Leading up to the period of campus-wide voting that began today, the 2016 Student Government tickets have presented their initiatives through a week of campaigning. Before proposing ideas to the student body, potential candidates had to construct groups of like-minded people to form their tickets.
Speaking on Thursday at open-forum campaign events on campus, the three tickets discussed how they came together to run for office – a goal that wasn’t always their plan. The candidates of True to You and One Team, One U, who were at the Rathskeller as part of an open forum for students to meet the candidates, answered questions from voters, showcased their credentials and shared the stories of how they joined together. Later in the day, the candidates of Empower U did the same at their own open forum in the Dooly Memorial Building.
It was a passion for campus activities and student organizations that brought True to You presidential candidate Vikesh Patel, vice-presidential candidate Ashley Pittaluga and treasurer candidate Morgan Owens together. Patel has been well-acquainted with Pittaluga, the upcoming 2016 Homecoming chair, since their freshman year. They were two of the 20 students on the Freshman Leadership Council and have since worked together in Student Government, the Homecoming Executive Committee and other organizations.
“Just watching Student Government, I knew that if there was anyone who could run Freshman Leadership Council and if anyone deserved to be on a ticket, it was Ashley Pittaluga,” Patel said after handing out palm cards at the Rat. “She knows the freshmen like no other. She can help them and help them grow. That is something I would back until the day I die.”
Patel and Pittaluga developed a mutual understanding and a strong, passionate interest in the livelihood of the student body.
“I personally want to represent every single student here. I will never be happy until everyone around me is happy,” Patel said.
Vice-presidential candidate Emmy Savidge, who was also in Student Government, started the One Team, One U platform for a different reason. She wanted to fix what she claimed was a misrepresentation of the student body in Student Government, saying that not everyone on campus was getting a fair voice.
“I thought that there was a disconnect between Student Government and its students,” Savidge said. “As the vice chair for the public relations committee in Student Government, I saw that it was not enough to connect with them, and we needed a platform.”
Savidge first reached out to Andrew Weinstock to be treasurer. She had worked with him when they were Student Government senators and he was in the Policy and Finance Committee. Then she went outside of Student Government to name Jason Goldenberg as their presidential candidate.
Goldenberg has been friends with Savidge since their freshman year and admired her passion for changing the campus community. He initially told Savidge about his interest in joining Student Government as the College of Arts and Sciences senator, but Savidge had another idea.
“We had lunch together and she immediately says, ‘We want you to run for president on our executive ticket,’” Goldenberg said. “And I look at her and laughed. But she explained why she wanted to do the ticket, that she wants to give a voice back to the students, that there is a disconnect. And I 100 percent bought in to everything she was saying.”
At their town-hall forum later that day, Empower U explained how their ticket formed. Vice-presidential candidate Austin Eng took notice of presidential candidate Jacob Rudolph when Rudolph spoke as the then-president of the LGBT student organization SpectrUM at a panel for student leaders at the freshman orientation in the fall of 2014. Now, Eng and Rudolph are presenting a campaign that calls for more action from Student Government.
“Student Government seem to exist as its own separate entity; even financially, they have their own budget,” Rudolph said. “So it is not necessarily limited to one role or another. In terms of the role it can play on campus, Student Government has been untapped and so much more can be done.”
Rudolph asked Eng to be on his ticket after watching him put together the first mental health forum on campus last spring, which welcomed more than 100 students and administrators to discuss how mental health is treated on campus.
“Our mental safety is important,” Rudolph. “How safe are we when some of us are on the brink of suicide? We need to address these issues. This is what we want to do.”
At the debate Wednesday night, the initiatives by Empower U were called idealistic, something Rudolph disagreed with.
“It’s better to have bigger ambitions than no ambitions,” Rudolph said.
He then spoke about how his platform would represent the entire student body, not just a select few.
“What I reject in terms of the other candidates is that you have two very separate and distinct networks that occasionally overlap with respect to leadership positions: Student Government and Greek life,” Rudolph said. “Both those populations comprise less than 30 percent of the entire student body … We are talking about issues that affect the entire student body … How is that too ambitious?”
Savidge, a member of Zeta Tau Alpha (ZTA), and Goldenberg, a member of Pi Kappa Phi (PiKapp), have rejected the idea that they are the “Greek ticket,” something students have approached them with.
“While Greek life has shaped me to be the leader that I am today, we are not the Greek ticket. We are the University of Miami ticket,” Goldenberg said. “Our initiatives do help Greek life, because it helps every single student in the university.”
True to You has Greek life candidates as well. Patel is the former president of the school’s Alpha Sigma Phi chapter and Owens is the former president of Delta Lambda Phi. After Patel oversaw his fraternity’s move into a new house, he first met with Owens to discuss leasing Alpha Sigma Phi’s old suite in the Panhellenic building. Since then, they’ve both served in the Association of Greek Letter Organizations (AGLO) together. The two bonded professionally and socially, further influencing Patel’s decision to feature Owens as his treasurer candidate.
The work done by Student Government has come under increased scrutiny throughout the race. Goldenberg and Rudolph both said that the governing body failed to truly represent the entirety of students. Rudolph said there needs to be an increase in the accessibility and visibility of the school’s resources, while Goldenberg said that the government wasn’t representing the students properly when interacting with the school’s administration.
Despite the comments made from the other two platforms about Student Government, Patel insisted that Student Government is not broken and their experience will be in the best interest of the school.
“I know all three branches like the back of my hand,” Patel said. “Student Government isn’t broken. I’m an engineer – if it’s broken, I would know. And it is working right now,” Patel said. “We know how to channel Student Government in a new direction.”
Students will have a chance to determine that direction from Feb. 15-17. SG Elections Commission will be in the Breezeway from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, and students can also vote through OrgSync.