SGA candidates hold debate

Written By Sarah Gibson, SGA Beat Writer

This past Wednesday, the Student Government Association (SGA) of Point Park University hosted its very first virtual debate just before voting opened for the presidential election. Alex Popichak, Point Park alumnus and producer at Erie News Now, hosted the debates over Zoom, which were then live streamed on YouTube for students to access. 

Vice President Grace Tyler Frank-Rempel’s opening statement was characterized by a want to improve Point Park.

“I am running for president because I want to be at a school I can be proud to call my own…and at the moment, I don’t feel as if I can say that with any pride,” she said.

Senator Dennis McDermott, who was running against Frank-Rempel for the presidential position, noted several times throughout the debate that a big issue he was planning on working with and advocating for in the coming year would be food insecurity, which according to a 2018 study from the University of Pittsburgh, is an issue that affects a large amount of Point Park students. 

For President Pro Tempore Bryce Hayzlett, a candidate for vice president, a goal that SGA needs to work on is communication with the student body and using that in tandem with the student government to create change.

“I believe with the right guidance, we’d be able to create a lot of positive change around campus,” Hayzeltt said. “I also believe we need to work harder on making sure that our communication with students is stronger.”

Recording Secretary Jordyn Hronec noted that communication wasn’t just a problem for SGA, but for Point Park as a whole, citing their handling of the COVID-19 crisis as evidence of this.

“I think that Point Park needs to be more forthcoming in their communication from the get go…but they also need to stop worrying about PR when there are genuine student concerns to be answered.” she said.  

One of the final questions during the debate regarded the return to in-person classes following this current online semester and SGA’s role in this return. Vice President Frank-Rempel suggested that SGA, along with the school’s other clubs, focus on the freshmen.

“I think it’s important for SGA as a whole to allow clubs and to push clubs to continue to do events because, although their events have been cut short this semester, it’s important for them to engage with students, especially with students who will be coming in as freshmen who maybe got their senior years cut and don’t know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing next year…it’s gonna be a rocky transition, because no one knows exactly how we’re going to be doing things, if things are going to change, are we going to be able to have events? But make sure that laws permitting and rules permitting that we are able to do as much as possible to engage with people,” she said.

For more information on the candidates’ stances, a recording of the virtual debate can be found at

Following the debate, SGA president Jake Berlin made several tweets endorsing Grace Tyler Frank-Rempel and Jordyn Hronec for president and vice president. One of these tweets regarded how important diversity and inclusivity was in a president. This tweet caught the attention of McDermott. 

Berlin’s tweet read:

“This is a very important moment in history for PPU, specifically in COPA. Diversity and inclusivity discussions are going to shape the future of our campus. @GTFRforPres is a Jewish woman from the LGBTQ+ community, and frankly, I trust her to lead us more than a straight white man.”

McDermott made a Twitter thread of his own to respond, and in this thread, noted that while he is an atheist white male, he is not straight.  McDermott’s tweet read

“Yes, I’m an athiest white male, but as some of my close friends know, I’ve debated and struggled with my sexuality for a while, and thought this is the last place I’d like to come out, I am in fact bisexual, but I don’t think this matters.”

In a statement to The Globe, McDermott noted that Jake Berlin reached out to him after the tweet was sent and offered to delete the tweet, but, in McDermott’s words, “what’s done is done.”

McDermott stated that while he does not endorse the concept of a president endorsing a candidate, and assured that if he were elected, he would not do the same, he wanted to highlight that Frank-Rempel had been incredibly amicable throughout the entire election process. In an interview with Berlin, he argued that he felt like he had every right to endorse a candidate, as President Obama did for Hillary Clinton while he was still in office.

Voting took place right after the debates, starting at midnight on Thursday, April 2nd through Friday, April 3rd. 

According to an email sent out to President Pro Tempore Bryce Hayzlett from Dean Michael Gieseke, results for the election can be expected Monday, April 13. Gieseke also mentioned in his email to Hayzlett that voter turnout for this election had been larger than most years prior.