Two candidates running for Student Government president and vice president on the Catalyze ticket represent a platform focused on spirit, communication and sustainability during the first contested election in two years.
Actuarial science junior Eric Chen has served as the Communication Committee’s chair for the 2017-2018 administration, and undeclared freshman Carla Ramazan has served on the Student Affairs Committee. Both said the goal to spark a change within the student body is what encouraged them to run for the positions.
“The name catalyze came from our vision to want to start a reaction on this campus,” Chen said. “I think that the student body really wants people in office who can bring real change, and I think that catalyze kind of fit into the unique intellectual culture here at UTD. We really pride ourselves in being a STEAM university, and we felt like catalyze really embodied that.”
Chen said after serving as a senator, his desire to do more for campus and the students are what lead him to branch out from his position.
“As a senator, you are a little bit limited to one realm, and as president you really get to have hands in all different parts, all different initiatives, and you have the opportunity to really drive the overall direction of the student body as a whole,” he said.
One project that Chen and Ramazan aim to begin is an eco-coin project. Adapted from UT Austin, it would essentially allow students to purchase an eco-coin at the start of the semester and exchange it for a to-go box, much like in the dining hall. The eco-coin, however, would not be limited to Dining Hall West and would be available to use across campus.
Another idea is the freshmen bike project, in which freshmen and first-year students are encouraged to leave their cars at home and encourage sustainability.
“We want to encourage freshmen or other first-year students to leave their car at home, giving 100 lucky freshmen the opportunity to win a bike, a bike helmet and a bike lock,” Chen said.
Regarding the communication initiative, Ramazan said increasing transparency would thrive by having SG reach out to student organizations rather than the reverse.
“Right now, SG wants students to come to them and talk to them, and I think that is great, but I think we need to flip that around a bit,” Ramazan said. “I think it is our responsibility on SG to … attend multicultural meetings, just go to various areas around campus and being like, ‘Hello, we are your Student Government representatives, and we would like to know what you would like to see from us.’”
While the SG candidates have multiple long-term and large goals, including the sustainability projects, Chen expressed the importance of prioritizing why they are there in the first place.
“Ultimately, Student Government needs to be about the students, and when we say that, we don’t just say that,” Chen said. “I think one of the most powerful things for me was seeing how projects impacted students and how we could tangibly impact students’ lives on campus. A lot of times, I think when we get caught up in doing our jobs and getting the tasks done, we lose sight of the end goal of just making Comets happier on campus and just making them proud to be able to call themselves a Comet.”
In addition to hearing the student body’s voice by reaching out, Ramazan said spreading awareness will also contribute to voter turnout. In 2016, there was a turnout of 7 percent, and in 2017, 6.6 percent.
“People on campus definitely want to engage, I just think there is not enough awareness on who is running, what the platforms are, when elections are happening, so I think that reaching out to organizations, letting them know when voting is happening would be a great way to start that,” she said.
With the Student Government elections coming up on March 28-30, Chen said he believes his ticket’s experience and large-scale goals are what give Catalyze the upper hand.
“I think that one thing you’ll see with this ticket is that we want to see SG come out the other side completely different,” Chen said. “We have a lot of new things we want to implement, and I think we have the prowess and the experience to understand what goes into these implementations.”
To watch the full interview, go to UTDTV.com. Voting will be online March 28-30 at utdallas.edu/vote.