The debate is over, the campaigns are wrapping up and the first ballots are coming in.
It’s a three-way race between the all-student-senator ticket Kyle Frazier and Rebecca Tanous, commuter students Jordan Miles and Luther Vigneualt and Erin Carlson, who at press time did not have a running mate.
The single presidential debate was held Friday evening, and it gave the candidates the opportunity to get their messages out to the student body.
The vice-presidential role
This year’s election is the first to include the vice president role. The position was created after the 2013 election, and according to current Vice President Marpheen Chann, it has made student government more efficient by allowing him to focus on the government behind the scenes while President Kelsea Dunham acts as a public face for the body.
“Marpheen and I have had an incredibly productive year, and I know that it may not have looked the same without both of us present and working hard,” Dunham said.
All three campaigns for Student Body President were asked about whether they planned to frame the balance of power between the presidential and vice presidential roles in the way Chann outlined.
“We would have a nice balance,” but added, “I don’t think it’d be fair to say that [Tanous] will do all the behind the scenes work,” Frazier said.
Miles made a similar statement about his running mate Vigneault. “I imagine that we would take similar roles,” Miles said in an email, before stressing the importance of both he and Vigneault being an ear to the student body.
The other candidate in this year’s campaign, Carlson, does not yet have a running mate. She confirmed that she had “a shortlist” for the role, though she did not divulge the names of people she is considering. When asked how she was planning on dividing the work between herself and her vice president, she echoed Frazier, saying “I don’t think it’s fair for either of us to take on more, because it’s a shared position.”
“I don’t want a vice president that feels disempowered, because that would suck,” Carlson added.
The candidates on student involvement
Frazier explained that one of his campaign’s top priorities is student empowerment. “Students shouldn’t be afraid of administration,” he said. He used an anecdote about a student who wanted to join Student Senate in order to bring attention to a specific issue.
“It became a concern to me that the only way [the student] felt they had a voice was if they were a Student Senator.” Frazier went on to say that he wanted every student to feel like they had a voice, not just the ones in leadership positions.
Tanous said that she wants to erase negative thinking about USM. “If the students want to have a better university, they can’t just think that they deserve a better university, they have to work for it,” Frazier added. “Not only do the students deserve a better university, [but] the university deserves more passionate students. I think that if I became student body president, I could light a fire under the students and make them more passionate about the university,” he said.
Carlson wanted to get more students involved in the university. “I think that…[there is] a sense of like a lack of ‘Husky Identity’….I want it to be a place that people come out of and are proud of what they’ve done here….and I really think [student] engagement is how that happens.”
Miles said that he would want to be a voice of both commuter and residential students, saying “I think that incoming students are a bit reluctant to join these [student] groups, and…I think that USM really does have a place for everyone. I would like to work with students in order to encourage them to get involved, to enjoy themselves and above all else to enjoy the many opportunities that USM has to offer.”
When asked how to involve freshman, the candidates responded differently. Frazier responded with a personal anecdote, saying that he didn’t enjoy the university until he started getting involved in various student groups and events. Miles said in an email that he wanted to work with all student groups to create a more “welcoming” environment to new students. Carlson agreed that involving all students, not just freshman or other incoming students, is a priority.
“When people are invested in their communities, those communities are stronger and those communities can do better things,” Carlson said, before lamenting that most students aren’t involved in university life.
Carlson told the Free Press she is positioning herself as the “alternative” candidate in this year’s election –– she is the only female, nontraditional student and, she added, the only one candidate who is not a member of the Republican Party.
As Greek Life has come under scrutiny following the events at Sigma Nu fraternity house in Gorham some months ago, the candidates were asked about Greek Life in general, and administration overview of Greek Life during one-on-one interviews with the Free Press and again at Friday’s debate.
Frazier, who is a brother with Phi Mu Delta, said “I think the first step to having more control over Greek Life for the university is to give more support to Greek Life.”
Miles refused to comment on the events at Sigma Nu, but reaffirmed his support for Greek Life during Friday evening’s debate.
Carlson said that what happened at Sigma Nu is “a tragedy” and she wished that more people would be able to get help prior to taking dire action. During the debate, when asked about Greek Life, she said “It’s very important to find a place where you belong…encouraging a sense of pride, encouraging a sense of purpose.”
Each candidate used different experience to elaborate why they thought they were the best choice. Frazier and Tanous cited their experience working together in student government, and their connections within student government and the administration. Jordan Miles responded by writing “I have been working full time since I was 16 years old. I am putting myself through college, and so is Luther. I think that dedication, willingness to work, and the desire to be a voice for the entire student population is the most important thing that someone can have in running.” Carlson cited her work with the Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity and her work organizing several events and workshops on campus.
During the debate, each candidate reiterated their pride in the university, and their hope to see more students involved in the university’s many events and organizations.
Polls opened for elections on Monday, March 17 at 8 a.m., and close on Thursday, March 20, at 11:59 p.m.