Student Government Association election candidates answered questions at a panel presentation     

26 February 2019

Tamera Twitty | [email protected]
Travis Boren | [email protected]

     Students gathered in the Student Life and Leadership Office, to hear the 2019 Student Government Association (SGA) 2019 Candidates answered questions about their platform in a panel style meeting.

    This year the candidates were widely uncontested, with the only contested position being the Senator of Multicultural Affairs. Candidates for President, Vice President, Senator of Engineering, Senator of Military Affairs, Senator of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Senator of Sustainability and Senator-at-Large were also represented, but uncontested.     

    The panel was moderated by Joy Webb, the editor-in-chief of the Scribe, and Maddie Elis, the manager of UCCS Radio.

President and Vice President     

    The lack of student participation in SGA was a topic that came up several times during the panel. It was unanimously recognized that a major goal for the association as a whole is to increase SGA exposure and build a strong relationship with the student body they represent.      

    Vice Presidential candidate Philip Oke-Thomas recognized SGA visibility and communication as the single most important issue facing the student body in 2019. An important goal for Oke-Thomas was utilizing tools UCCS has already introduced in order to improve communication between the student body and SGA, “One of the ways I look to alleviate this problem is to utilize the resources we already have on campus. One of them is the upcoming, or already out, UCCS Connect app.”     

    Presidential Candidate, Jay Jay Porcadilla concurred, and added that he hopes to become a figure students feel comfortable with reaching out to with their concerns saying, “I’m an RA here on campus. Something that we do beautifully in housing is making everyone feel accepted. I want clubs and organizations to know that we’re here for you. The burning desire and passion we have is to make sure next year is great for everyone. I want to be a familiar face, I want Philip to be a familiar face, I want everyone to be a familiar face.”

    Porcadilla also stressed that on campus security efforts would be at the forefront of his platform, “I want to work on UCCS security. I want to make sure that all students feel safe and secure on campus. We already have big plans for this, like the Blue Lights Project.”

    Porcadilla elaborated that the Blue Lights Project involved an initiative to expand the number of emergency boxes on campus.

    The candidates were also confronted with issues of diversity on campus and asked to describe instances that UCCS has not been inclusive. Maintaining and improving inclusivity at UCCS is something that the pair list as a priority for them in the coming year.

    Oke-Thomas immediately responded saying, “One situation that I can definitely talk about is out lack of gender inclusive bathrooms across campus. Some of our students who to identify as trans are sometimes left in the dark when it comes to this basic essential need in every building. That needs to change.”

   Porcadilla said, “I appreciate the 44 percent diversity we have on campus, but for those students I want to really, really make sure they feel included. I think everyone has a voice and that’s what I said is one of my strengths—that I want to hear all of it.”

    The running mates want the student body to know that following their impending election that want to be deeply involved in student initiatives and work closely with the student body in amplifying student voices.

    One of the more ambitious goals they have for the 2019-2020 school year was introduced by Oke-Thomas who stated they would like students to have more say in the hiring process of professors.

    “One thing I want to make sure that happens in the coming year is students sitting on hiring committees when it comes to professors,” said Oke-Thomas. “I want to make sure that every hiring committee has at least one students of that major sitting.”

    Students who sit on these committees would be required to be at least a junior and have spent two years at the university according to Oke-Thomas.

    A student question asked the presidential team whether students should also be involved in the firing process for professors. Oke-Thomas said he would advocate for that idea.

    “One thing that I want the student body to know is that we are here to fight for you,” said Oke-Thomas.

Senator Multicultural Affairs

    The competing candidates for this position, Nicholas Tirop and Alexandra Ruiz, had considerably different goals rooted in a similar foundation, inclusivity.

    “I won’t say that I am qualified, I’ll say that I am privileged to have been born in a different country,” said Tirop. “I was born in Kenya and am a member of the African Student Association (ASA) and the International Student Club.”

    Tirop said that being in the clubs have helped him come in contact with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds. It helped him connect with students experiencing similar struggles as him.

    Tirop believes he can juggle his work load with meeting the needs of the student body.

    “I am a full-time student and I have always believed in go hard or go home, but there has to be a way that we can mesh these clubs together,” said Tirop.

L to R: Nicholas Tirop, Gregory Gardner, Kassandra Pontilo, Brandon Goldstein, Jay Jay Porcadilla. Photo by Nic Nava – The Scribe

    Tirop summarized his platform with two words: support and uplift.

    “Students here are not just students. They have a life outside of being students,” said Tirop. “If they do not have a life out there — a social life — they’re not going to succeed as students. I just want to have a platform where we can join forces together with these different multicultural affairs.” Tirop said that only a few clubs are visible.

    Tirop hopes to found a multicultural office on campus that would act as a home base for clubs and organizations like the ASA and MOSAIC. He argues that this will further unify these groups.

   Ruiz said that her activity on campus has put her in contact with many different people and qualifies her to run for this position.

    “I love embracing different cultures, because in order for us to come together as a community we have to be in those spaces and be allies to each other,” said Ruiz.

“I want people who come to me to know that I am aware of the resources on campus and if I can’t do it there is someone out there who can.”

    The major focus of Ruiz’s platform is to celebrate people of varying beliefs, backgrounds and cultures. She argues that her experience with inclusive organizations like MOSAIC makes her the most qualified candidate.

    “I think this position is very important. If I get elected as the multicultural affairs senator I want to be visible,” said Ruiz. “I’m a multicultural leader on campus. The past few senators I haven’t known,

and I think the best way for students to be heard is to be visible. Being out there and supporting

their events and building that connection with multicultural clubs and mosaic.”

Senator of Sustainability

    This years Senator of Sustainability candidate is third year biomedical major, Brandon Goldstein. Goldstein is running for reelection after being appointed to the position this semester.

    “I feel like UCCS has done an amazing job at being sustainable on campus. Everywhere I go I see sustainability projects underway.”

    Although he agrees that UCCS has done well at implementing sustainability, Goldstein was prompted to peruse this position because of major holes he has noticed around campus consistency when it comes to supporting these efforts.

    The first issue this candidate hopes to tackle is the amount of food waste in campus dining halls.    

     “I worked in DHS (Dining and Hospitality Services) for two and a half years, and the biggest thing I noticed was just a huge amount of food waste. To give you some insight, when we make food for the day at the dining halls a lot of times we have extra food that we don’t serve that hasn’t even been touched by anyone that goes straight into the compost.”

    Goldstein thinks that this food should be packaged up and given to local homeless shelters or hungry students around campus.

    He also is looking to make bathroom sustainability uniform across campus, noting that some bathrooms have containers for composting paper towels but others do not, and some older parts of campus do not have air dryers.

Aspen Serfoss, Chief Justice, coordinated the election. Photo by Nic Nava – The Scribe

    Goldstein also plans on working closely with the Green Action Fund, by hearing out all sustainability proposals.

    “Essentially my role would be working with them to ensure that we are using that money responsibly,” said Goldstein.

    Goldstein believes that cooperation and transparency in SGA will accomplish a lot on campus.

Senator of Letters, Arts and Sciences

    Freshman Candidate Aiden Meadows is running for Senator or Letters, Arts and Sciences (LAS) and plans on using his experience as a student ambassador to connect with the LAS student body.

    LAS facilitates 60 percent of all majors on campus; Meadows admits to not having knowledge of all of these majors but is excited to learn more.

    “I was quite surprised when I first came the UCCS at how large LAS is, especially when you look at some of the other colleges,” said Meadows. “The diversity of LAS majors and the amount of people taking them is amazing, and it is important for me to have office hours for people to come talk to me about the issues around their major.”

    Meadows also stressed the issue of student participation saying, “I want students to come and talk to me about issues on campus. I’m new to the campus, that’s why I want to rely on student input.”

    The biggest challenge Meadows expects is his inexperience with the various majors.

    “It will really be important that I can attend to the amount of different majors that I don’t have the best of knowledge on,” said Meadows.

    A student question asked Meadows if has plans to interact with his constituents outside of office hours, and Meadows said that he has done a lot of community outreach and interaction, and he wants to get out and table and interact with students alongside SGA as well.

Senator Of Military Affairs

    Candidate for Senator of Military Affairs Greg Gardner said that his biggest concern when he is elected will be establishing a precedence for teachers in understanding how to treat students who are in the military.

     “In my time here on campus one thing I’ve noticed is that there’s complications with teachers knowing how to treat someone in the military,” said Greg Gardner. “It’s something I’ve worked on and will continue to work on.”

    He wants teachers to understand and comply with the various needs of military students, including required leave.

    Gardner believes that students are happy with the work SGA has done, and that it’s clear because of how few positions are being contested this year.

Senator at Large

    Kassandra Pontilo is a returning Senator-at-Large and is hopeful about her extended work load considering will be only one of two Senators-at-Large.

    “I want to reach out to the student population and making sure that they have a platform to be heard. I want to make sure I respond to all emails and concerns that students have,” said Pontilo. “The greatest part of being a part of SGA is being able to hear the concerns of students. Although being able to hear the concerns of other senators would be helpful.”

     She agreed that as a whole SGA needs to show that they can have positive impacts on the UCCS community in order to increase student participation, and that the diversity of next year’s SGA will help handle the challenges SGA will face.

Senator of Engineering

    The Senator of Engineering Candidate was Denzil Afriyie. One of the major goals of his candidacy is to get engineering students more involved in the community.

    “Engineering students are in our own bubble. If we don’t take care, engineering students will always stay in their bubble,” said Afriyie. “I have a lot of industry experience because of internships, and I’ve

learned a lot. One thing I really want to incorporate in terms of innovation is to encourage students to work on individual projects.”

    Afriyie’s goal is to expand the focus in the College of Engineering from just academic rigor to include an emphasis on personal projects and innovation.

    Afriyie plans to work with his predecessor and continue the work that his predecessor was working on as well. He also wants to “make some noise” to help spread the word about SGA in the future.