Daily Egyptian

Three students vie for USG presidency

By Austin Miller, @AMiller_DE

Less than 20 percent of students voted during the last few Undergraduate Student Government elections, but with three candidates running this year, the council hopes that will change.

A debate Wednesday will give students the chance to hear the positions of the three USG presidential candidates and three SIU Board of Trustees student trustee candidates. The student trustee debate will kick it off at 6 p.m. in rooms 150 and 160 in the Student Services Building. 

The USG debate will follow shortly after, said USG Election Commissioner, Mershon Caissie. Each candidate provided two questions for the debate and will take a few questions from students in participation. 

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Caissie, a senior studying agriculture business from Paxton, said student turnout must improve for students to be well represented as issues concerning student healthcare and the vacant chancellor position are resolved.

She said state funding also makes this election particularly important.

“With everything going on with budget cuts in the state of Illinois, we definitely need someone that’s on the student’s side,” said Caissie who also serves on the Student Trustee Election Committee. “Someone who can spread our voices and how we feel to the Board of Trustees and on campus.”

Voting begins 6 a.m. Tuesday and ends at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Votes for the student trustee on the SIU Board of Trustees occur at the same time. 

The USG president will begin his or her term after current president Cameron Shulak’s term ends on the last Friday of the spring semester.

Look for biographies of the three candidates for student trustee in future editions of the Daily Egyptian.

Below are the three USG candidate’s responses to eight questions concerning students and campus. 

Note: The question relating to the student senate pertains to a proposed measure that would increase the number of senators, giving each college two representatives, Greek Life four and various groups within the Center for Inclusive Excellence an undecided amount.

Kevin Gettis, a junior from Belleville studying history.

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What topics do you want to bring attention to?

He said it is his goal to be more transparent with the student body.

“We want to do more events to let students know who we are and give them the opportunity to see us more and actually put faces to names.”

What would you like to change?

He said there is a lack of understanding and respect for the position among senators. He said there should be greater qualifications and expectations of candidates and they should go to chairmen of the college they represent to explain how they are being represented.

“Now you can just get 50 signatures and become a senator for whatever college you want to represent. I want to give them more of a platform to prove their qualifications to be a senator.”

Why should students care about USG?

Gettis said a man recently told him USG was just a suggestion box for students and he disagrees.

“USG is the beating heart of the campus and the student body. It is more important than students realize.”

Why should students vote for you?

He said he was once a student who knew nothing about USG, but found how important it was after going to a meeting.

“Come sit down and talk to us. We can inform every student on campus, but we have to be willing to sit down at the table with the students and give them the opportunity to sit with us.”

What will you do for undergrads?

He said he wants to help give all of the smaller Registered Student Organizations similar amounts of funding as the larger ones.

”It’s hard for small RSOs to get students interested and to throw events if they don’t get the adequate funding a large RSO would.”

What is your opinion on the 6 percent tuition increase proposal by President Randy Dunn?

He said the tuition increase makes sense to the administration, but everyday students do not see it as necessary.

“I’m trying to represent the everyday student, and a 6 percent increase may not seem that enormous to most people, but it largely affects all of us.”

How do you feel about the changes to student senator selection?

He said the proposal would increase 44 members to 55, which he likes to an extent.

How can students make SIU better?

He said students could make the campus better by becoming more engaged behind the scenes to work with USG.

“If students knew what happens behind the scenes, they would appreciate the events and everything RSOs do for the campus. [They should] know more of the process, instead of the parties.”

Emma Rannebarger, a junior from Champaign studying psychology and political science. (answered via email)

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What topics do you want to bring attention to?

“I would especially like to bring attention to the amount of student involvement on this campus. It is a very diverse university with an enormous amount of opportunity for everyone to be a part of an organization and do their part to feel more connected to the administration and their peers.”

What would you like to change?
“​I would love to see improvement in the way USG communicates with the students. I think we could do a much better job of reaching out not only to get students involved in USG, but just hearing from our undergraduates as a whole. They have concerns that are not being addressed, and I would hate to learn that someone went all four years at this university without ever feeling heard or like they made a difference.”

Why should students care about USG?

​”Students should care about USG because the decisions we make affect everyone on campus. We are responsible for all the student organization money that gets distributed among RSO’s. USG also acts as the middle man between the student body and the administration. Part of our job as senators is to complete a constituent report. We listen to everyone’s concerns on campus, and then we can take those concerns to the senate and use our power to make the change for students who might not know where to turn with their issue about campus life.” 

Why should students vote for you?

“I am passionate, young, and motivated. I have only been in the senate for a little over a month, but at my second official senate meeting I was nominated as the chair for the Internal Affairs Committee, which is a huge accomplishment for a new senator. I see myself as an integral part of USG already, and I would love to take my ideas to the next level. It will be a learning process for me, but if I’m voted into office I can promise you that I will tackle every challenge with enthusiasm and dedication.”

What will you do for undergrads?

“As president, I will always make the time to listen to my constituents’ comments and concerns. I want student input. I want USG to be more inclusive and to value outside perspectives as much as they take into consideration the senators’ comments and concerns.” 

What is your opinion on the 6 percent tuition increase proposal by President Randy Dunn?

“As a student, I am upset by it. It’s so hard for all of us to afford college already, and six percent is quite a large jump. As a member of USG, though, I understand why President Dunn had to take this step. The budget cuts that are proposed by Gov. Bruce Rauner will affect all state institutions badly, and he is taking preemptive measures to make sure that all our services will still be offered. But it is still really difficult to look at the numbers and realize that we will all have to pay that amount in the fall.” 

How do you feel about the changes to student senator selection?

“​I think that a restructuring of the senate is necessary. The old way of senator selection is not efficient anymore, and changes needed to be made. I agree with the current executives that having senators selected by their departments is a great way to make sure that the senators are doing their job and keeping in contact with their constituents. I think this is something the exec board feels very strongly about, but we really won’t know if this is going to be the best way to run USG until it is put into place next semester, if the bill passes.”

How can students make SIU better?

“​Getting involved on campus is a great way to improve the school. It keeps you connected and motivated and reminds you why you chose to come here. Care about what’s going on in your major, in your department, on your campus. Talk to administrators, come to USG meetings, express your concerns. As a member of student government, I am really interested in what you have to say, and I want to hear from you in order to make the changes to make your experience as a student even better.” 

Desmon Walker, a junior from Champaign studying finance.

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What topics do you want to bring attention to?

Walker said a lot of students have made it known they are not in favor of the parking situation. He said students are still getting tickets if they are at USG events in the evening, even though they should be allowed to park.

“According to the university, it isn’t a new policy, but they have hired new parking staff for the night time. They are still ticketing throughout the night, even though there are no night classes after a certain time.”

He said he would also like to restructure the RSO funding guidelines for USG. Now, RSOs must ask for finances six months in advance, at a maximum of $5,000 per semester.

What would you like to change?

He said he wants to make it easier for RSOs to hold events and to save time for USG.

“There’s a lot of money to be responsible for and a lot of organizations who come to us asking for that money.”

Why should students care about USG?

He said USG serves as a liaison between students and administration, so it is up to USG participants to tell faculty how students feel.

“We not have a direct say-so on any policies, like tuition, we still have the opportunity to make it known what our stance is.”

Why should students vote for you?

He said he does not want popularity or recognition to earn votes. Instead his experience as a three-year member of USG and current role as vice president should speak for him.

“Our motto is ‘Serving the student body past, present and future.’ I feel like that speaks for itself with the experience I’ve had.”

What will you do for undergrads?

He said he wants to provide more programs and transparency for USG. He would like to go to RSO events to see how they are operating and show appreciation.

“We’re not just providing this money and forgetting about you, we want to see what this money is going to.”

What is your opinion on the 6 percent tuition increase proposal by President Randy Dunn?

Tuition is a very complicated issue, Walker said. Nobody wants to increase it and there is no one person to blame for it.

“My job, as a leader, is to make sure if tuition increases, there will be a direct result from it.”

How do you feel about the changes to student senator selection?

He said the changes would give representation to some groups that have not had those opportunities like students with disabilities and those in Greek life.

How can students make SIU better?

Being “Saluki Proud” and going to events help make the campus better, Walker said. If students feel strongly about the university, the administration should hear them.

“At the end of the day, as much power as administration has, there is no power greater than the student body.”

 Austin Miller can be reached at [email protected]

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