This week, the three candidates running for Student Government (SG) President will battle it out at the polls. Unlike last year when the current president, Lionel Moise, ran unopposed, this election cycle has given the student body more candidates to choose from, but the issues that matter most remain the same.
The platforms of all three tickets attempt to address concerns many UM students care about, including parking, transportation ideas for freshmen, and general outreach. Though the candidates Aaron Esman, Christina Farmer and Shahzam Malik all attempt to solve these problems in slightly different ways, it’s clear that something different must be done to accommodate the needs of all students.
“People are often resistant to change,” Moise said.
He believes that in order to solve big problems like parking and transportation, SG must think outside the box.
“We all need to be more open-minded, willing to be more creative and open to change,” he said.
All three candidates have based their platforms on what they believe are creative solutions to problems that students have brought to their attention. From reaching out to international students, to revamping myUM and even providing a new slushie machine at the C-Store, Esman, Farmer and Malik are full of original initiatives.
But no matter what the results of this year’s election, in order to have a successful term in office, the new president will have to overcome an enormous problem recurrent throughout every SG administration: a lack of student body interest.
“A lot of times people get elected on a platform and only work on that for the whole year,” said Esman, who is currently Speaker Pro-Tempore of the student Senate. “You have to continue listening to students in case something comes up. We’re not waiting around for students to come to us, we’ll go out of our way to talk to them.”
Each candidate this season has recognized that student interests are vital to an effective SG and have tailored their platforms to appeal to a wide variety of groups, thus offering something to everyone.
“My number one goal is to reach out to students,” Farmer said. As current Speaker of the Student Senate she understands that traditional meetings and forums don’t always attract student involvement.
“In SG we currently ask people to come to us but we don’t always go to them,” she said. “It’s not always holding a meeting, sometimes its just talking, having a conversation. SG has great ideas but we sometimes don’t listen.”
One of Farmer’s initiatives is an online idea generator where students could submit suggestions to SG.
Moise believes that one of the reasons why students are often uninterested in SG elections is because they do not understand how specific goals and initiatives pertain to them. He said that a successful candidate must have a mixture of specialized and generalized goals.
“You want to reach as many groups as you can, but still work in the best interest of all students,” he said. “Like the case of the shuttle to Key Biscayne. It is tailored to a specific need, but really it benefits everyone.”
Malik and his running mate Christine Nanan understand that it is important for candidates to step outside of their comfort zone and appeal to a wide variety of students.
“Even if you’re uninvolved you’re still a student here,” Nanan said. “You’re paying your student activity fee, you should get something out of it. You’re paying these people to work for you.”
No matter what their goals, each candidate wants to be the one that is put to work for the student body. But in order for them to solve problems like parking, provide more shuttle options and introduce more delicious dining options, they need the input of an active electorate.
“Not everyone has to be involved in SG, but the entire student body needs to be represented,” Moise said. “So while those palm cards and T-shirts might get a little annoying, it’s important to take a glance at them. It’s important to be informed and to have your voice heard.”
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Laura Edwins may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.