Because this year’s Student Government presidential and vice presidential candidates are running unopposed, the Editorial Board of The Mercury has decided to publish an evaluation of the candidates in place of an endorsement.
The content of the evaluation is based on an interview The Mercury conducted with the candidates.
Running on the Comet Unity ticket, international political economics senior JW Van Der Schans is slated as the presidential candidate and economics junior Alex Holcomb is up for the vice president position. Their platform is centered on uniting the UTD community under the common goal of bettering the university, bringing technological advancements to campus and getting students involved in that process. They also mentioned improving accessibility to emergency services and for individuals with disabilities.
One of the obstacles standing in the candidates’ way in achieving these goals are the inefficiencies in communication in SG, both internally and externally.
Van Der Schans and Holcomb identified this drawback, and have plans to implement a solution. By streamlining communication within SG to allow for the president, vice president and the rest of the executive council to be aware of different committees’ projects, the candidates hope to offer more administrative oversight and feedback in real time.
This will help senators see more projects reach completion. In doing so, the candidates also want to tackle another issue: inadequate budget allocation.
As of February 2017, the line-item budget shows that only about a third of the allocated resources for SG have been spent. Van Der Schans noted that inefficient communication slows down smaller projects because of a lack of continuous feedback. When these ventures drop off, less of the budget is used to improve the student experience at UTD.
Addressing the issue of clear and regular communication between the president, vice president and senators will help SG use a larger portion of the budget in ways that directly benefit the student body.
With Van Der Schans’ two years of experience in SG, which included time spent as secretary and treasurer, the editorial board at The Mercury believes he has the necessary insight into the inner workings of the organization in order to implement changes to improve communication. With a breadth of exposure to the budget, the presidential candidate knows how projects get pushed forward and what hinders their progress.
For Holcomb, although his tenure in SG has been short, with only one semester under his belt where he served as a member of the legislative affairs committee, his involvement with student engagement projects has been notable.
He participated in Rock the Vote, a voter registration drive, and helped draft the SB6 resolution. With this experience, Holcomb can push his ticket’s vision of Comet Unity, by continuing to engage students through similar efforts.
Both candidates admitted to noticing a disconnect between the student body and Student Government’s functions, and aim to address that by personally communicating with other leaders on campus. In addition to opening up office hours to speak to leaders, Van Der Schans and Holcomb plan on attending other groups’ events to get to know their constituents.
To help undo the criticism that SG doesn’t fully serve its function, Holcomb wants to tackle the problem from within. His goal is to train all senators in basic functions such as drafting a proposal so that everyone in the organization is well-equipped to affect change without going through limited channels.
Although the candidates are running unopposed, the editorial board at The Mercury feels they have provided evidence of competency in leadership and will serve the student body well. Their diverse ticket, in addition to the variety of members running independently and on the Inspire ticket, will represent the needs of student body holistically.
We encourage you as students to get to know your potential representatives and to vote. Voting begins on March 22 at 8 a.m. and ends on March 24 at 4 p.m.