving and solve that problem.
Before giving his answer to the question, Rodgers challenged Melton’s answer, saying that while both Alabama and Auburn have high retention rates, their popular football programs likely play a role in those rates.
He then followed by saying that Troy’s retention rates are at 71 percent, which is higher than the national average.
“I do think there are more things we need to focus on, specifically catered to our students, like parking, dining hours, library hours, facility renovations, and mental health,” Rodgers said.
Before answering a separate question, Melton countered Rodgers’s football program theory by citing a survey, which said that Alabama and Auburn’s retention rates are not affected by football performance or alumni donations.
When asked how they would change the currently unused spaces on campus, Melton said that while some spaces are currently being renovated, the issue of limited library hours could be countered by leaving classrooms in the MSCX and Patterson Hall open late for students to study in them.
Rodgers said that although the library has added four new study rooms, upstairs Trojan Center could be renovated to accommodate more study and gathering areas for students as well.
The candidates were later asked questions more specific to their platforms. Rodgers began by answering why he thought a Troy Transit app would be successful since the Corq app failed.
“I believe it will be successful because parking is a main complaint that the students have,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers explained that the app would allow students to view a live feed of the Troy transit system and find out bus routes and times on demand.
Rodgers said that the startup cost for this app would be about $10,000, which he believes that the university will be willing to pay due to the demand for parking.
Melton was asked how she plans to hold the administration accountable to discuss the concerns and voices of the student body, as she said she would do during the TrojanVision debate last week.
Melton said that the best way to approach the university administration is with a businesslike strategy.
“You have to have done your research, you have to have collected the data, and show them exactly what is happening, and the correlation that is going on within these certain points,” Melton said.
Melton also discussed her plans to make SGA more transparent and less ceremonial, and that she is not in this race for the photo ops or to “shake hands.”
Rodgers said that he wants to see an increase in student attendance at athletic events and wants to end the “suitcase-school” label that Troy is often associated with.