Student Senate candidates speak at open forum
Sara Tiradossi / Winonan
Students were able to hear from their possible representatives at the candidate forums hosted by Winona State University on Monday, March 27. Nine students running for three different Student Senate positions for the 2017-2018 academic year spoke to the Winona State community.
Each candidate had one minute to give their own opening remark, explaining the reason why they would be the best candidate for the position. Following the personal statements, the candidates responded to three questions about the position.
Among the candidates, some of the topics often brought up were the increase of communication and engagement between students and student senate.
Sophomore Christina Melecio, junior Nick Gabriele and sophomore Remington Schmidt are running for the treasurer position.
Gabriele said he is involved on campus with various organizations, whereas sophomore Schmidt said he was born and raised in Winona and has a great understanding of the community. Melecio is a triple major and said she is already involved with Student Senate and wishes to take a step further.
In regards to maintaining the budget, Schmidt said he would do his best to keep the budget in balance and ensure a successful future of the senate’s finances.
Melecio said she would collaboratively work with the committee members to solve problems the treasurer might face, whereas Gabriele explained the main function of the treasurer is to let the committee and students know how much money the senate has and should be spending.
“We need to keep in mind we can’t spend all the money we have but keep track of our funds,” Gabriele said.
As they were answering Student Senate Vice President Chris Veeder’s questions, something
the three candidates each stressed was changing
and increasing students’ involvement on decisions the senate takes.
“I would try to get more input from students, be the voice for them and better understand their needs,” Melecio said.
Gabriele talked about the importance of transparency between the student body and Student Senate, and listening to every club’s needs.
Schmidt agreed the treasurer has to promote transparency, talk to different students and explain to them where the money is going.
Schmidt also said the treasurer needs to encourage more students to attend the meetings and have a representative of each club to talk and expose their requests to increase engagement
between students and the senate. Melecio suggested exposing the minutes from each meeting to all students and let them know they can ask them questions and engage with senators at any time.
One of the issues discussed by students in attendance was time management.
Gabriele said he understands the treasurer position is time committing, and he will devote most of his time to the senate if he gets elected. Schmidt said he is an excellent organizer, and Melecio said she would take less credits and make the position her priority.
Following Gabriele, Schmidt and Melecio, students Chris Latzig, Megan Grochowski and Mason Moran sat on the Smaug stage and explained why they would be the best fit for the vice president position.
Latzig, a sophomore, said as a vice president, he would be personal, honest, prepared, grateful and reliable if he gets elected.
Grochowski, a junior, said she is very involved with clubs and organizations and would increase student engagement.
“I have great expectations for the future of our university,” she said.
Moran, a junior, said it is important Student Senate remains accessible because the decisions senators make will impact a lot of people. In a vice president position, he said he will make sure people can speak to him in judgment-free zones.
“We are meant to learn here and senate is a facilitator of that learning,” Moran said.
After the personal statement, the candidates were asked about projects they would consider implementing if they won the position for the next academic year.
Maron said he would be interested in two major initiatives. He said he would get individual students involved in the enrollment process and set up forums to create a more thriving campus.
Both Latzig and Grochowski agreed they would increase students’ engagement and show them what is happening on campus.
“We need to push social media platforms to expose the information we discuss at the meetings,” Grochowski said.
She also suggested implementing an athletic seat on the student senate to get an extra opinion on the table.
The candidates were also asked to talk about their proudest accomplishment and their greatest regret.
As a current student senator, Latzig said he was proud to vote against the Chick-Fil-A motion, which created the controversy on campus last month over the possible addition of the fast food chicken chain.
Grochowski said she was proud to vote in favor of the same motion after she carefully considered both sides of the argument.
Maron said he considers rejecting a money request from a club one of his proudest moments because the money would have been taken from the students activities fund.
The last three candidates to talk were Ben Reimler, Ivy Kuhn and Elijah Norris-Holiday, who are running for president.
Kuhn, a junior, was the first one to give her personal statement and said she is the most experienced candidate for the position because she has been involved in the senate for two years.
“My goal as a president is to increase transparency between student groups and Student Senate to provide the best experience on campus,” Kuhn said.
Norris-Holiday, a junior, said he is involved on campus as well and has done a lot of advocacy work to have students’ voices heard.
Reimler, also a junior, said he has been a senator for a year, and he has a lot of ideas to implement to improve our university.
As far as leadership capabilities, Norris-Holiday said he has a lot of experience with leadership roles and understands the importance of approaching every issue by putting into practive what he said he will do.
Reimler said he has done a lot of projects as a leader and is currently working to improve the communication between the senate and students and possibly assign new seats in the senate for clubs representatives.
Kuhn said from her experience as a former resident assistant, she was able to better understand how to retain students, and working with Students United allowed her to gain a better knowledge on how to make a change on a system and university level.
All three senators recognized a big part of being president consists of establishing a dialogue with students, talking together to come up with new ideas and understanding their points of view.
“Let me know what time works best for you, and I can come to your club organization to help out,” Norris-Holiday said.
For their last question, the candidates gave their opinion on how they would bring students together at challenging times.
Reimler said he would communicate with students and establish a conversation to raise the level of respect with them.
Kuhn said although it may be hard to unify the campus, it is important to listen to the different perspectives on an issue and be as transparent as possible.
Lastly, Norris-Holiday said the senate should establish more open forums, discussions around controversial topics to make sure everyone is being fully respected.
“You have to be an effective communicator to make the best decisions,” Norris-Holiday said.
By Sara Tiradossi