With a platform focused on communication and bridging the gap between students and Student Government, two candidates are running for president and vice president on the Your Voice ticket in the first contested election in two years.
Both molecular biology sophomore Yilong Peng and global business junior William McKiernan, who are running for president and vice president respectively, have served as senators for the 2017-2018 SG administration. They said they used their experience on the Technology and Communications Committee to develop a platform with a focus on bridging the gap between the students and the senators.
“Our platform is composed of seven things, anything from accessibility, transparency … but our big focus is communication, because it is about ‘your voice,’” Peng said.
While having a clear direction and achievable goals play an important role, McKiernan said the experience he and Peng have as senators influenced their decision to run for higher positions.
“Having been the boots on the ground, so to speak, you’re better to lead the new senators,” McKiernan said. “In the capacity I’ll serve, it will be easier to mentor them and guide them through that process and encourage them and give them more of what they need.”
To achieve this primary goal of increasing communication, the candidates on the Your Voice ticket aim to include students and club leaders in weekly meetings, as well as committee meetings to give constituents first-hand knowledge and influence on projects.
“We invite them to the committee meetings that take place every week, and this is where the real work gets done,” Peng said. “They can sit at a table, just five or six people – people who are dedicated to that project and understand what needs to be done – and they can contribute their voice.”
McKiernan said not only is it important to include club leaders in SG-related affairs, but it is critical to show them they are willing to return the favor by attending other clubs’ meetings, booths and events as well.
“If we want people to take an interest in Student Government, we have to make sure they take us seriously and they know that we are for real, and along with inviting people out … we would like to invite the presidents of organizations because they represent constituents, and we want them to voice their concerns to us, so then we can have a short discussion there and let them know that we’ve heard them,” McKiernan said.
McKiernan said a major obstacle affecting the level of involvement includes isolation from the rest of campus by past administrations.
“We want people to know that we are a resource, we’re here to be used by the student body to influence the change they want to see,” McKiernan said. “It’s not just about what we do as a group of 35 to 40 people, it’s about what the student body needs, and we want to hear their opinions too to change the campus for the better.”
While voter turnout has been an issue in the past, McKiernan said such issues could be resolved by utilizing organizational outreach, disseminating flyers and increasing SG election awareness by announcing it to classes.
“If somebody is apathetic about something, you have to make it interesting to them, and to make it interesting to them, it has to have value to them, so it is somewhat of a process,” McKiernan said.
If elected, one goal of the Your Voice candidates is to increase accountability among senators by having them take on bigger roles and establish greater connections with the student body.
“We want senators to feel like more than just work horses, we want them to understand who they are working for and to not forget why they are doing this,” Peng said. “They’re doing it to improve UT Dallas and the lives of UT Dallas students, and I think we forget that sometimes.”
In addition to increasing accountability, another focus for the candidates is projects. An idea that Peng aims to establish is an email chain that delivers messages regarding specific initiatives directly from the president to the corresponding committee.
“We want to assign senators specifically to certain emails, so the way that it would work is that the ‘contact us’ link would go directly to the president or vice president and, depending on what it is, the president would send it down the chain to the committee chair of one of the committees,” Peng said.
The candidates on the Your Voice ticket expressed that any initiative to improve UTD was a good one, and that a good administration would be reached by informing one’s vote.
“Vote for whoever you think can make the most positive change on campus, because at the end of the day, it is a competitive election, but it is also a Student Government that serves the entire student body,” Peng said.
To watch the full interview, go to UTDTV.com. Voting will be online March 28-30 at utdallas.edu/vote.