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CU Student Government’s spring elections for student-body executives and representatives in the 81st Legislative Council opened on Monday to freshly chalked sidewalks, “vote” buttons and, for the first time, physical polling stations.
At a debate ahead of this week’s elections, candidates on all three major tickets promised some form of increased campus engagement.
The debate among students vying for CU’s tri-executive and representative-at-large positions have in recent years focused on lowering tuition, managing student fees or providing new resources to students in Boulder – all subjects that have in some way been absolved of controversy this school year.
This year, each of the “parties” – Unite, Inspire and Movement – argued a way for student government to market resources already paid for and available on campus when they discussed student fees on Wednesday, April 2 in the Visual Arts Complex auditorium.
At debate, candidates pledge increased presence
Members of Unite, the incumbent party, leaned heavily on the achievements of this year’s officers in their appeal to the debate audience of roughly 40 students.
Katie Raitz, a junior running for representative-at-large on the Unite ticket, said student fees foster the growth of communities on campus.
“We’re not interested in lowering or increasing them, but using them as effectively as possible,” Raitz said. “Like they did this year.”
She later called attention to a new outreach program led by Unite.
“We have started an initiative where we’re giving out food and water to drunk people on the Hill so they’re partying more safe,” Raitz said.
Will Silkman, a junior on the Inspire tri-executive ticket, was one of numerous candidates to note the ease with which student government handled this year’s budget cycle. Under a new Chancellor’s Protocol enacted almost a year ago, Legislative Council, the congressional branch of CUSG, was not allowed to distribute more money in student fees than was recommended in Finance Board’s proposal. On March 6, Legislative Council finalized the budgets of some resource centers in less than two minutes.
Lora Roberts, a junior on the Unite tri-executive ticket, said pre-planning and networking on the part of the sitting Unite tri-executives led to the speedy budget process. Inspire’s Silkman said Finance Board made the major budgetary decisions and the protocol left little discussion to be had in Legislative Council.
Ashley Prince, a junior on the Inspire tri-executive ticket, said her party is dedicated to revamping the protocol to give Legislative Council more power and leeway to decide the distribution of student fees. Silkman cited his two years of experience and current vice-chair position on Finance Board before he said he could trim student fees by addressing a CUSG savings account overflowing by nearly $1 million.
Silkman said funds surpassing the $1 million cap on CU’s Supplemental Operational Reserve, which totaled almost $2 million this year, are required in student government bylaws to be spent on campus equipment or released back to the students.
If elected, Silkman said he would prioritize redistributing the account funds and buy down student fees in the next year or two.
“If you read the bylaws, there’s a way to lower our student fees right away,” Silkman said of the amassing SOR funds.
Throughout the rest of the debate, candidates focused more on the transparency of student fees than reducing them.
In a poll that Movement tri-executive candidate Olivia Leyshock said was distributed on a person-to-person basis by an “extremely diverse” group of candidates on the ticket, 85 percent of respondents said CUSG does not do an effective job letting students know what is done with student fee dollars.
Brianna Majewski, a junior on the Movement tri-executive ticket, said the key to providing fair, adequate services to students is messaging that plainly states what resources are available.
“If we get the word out to the students and they understand that they have these services at their beck and call already paid for, and they can use these, that is the goal,” Majewski said. “I think that, if we do that, then they will see that their money is going to good use.”
Ryan Langhorst, a junior on the Movement tri-executive ticket, said Movement would prioritize educating students on the events and tools funded by student fees.
“We have to make sure that all students take advantage of these resources,” Langhorst said
Juedon Kebede, a junior on the Unite tri-executive ticket, touted a point on the party’s stated platform aimed at empowering resource centers to engage in long-term planning.
With a new party in office nearly every year deciding the budgets of major resource centers such as the University Memorial Center and Rec Center, “it’s really hard to plan out the following year,” said Kebede, current president of CUSG Legislative Council.
Unite’s Lora Roberts, twin to current tri-executive Ellie Roberts, said supporting resource centers is an important step in supporting students.
“We need to be at their events; we need to be at their joint board meetings; we need to be there to be successful,” Roberts said. “We have shown that this year by increasing our presence.”
Lindsey Buxman, Inspire candidate for representative-at-large, said increasing campus engagement can start by making a master-calendar of student group activities.
“Inspire wants to make sure the calendar plainly shows meeting times and places so it’s as easy as possible for students to get involved,” Buxman said.
Buxman said Inspire would hire a student involvement coordinator to increase communication between groups, SOFO and students.
Asher Vandevort, a junior and candidate for representative-at-large on the Movement ticket, said he has experience working on a mobile application that would aggregate information on student groups that individual users may enjoy. Vandevort, a member of Finance Board this year, helped compose the 2014-2015 budget proposal and said it was a cautious and prudent process.
“Out of anything that I pay to CU, student fee dollars are the most deliberately decided-on component of that,” Vandevort said.
Vandevort said that he is running for office on fee and tuition transparency to let students know how the numbers on their bills are arrived at and why, as of now, they’re reasonable.
Below are candidates for the two races in which every person on campus can cast a vote. For a complete list of candidates, including races specific to Arts and Sciences and Engineering schools, visit CU Student Government’s newly updated website.
Click on names for candidates’ self-submitted biographies.
Candidates for Tri-Executive Student Body President:
Candidates for Representative-at-Large (four open seats up for election):
How to vote
Votes can only be cast by current CU Boulder students on MyCUInfo.
CU Student Government set up polling places inside Wolf Law, Norlin Library, Duane Physics and the UMC where students can cast votes using university computers and with the help of student government officials. It is the first year the stations have been used under a new elections law enacted last month.
Once logged into MyCUInfo, click on “Go Vote” on the right-hand side of the page. The website will redirect to eBallot. An electronic ballot will open after the green “Start” button is clicked. Candidate biographies can be found on the ballot by clicking “Details” on the right-hand side of the page. Verification of selections is required before a ballot can be cast. Submission may take a minute.
Contact CU Independent Breaking News Editor Alison Noon at Alison.firstname.lastname@example.org.