Weber State University’s Student Association provided the opportunity for students to attend the Student Body President debate via Zoom on March 1. Candidates were asked five questions regarding their candidacy and the vision of their office by Makenna Dillingham of the Walker Institute before attendees also asked their questions.

Student Body President candidates debated on March 1 ahead of the election.
Student Body President candidates debated on March 1 ahead of the election. Photo credit: WSUSA

Currently, there are three Weber State University students running for the position of student body president. The three students are current Student Body President Ben Ferney, current Student Body Vice President of Leadership Hannah Olsen and WSU economics major Shane Weaver.

Elections ended at noon on March 4. The winners will be announced March 5.

The debate centered around timely topics, such as COVID-19 and what that means for a the current school year at WSU. In addition to addressing how a student body president’s office should operate now due to COVID, more traditional topics were brought up in the debate as well. Each candidate focused on the role of student body president, what actions and responsibilities the position brings and how they would operate if they are elected.

Dillingham asked each candidate, in no specific order, the same question, ensuring that each candidate had a chance to answer.

To kick off the debate, Dillingham asked, “What would you say is the key to effective leadership as the president of Weber State University’s Student Association?”

All of the candidates were respectful in their responses, and each candidate had a unique personal take on this rather general question.

Olsen focused on stability and student outreach, open communication and dedication to WSU as a higher educational institution.

“The past year it feels like there’s a lot of cancellations or another thing we were hopeful for that’s not going to be able to happen, so I really think next year we need stability,” Olsen said.

Weaver focused on having a plan, being able to recognize errors and growing from admitting faults and taking criticism with humility.

“Anyone who wants this position must be ready to be called a failure even when they did everything right,” Weaver said.

Ferney, WSU’s current student body president, spoke about some of the ways that he has reached out to the student body in the past, such as “Feedback with Ferney” and “A Bagel on Ben.”

“The phrase ‘people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care’ really comes to mind when I think of effective leadership,” Ferney said.

Some of the other questions asked were what their first 100 days in office would look like if they were elected president, how they will spend their summers preparing for their role as president and what they thought the WSU student body’s current biggest challenge is.

“In response to students’ challenges,” Ferney said, “if I had to use one word, I’d say ‘connection,’ and not only now with the extra struggles of COVID-19, but always.”

Olsen focused more on providing an open door of communication with student leaders and the student body, including marketing WSUSA to the student body.

“I’ll admit we lose contact with some students,” said Olsen. “I have no idea what that would be like to only come to campus just to go to class, and I want to make sure we need to talk to those students and say, ‘Hey, what is something that will get you to not just go home after class?” and if they say, “Free food and a T-shirt,” we’ll do that. The biggest issue is involvement and connection.”

While Weaver took a different approach than his opponents, stating that neither connection or involvement is the biggest problem at WSU; instead, he believes it’s graduation rates and the increase of educational improvements of the students’ experience.

“The biggest issue right now is that the Student Association and Weber State is failing our friends,” Weaver said. “Right now, our school’s college retention and graduation rate is falling by over 10% of the national average, more than one-third of full-time and more than one half of part-time students do not finish their degree. Our problem is momentum,” Weaver said.

While many different issues were approached in different ways by the three candidates, one thing common in all of them is their dedication to the successes of WSU and its student body.

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