Gorilla Alliance adopts campus populism
| Marcus Clem editor in chief |
The signs are up, the money and time is invested, and Jordan Schaper and Jaci Gilchrist are ready to see if they can win the confidence of Pittsburg State’s student body.
Schaper, junior in politicial science, and Gilchrist, sophomore in political science, are already an established presence in student government. They freely admit their addiction to the day-to-day details of running a public office.
“I would say I am a politics junkie,” Gilchrist said. “But that’s not the reason I’m getting into this … although I do watch a lot of C-SPAN.
“I just find what most people find to be boring and tedious to be interesting.”
Their party, Gorilla Alliance, follows the usual student-election mold, while Schaper and Gilchrist have spent their time detailing a platform and planning how to reach their goals.
“But I avoid preconceived notions, I try to avoid that trap that I think a lot of people fall into,” Schaper said. “I’ve been pretty consistent on trying to support what’s going to be best for the students at any given time.”
All about the money
In Schaper’s view, recognition of SGA’s problems and specific plans for solving them are key.
Engaging senators in that process will be accomplished by putting them on task forces and ensuring that everyone has something to do.
“We need to promote senator activism, relying on task forces to come up with solutions,” he said.
The biggest priority: reviewing everything that SGA currently spends money on.
In Schaper’s view, some programs are a waste. It’s not necessary, he says, to send the entire senate to Higher Education Day every year.
“We have allocated $2,000 to send all of the senators,” he said of SGA’s annual lobbying trip to the state legislature. “Jaci and I take the position that we don’t think this is acceptable.”
Meanwhile, some programs, such as SGA’s promotion of intramural and amateur athletics, have at times been paid for “out of senators’ pockets.”
Also a concern is where the money comes from.
“One hundred percent of student government dollars comes from students,” Schaper said. “(Senators) haven’t fundraised a lick for years.
“We think it is kind of hypocritical for SGA to demand that student clubs fundraise for their expenses when we don’t do any fundraising ourselves.”
Fee food fights
Schaper emphasizes that these reviews are important because many in SGA and around campus have been adamant about controlling the rise of tuition and fees.
Not much can be done about tuition increases since they largely stem from decisions made by the state government, despite consistent SGA and university lobbying.
It is fee increases that prompt the most controversial and heated debates within SGA.
Gilchrist says that she hasn’t always agreed with the general reluctance to raise fees, but supports the desire to fight for every dollar coming out of students’ wallets.
“Sometimes you do have to make a statement and try to stand up for your ideals,” she said. “But I also think we got a little too caught up in making a statement.”
Schaper says he supports a cautious and conservative approach to student fees.
“If there’s a campuswide benefit, we need to support that (with fees),” he said. “But, otherwise, we need to be more careful. We need to do what’s best for campus as a whole.”
He says he understands that some decisions, such as SGA’s vote this year against any increase for parking and its vote to increase athletics by only $1, have irritated the university’s administrators.
However, he says, there’s no question in his mind that these were the right choices. Going forward, he says he hopes to avoid conflict while still emphasizing his fiscal agenda.
Letner/Hebrlee opts to echo the professionals
| Marcus Clem editor in chief |
Parties are fine, but from the ground up, Jake Letner and Jaecy Hebrlee say, it’s all about the leaders.
That’s why the Letner/Hebrlee party is akin to a U.S. presidential contender, in the same way as the successful Obama/Biden 2012 campaign.
As would-be leaders of the Student Government Association (SGA), they don’t want to leave any doubt that students will vote first for the people who will run the show and then select the senator candidates to back them up.
“We want people to elect leaders,” said Letner, junior in history, who has served this year as SGA Big Event director. “More than anything, that’s what SGA needs right now.”
The Letner/Hebrlee label is different from the usual SGA practice of organizing a party moniker that is temporary and meant to reflect the vision that party has for the coming academic year.
Hebrlee is another departure from tradition, as she has never been a part of SGA except as an observer until now.
“Until this year … I didn’t realize that I could have this kind of say,” said Hebrlee, senior in general studies.
Letner expects that most of SGA’s current roster will not return, and introducing new faces will create common ground among senators.
Hebrlee says she hopes to organize a senate retreat right off the bat to build bonds and make sure everyone’s on the same page.
“I hope to have the opportunity for some team building,” she said.
Engaging the public
Letner has spent most of the year focused on Big Event, the mammoth public service extravaganza that will be held on Saturday, April 12.
He attributes much to the leadership of Taylor Gravett and the current SGA administration and emphasizes that the past year has been a success.
“I’ve had a really supportive president and vice president,” Letner said, “and everyone in SGA has helped me grow closer with everyone involved.”
Still, Letner/Hebrlee as a party is anchored in the awareness that some significant reforms could do SGA and the university some good.
Several important debates in the past year have highlighted disagreement within the senate and, occasionally, emotions have run high.
“You’re always going to have that within organizations that are inherently political,” Letner said. “There’s always going to be debate.”
Part of his solution, beyond Hebrlee’s plan to rally the troops and integrate the newbies, is to make the student the main decider.
“We want to bring these issues to the students,” Letner said, “rather than have the students find out about the issues.”
Letner says that one reason no more than about 10 percent of the student body tends to vote in SGA elections is that the senate isn’t doing enough to educate people.
“Addressing state and national issues is important,” he said, “such as what’s happening in Washington or Topeka. We want to at least forward an understanding to students.”
Speaking of professionals…
A key plan for doing that: Bring Topeka, at least, here.
If elected, Letner says he can convince Gov. Sam Brownback and Brownback’s Democratic challenger, Rep. Paul Davis, to hold a debate on campus some time before Election Day on Nov. 4.
Other opportunities exist, such as hosting legislators or members of the Kansas Board of Regents, which oversees all public higher-education in Kansas.
Integrating these officials into the campus community should be a high priority, Letner says.
“Most legislators have college degrees and understand the importance of higher education.
“At the same time, our budget is tight and among the first things that gets attacked is higher ed. Kansas is cutting funding while others raise it. To me that says our legislators are not as invested.”
By building connections like this in a bigger picture, Letner says he hopes to develop solutions that weren’t available to previous SGA administrations.
“The greatest problems students face right now is affordability … We are inexpensive, but tuition is going up every year. We want to make sure Pitt State students are aware of why this is happening,” he said.