Student body president incumbent facing difficult opponent

Posted on March 11, 2012 in News
By Paul Koenig

Student Body President Chris Camire (above) faces a challenge from TJ Wiliams, who brings with him several years' experience in student government.
Chelsea Ellis
Student Body President Chris Camire (above) faces a challenge from TJ Wiliams, who brings with him several years' experience in student government.

If re-elected, Chris Camire will be the first student body president to serve more than one year. In fact, it’s the first time a student body president has even gotten a shot at re-election since they’re always been seniors. 

But Camire, a sophomore, will face a formidable foe during the Student Government Association elections March 19-22. TJ Williams, former Student Senate chair and now BSO chair, announced his candidacy at the end of February.

Camire and Williams, both majoring in technology management and minoring in business administration, have been fixtures on the student leadership stage throughout their academic careers. Camire was a student senator his freshman year before being elected student body president for this year, and Williams has been a student senator, president of Circle K — a community service and leadership group at USM, and helped bring Relay For Life to USM. He became the president of the Board of Student Organizations this semester.

Both are refounding brothers of the Kappa Delta Phi fraternity chapter at USM.

Camire, a 2010 graduate of Edward Little High School, said he’ll try to accomplish three goals if re-elected: improve community, improve parking and improve the quality of the physical campuses.

Williams said he’s met a lot of students who aren’t sure how to get involved, something he said he would like to change. He wants students to find the groups and outlets for them to express themselves. Williams helped the Queer Straight Alliance draft their constitution and has worked with the Safe Zone Project, a program that identifies and supports university community members who are safe and supportive contacts for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgenders, questioning and queer students, staff and faculty.

Both candidates spoke of the need for stronger community at USM.

“USM is falling apart,” said Camire. “And it’s been slowly getting worse and worse.” With many student groups scattered across the university, Camire said there needs to be greater teamwork between different entities. He would like as many active student leaders and community members to collaborate as possible.

“What really needs to happen is some sort of big inspiration where we all come together in one place at one time and realize, ‘Oh this is actually a pretty cool place. This is why I’m going to school here,’” Camire said. “Some people have realized that and some people haven’t yet.”

Williams, who graduated from Mountain Valley High School in 2008, said he’s been working closely with multicultural students and veterans recently to ensure they’re getting the support they need to accomplish their objects.

“I know the student body president position does a lot with administration, but — working with students — I feel that I’m a face a lot of people know,” Williams said. “They feel comfortable coming to talk to me.”

This semester Williams has also been working on the initiative to bring health services back to Portland. It’s been an important issue for some commuters who say it’s a hassle traveling to Gorham for the services.

Often student body presidents face challenges navigating the administration-level bureaucracy when they first take office. They sit on multiple committees with administration and are often the link from administrators to students, Camire said. He said he thinks already having a year under his belt will better prepare him for accomplishing more if elected for a second term.

Williams acknowledged this could be one of his own challenges. “I think one of the hurdles for me is there is that learning curve for incoming student body president,” he said. “Although I feel I have a little bit of an advantage because I’ve been in student government, and I’ve worked with administration before.

Camire said many students can agree on what they want — better parking, better facilities — but his biggest challenge will be engaging USM students, who have a tradition of lackluster involvement, to reach these goals.

“People are here to get out of here. And that’s really sad because people should be enjoying their college experience, and I want to help that be accomplished,” Camire said.

Williams is the only student to fill out the application to run for student body president, although the deadline isn’t until the end of the day on March 16. Applications are also due then for student senators.

Elections run the week of March 19-22. For more info visit: http://usm.maine.edu/studentlife/vote