SGA candidates discuss their platforms and ideas in election debate 

On Feb. 27, SGA election candidates running for positions in both the legislative and executive branches took part in a debate in which they answered questions to highlight their platforms. 

UCCSLead and Chancellor’s Leadership Class Coordinator Cody Parish moderated the event, which was divided into two segments. One segment involved a debate between the two presidential and vice-presidential candidates on the ballot, and the second segment dedicated time for opposing senate candidates to answer questions. 

Presidential ticket debate 

Presidential candidate Taylor Vallance and vice-presidential candidate Isabella Polombo are running against SGA’s current president and vice president Axel Brown and Aidan Clark. 

Polombo discussed the lack of transparency surrounding financial issues in her side’s opening statement. She explained that UCCS’ administration has had to increase students’ fees due to rising issues like inflation, but that they have not adequately explained the reason for the increase to the student body. 

To combat these issues, Vallance and Polombo will focus on three areas: advocacy, inclusivity and transparency.  

 “Taylor and I are here tonight as student leaders on this campus because we see many gaps and holes that need to be filled. And tonight, we stand before you to advocate for those fears, to include you in the conversation and to be transparent on everything that you need,” Polombo said.  

Brown began the opening statement for his side by explaining why he and Clark work well together. 

“Aidan and I are very different; however, these differences are part of what make us a great team. They allow us to understand different student perspectives and combine them to create meaningful solutions,” Brown said. 

Brown discussed a few of the successes he and Clark have had while in office, such as making SGA more visible to the student body, increasing student engagement and advocating for students. 

Later in the debate, both campaigns discussed the goals for their administration. 

Vallance described a few actions they want to take as president, such as working with the multicultural and disabilities services offices more. They want to uplift the voices of SGA more so they can continue to bolster projects across the campus.  

Vallance also highlighted their and Polombo’s desire to advocate for student workers and give them a voice because of their past and present experiences as RAs.  

“As an ex-RA and a current RA, we can tell you we know what it’s like to be exploited as a worker and as a student on this campus. And so, we want to go ahead and fight for student voices, including student workers because sometimes they are the ones most at risk. I want to make sure that you don’t just have to survive, [but that] you thrive here,” Vallance said.  

In their rebuttal, Clark emphasized his and Brown’s goal to hold administration accountable while still maintaining a partnership with them. He said that the biggest reason to work with administration is to fight for students, even though maintaining that partnership can pose some challenges. 

“Axel and I can tell you; we’ve not always made administration happy. We’ve gone into meetings, we’ve said things that bothered them, we’ve pissed them off — that’s part of our job,” Clark said. “However, we cannot hold them accountable if they’re not willing to work with us. If we piss them off so much that they don’t want to talk to us — we’re useless.” 

Each campaign also discussed the biggest challenge students face right now on campus.  

Both campaigns agreed that campus lacks a sense of community and belonging, but they disagreed with each other on ways to alleviate the situation.  

Brown said that these absences are the result of too little administrative involvement. 

“Administration has not been involved as much as they needed to be, and administration plays a key part in giving a student a voice … so creating a sense of belonging on this campus — from the student government perspective — will have to take into account that administration does play a key role in that,” Brown said. 

Vallance, on the other hand, said that the current way campus administration has been leading is not taking all students into account. 

“As a student who is underrepresented and exploited, as well as a trans student, I am not represented in those conversations. I don’t know what happens when the chancellor goes to those meetings, or when anyone in SGA has gone to those meetings. I don’t see that transparency,” Vallance said. 

The presidential and vice-presidential candidate section of the debate ended with statements from both sides. 

“I am not here to shake hands, I am not here to take pictures and I am not here to further my future in politics … I want to use my voice and my experience and for Isabella to use her voice and her experience to do better,” Vallance said. 

Clark closed by quoting CU regent Jack Kroll.   

“‘The most important tool in any college, administration and anything like that is the student voice. You have to uplift the student voice. You have to use your student voice. You have to make sure that, above all else, the student voice is always heard.’ And that’s what Axel and I will continue to do for you if you vote for us,” Clark said. 

Senate candidate discussions  

Ian Sachs is the only candidate running for Student Director of Finance. Sachs claimed the current club funding process inhibits clubs because senator bias gets in the way. Senators will vote based on how much they agree with a club instead of considering the funding itself. 

Dale Mueller and Mason Sowanick are both running for Senator of Engineering. Both candidates discussed their thoughts on how to improve the Engineering Program at UCCS.  

Mueller noted the complexity of all the different schools in the Engineering Program. He wants to implement the peer-assisted study sessions (PASS) program for classes outside of just calculus to assist students with difficult material. 

Sowanick wants to see the STEM program reach out to local high schools to help provide potential STEM students with pathways into higher education. 

Samrawit Kopessa and Demi Griswold are running for Senator of Letters, Arts and Sciences (LAS). 

Kopessa said one of her greatest accomplishments as the current LAS senator was improving the relationship between administration and students in the LAS department. Kopessa worked with the dean to better student relations while finding ways to assist students in their learning.  

Griswold suggested ways to account for concerns and opinions in each discipline within LAS. She believes initiating discourse within the different disciplines will provide various perspectives from each department.  

Greg Abukar-Duru and Ro Betances are running for Senator of Public Affairs. Both candidates discussed how to address the needs and concerns of students across all three of the public affairs departments. 

Betances emphasized the importance of building a community, and Abukar-Duru agreed, noting that the student representative needs to create discourse between the departments and faculty members so that they have a better understanding of how to advocate for everyone.  

Isaiah Watkins is the only candidate running for Senator of Education. He discussed his plan to address the lack of student awareness of campus resources by continuing to promote them. He thinks this will help build connections and a sense of community 

Keenan Powell and Hayden Cranz are running for Senator of Sustainability. 

Powell discussed one of his greatest accomplishments this year as the current Senator of Sustainability, which was his work with CU Boulder’s campaign to divest away from fossil fuels

Cranz discussed ways the campus could be supporting greater sustainability, noting the frustration he and many other students have with UCCS’ public transportation.  

Cranz wants to see the campus update the public transportation system, which he believes can be paid for through grants. Cranz thinks he could use his experience in grant writing to help fund other potential forms of transportation, such as bikes, or use the grants to update the current system.   

Tobias Estrella is the only candidate running for Senator of Innovation. Estrella wants to create unity within the community, which he believes would positively affect the mental health of students and subsequently lead to more innovation.  

The SGA election week will begin Monday, March 6 and will end on Friday, March 10. Students can learn more about the election and voting process on SGA’s website

Photo from SGA debate on Feb. 27. Photo by Abby Aldinger.