Candidates Announce Campaign Bids
Last Wednesday, four candidates for 2004?2005 Student Body President had their petitions officially verified.
They are, in alphabetical order, Timothy Bowen, a sophomore English major; Erik Michaels-Ober, a junior ethics, history, and public policy major, with running mate Julie Beckenstein, a sophomore self-defined English major, who is endorsed by student senate chair Vito Fiore; Jason Pock, a junior H&SS interdisciplinary major, with running mate Julian Chen, a junior in business administration; and Kristina Wiltsee, a junior chemistry and history major, with running mate Hussein Al Baya, a sophomore in business administration, whom current student body president Dan Gilman is endorsing.
These four running parties will be campaigning for the next two weeks, until April 6 and 7, when voting will occur online at elections.andrew.cmu.edu.
This Friday, The Tartan will host a presidential debate in the UC?s Connan room from 5 to 6 pm. The candidates will be able to engage in further discussion of campus issues and share their visions of student government.
The Tartan sat down this past week with all four candidates to discuss what they consider to be the most pressing matters for students, and their plans to address those issues.
The Tartan: Why did you decide to run?
Bowen: I?ve seen a lot of money through special allocations go to projects which I do not feel are worthy of student activities money. I saw $4000 go to pay for one fifth-year senior?s project. After that was approved, one senator stood up and resigned outright. Senate is getting a reputation on campus as a free source of money. The executive branch is supposed to be a watchdog over that, but I don?t feel the students have a watchdog in the executive branch. I just felt that, if the students desire, I could be that watchdog, and I would be very strict on where allocations are going. I would try to get money to go to organizations such as Carnival committee, such as AB: existing organizations that do a lot for the student body, which I feel are much more deserving of the money. If the executive branch is going to do anything, it has to stop these insanely wasteful expenditures.
The Tartan: How do you plan to reach out to students?
Bowen: I want to spend a lot of time around, on campus, just sitting around talking to people. The fact of the matter is that people are not going to fill out forms; people are not going to fill out surveys; they are not going to fill out polls. But they will talk to you. And I feel that?s the best way to achieve communication.
The Tartan: What makes you qualified for this position?
Bowen: I?ve been on student government: I know how the system works. I?ve been on The Tartan: I know how to talk to people. I?m in a fraternity (Sigma Nu): I know how to manage people. I feel that my leadership skills are very strong: I feel that I?m very easy to talk to, so I just think I?d be a good figurehead for the students. I feel that I?d be a good representative for them to the administration.
The Tartan: Anything else you?d like to say?
Bowen: I?d encourage the students to be more interested in student government. We, the students, are entrusted to distribute almost one million dollars to the other students. I encourage every student to be involved in some kind of organization and get their piece of this money.
The Tartan: Why did you decide to run?
Michaels-Ober: Coming into Carnegie Mellon, I had a lot of interest in student government. I?ve always had a lot of interest in politics ? I?m an ethics, history, and public policy major. I got involved in student government. I became friends with Brian Namey, the former student body president, and I got to see him in action. [Student Body President] is the pinnacle position of student government, it?s the one where you really get to implement your ideas and have a lot of independence.
The Tartan: What are those ideas for you?
Michaels-Ober: If you ask the average student what they think needs to be improved on campus, they?re probably going to say dining number one, housing, they want to improve security, they want better parking, more parking spaces on campus, and these are all things outlined in my platform, and I have a lot of ideas for them.
As for dining, I think we need to increase the number of vendors on campus. That will spur competition between them and drive down the prices, offer more selection, and increase the quality of the food. Also, our meal blocks are really screwed up the way they are now. I?ve served on the student body dining committee since its inception. One thing that really needs to be changed is the way meal blocks work. We don?t encourage student to buy meals, we encourage them to spend blocks. I would also look to expand all-you-care-to-eat dining. I would look into keeping facilities like Schatz open every day of the week.
The Tartan: What experience do you have on campus?
Michaels-Ober: I have a lot of experience on student government dealing with issues. There?s only one student senator with more experience than I have, and he?s graduating this year. I?ve served on the business affairs committee, the academic affairs committee, [and] the student body dining committee. I was on the UC renovation committee that renovated the lower lever of the UC, adding Andy?s and Scotland Yard.
I was chairman of the communications committee, which gave me the privilege to work on the executive committee with current student body president Dan Gilman, vice president Gill Dussek, and the VP for Finance Paul Richelmi. I?m also on the student advisory council, which gives me the opportunity to work very closely with one of the highest administrators ? Bill Elliott ? and I meet with him on a monthly basis.
Also, in terms of working with administrators, I met with Mark Kamlet, the provost, about restrictive research. I had a meeting with him that was just the two of us on a monthly basis, and dean [of student affairs] Murphy, Indira Nair, the vice-provost for education, really all the administrators. All of these administrators I?ve worked with in the past. If I go to them with an idea they?ll take it seriously because they know I have the experience, they know I?ve worked with students in the past, and they know I?ll follow through.
The Tartan: What do you feel makes you a good representative of the students?
Michaels-Ober: Accessibility is really a key issue. As student body president, I?ll have office hours twenty hours a week. Students can come in and see me, and are always free to e-mail me, to call me really at any hour of the night. If students have a problem, and I?m student body president, I want to hear about it, and I?ll take care of it right away. I?ve also made an effort to meet with different groups on campus.
I have close relationships with a number of student organizations where I feel really comfortable going to their meetings or talking to their leaders. I know a lot of student leaders on campus from working for student government so long, so I feel that I have a pretty well-rounded view of how the students feel on issues.
The Tartan: What are your goals in running for student body president?
Pock: I?ve come up with four things that I think are important to students. The first is health services. They take a really long time, and the services they have are pretty poor. For instance, a friend of mine went there, spent five hours there, and they sent her away with a Gatorade and crackers. That?s pretty ridiculous.
Point number two is I think we can address the dining deficiencies on campus. I think one simple way of expanding dining options for students on campus is to push CampusExpress and DineXtra a little bit more. In Oakland, you have Pitt?s card taken at a lot of places, but not so much CampusExpress. I feel that we?re on the tip of something really special, and I can?t imagine that it would be too expensive, or too difficult to encourage more businesses to start taking that. Also, we have a lot of variety on campus, but they?re all no-name restaurants. I wonder if having a vendor like Subway or Qdoba on campus would get better reactions from students.
The third point that I?d like to talk about is increasing University recognition for students beyond academics. We have so many elite students here. But we come here, and we can?t be elite anymore. I?m your typical 3.0 student, I?m not going to get on the dean?s list, I?m not going to do any ground-breaking research, but I am involved in so many things, and I really want to make this place better. My running mate Julian Chen plays two varsity sports, my little brother in my fraternity has started a club, and he?s writing a book.
There are so many students that do things that are exceptional, and I think we get too caught up in quantifying their grades. Leadership awards, community service awards, service to the university awards could do more to lift morale for students like that.
The last of my four issues is increasing the interaction of students in all parts of the University. And I think this gets down to the core issue of school spirit. And I think we?ve all thought, ?Wow, people don?t go to football games.? People don?t walk around the University sporting their Carnegie Mellon gear. Why? I think part of it is that we spend all of our time with people who are like us, studying things like us. Maybe we can make some bigger efforts to get some meshing. For instance, an open house where students can share what they?re doing, the kind of work that they?re doing for their major. I?m sure music students would love to have more students come to their performances. Maybe if we understood what they?re trying to do, maybe people would support that. Maybe people would leave this University thinking that they got a little more than poor grades. I want to represent the issues that are important to the student body ... it seems that these are the things in the minds of the student body that really need to be addressed now.
The two things I want to do on my own are, first, to extend the field of membership of the Carnegie Mellon Credit Union to undergraduates. A credit union is a non-profit bank. We have one at Carnegie Mellon, but it only is available to faculty and staff and graduate students. One of the first things I noticed when I got here is that students just get killed with surcharges. And we have this great University Center that offers all these extra services to students and one key thing that I?ve noticed is missing are these banking services. I?ve done a lot of research on this, and I?ve come up with a proposal for exactly how we can do it. Since it?s a non-profit bank, the more members make more services possible, and make the services they currently offer cheaper, which benefits the faculty.
The other thing I want to push for is the senior gift. Two years ago, about 16 people contributed to the senior gift, out of twelve hundred and fifty graduating. That?s a joke. I really think we can change that, and as student body president I think I can leverage that.
The Tartan: With a lack of student government experience, what makes you qualified for this role?
Pock: I am the average student. I?m involved in a bunch of different things, I have no clear conflicts of interest; I have a deep passion for the University, which I think is pretty well emphasized by the fact that I?ve been a tour guide, and that I?m on the senior gift committee, and that I work with first-year orientation. I just like to be involved. And I think I?m very approachable.
I know so many people. I think that better than any other candidate, I represent this interest. I?m the middleman. And I think a fresh perspective is healthy every once in a while. I?m quite familiar with the Student Senate process, I?m familiar with what they do, and I don?t see it as a problem that I?m not on Student Senate.
The Tartan: What made you decide to run?
Wiltsee: I got involved in Student Senate the past year to have more of an impact on the community. Then, about two months ago, Dan Gilman approached me and asked me if I would consider running for student body president. After that, I took a long time to think about it, and think about what I could contribute to the campus and if I would really be the right person for the job. I want to be able to contribute as much as I can back to the students.
The Tartan: What do you feel it was about you that made Dan Gilman ask you to run?
Wiltsee: I think that what?s really important in a student body president are two things. One is that you need to have an intimate knowledge of student government. There are so many little details that, if you don?t know about them, if you haven?t been exposed to them, it just takes a long time to get into the job. But at the same time, senators tend to lose their touch of reality with the campus in some ways. They think that changing some document that would affect Senate, spending hours and hours putting commas in and headers to bills, you really lose sense of reality and the campus. Students don?t care about that ? it affects Senate and future senators. But in general you need an intimate knowledge not only of student government but also the student campus and what?s going on.
The Tartan: What do you feel makes you so in touch?
Wiltsee: I?ve been involved in a lot of things on campus. I was involved in Scotch ?n? Soda, and Lunar Gala, and Dancers? Symposium. I?ve been an orientation counselor for two years, and I?m in a sorority (Delta Gamma), so I?m in touch with the Greek community. That, and as well I try and get around and introduce myself to as many people as possible.
The Tartan: Besides communication between Senate and students, what do you see as major issues on campus?
Wiltsee: There aren?t enough athletic facilities on campus, and there?s not enough performance space for non-majors. All that has really been lacking. Also, getting better transportation between the campus and the Waterfront, Squirrel Hill, and the airport. Academics is extremely important at our school to every single student, but students? quality of lives in general needs to be improved so that they can have the best time here, and have the best experience here at college.
The Tartan: Should you be elected, what do you specifically plan to do to address issues?
Wiltsee: The Highlander space is something that?s been under contention for a long time. I really want to push that to become either a dining facility again, or convert it into a dining facility and performance space. That would be something, as well as a continuation of what the Gilman administration?s been doing, in terms of getting a shuttle from the University to the Waterfront, and possibly converting Danforth. If not more athletic facilities, then continuing the process of expanding the basement to get more athletic facilities down there, and then improving the facilities in Skibo.
The Tartan: Do you feel that you would be continuing what the Gilman administration has done, or would you do things differently?
Wiltsee: Obviously, I have a different leadership style than Dan [Gilman], but I think that it would be somewhat counterproductive to start on an entirely different path. It?s important to have a continuation so that a lot of the things that Dan didn?t get done in his past term be continued, but also start afresh with a couple of new things based on what the student body needs.