Student Association presidential candidates discuss range of issues in debate

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Student Association presidential candidates discuss range of issues in debate

Kayleigh Marshall

Kayleigh Marshall

Kayleigh Marshall

Kayleigh Marshall

Shane Summers, Student Government Reporter

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The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Student Association hosted a presidential and vice-presidential debate at the Student Union Entertainment Café on Monday, April 15. The debate involved candidates running for the top leadership positions in the upcoming Student Association elections on April 23 and was moderated by Dr. Anthony Chergosky, a professor of political science at UWL. Each of the three presidential candidates began with an opening statement. The first to speak was Sita AgterbergAgterberg stressed her background as the inclusivity director of the Student Senate and time as coordinator for Habitat for Humanity.  

Olivia Woodmansee, her running mate spoke next, discussing her work as a Senator for the College of Science and Health, her position on the Senate’s Segregated Fees Committee, as well as her desire to “help serve students better.”  

The next presidential candidate to speak was Mitch Bunting. Bunting discussed his unique background as a green fund coordinator at UWL, saying it gave him an “outside perspective.” He focused on sustainability and transparency, saying he would “be able to bring a lot to the table in terms of improving transparency.”  

Samantha Wolfe, his running mate focused on her work “making campus greener” as the Co-Chair of Students for Sustainability and Sustainability Director. “I hope to extend that into my role as vice president,” she said.  

Mike Meyers, the third presidential candidate gave the final opening statement. “Tonight, I hope to really give you the impression that I am running for you,” he said, stating that the student association does not cater to the average student and that he would be a “casual, honest, and open leader.” Meyers did not yet have a running mate. 

Each candidate then responded to a multitude of questions. In terms of representing UWL as the president and the ongoing tenant pricing issues in La Crosse, Agterberg said she had “learned a lot about affordable housing through Habitat for Humanity” and proposed lobbying as a possible solution.  

Bunting said, “We’ve all been hit hard with the tenant situation around campus, and we all know what it’s like to not have equal representation” on the issue. He, too, suggested lobbying as a possible solution.  

Meyers said students were “victims” of high tenant prices, agreeing that “the only answer here is lobbying, as said by the previous two candidates.”  

Candidates also discussed their positions on the potential Eagle Dome, referendum question also on the ballot in the upcoming election. Bunting said he was “glad it’s coming to a vote. Because the facility would “give better opportunities to our athletes,” he expressed his support for the project 

Meyers said he supposed he “had no objections to it,” but he also thought “we need to revisit parts of the campus that are often overlooked.”  

Agterberg said that because the dome would be funded through segregated fees and thus would have little impact on other funding, she supported the initiative since it would expand the space for campus athletics. “I know how crowded [the Recreation Center] can get, she said.  

Candidates also answered how they would advocate for UWL during the ongoing budget negotiations between newly elected Gov. Evers and the Republican State Legislature. Meyers said that “whatever [the student body] wants, I’ll carry out,” though he acknowledged divided government in Madison would likely make progress difficult.  

Agterberg suggested advocating for further building renovations at UWL “as well as renovations for most of our dorms.”  

Bunting discussed the current tuition freeze and lack of state funding. “We’re starting to see those affects long term,” he noted, suggesting that continued lobbying of the State Legislature would be necessary.  

Candidates also responded to an audience question regarding the new Woman of Color Scholarship and how best to sustain it in the long term. Bunting planned to “Focus on where we’re getting the funding from” and proposed seeking an endowment to support the award.  

Meyers stated that “fundraisers could be a good way to go.”  

Agterberg said the scholarship was “one of her biggest projects” and discussed her personal experience fundraising for it.  

Vice Presidential candidates also responded to several questions. The first question focused on the top initiative each candidate would take on if elected. Woodmansee discussed serving as the link for senators and creating forums to support student voices, explaining “I really enjoy the behind-the-scenes [work] of the Senate.”  

Wolfe said she would “Help Senators accomplish things throughout the school year” by holding more events where students can interact with their senators. Another issue discussed was the steady decline of resolutions in the Student Senate in the past few years.  

Wolfe agreed “It is a problem. It shows that Senators aren’t being as active in writing those resolutions.” As Vice President, she promised to focus on holding Senators more accountable.  

Woodmansee added that “as well as holding Senators accountable, I’d also like to inspire them,” discussing the importance of encouraging greater activism and addressing the mid-semester slump.  

Candidate Meyers also responded to the question with a call for greater accountability to boost resolutions. 

Each Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidate was asked what they believed had been their greatest achievement at UWL thus far. Meyers said he “Studied abroad in Germany” and later added that promoting LGBTQ+ rights was “one of my proudest moments.”  

Agterberg said it was “being on the Student Association this year” as well as the Women of Color scholarship discussed earlier.  

Woodmansee discussed her budgetary experience and work allocating funds. “All budgets were technically at a standstill,” she noted, “but we were able to take 1,500 dollars and allocate them to entities that could use the money.”  

Bunting said he was “most proud” of his achievements “in terms of sustainability on campus” and that he helped “get rid of one-use plastics.”  

Wolfe discussed her involvement in Students for Sustainability, but said her greatest achievement was “Running for the Vice President of the Student Association.” 

After questions, each candidate gave a closing statement.  

Meyers said“I hope I got the message across that I am a candidate for the people.”  

Wolfe said she thought the debate was “super informative” but that her and her running mate’s “values really stick out in our answers” regarding sustainability.  

Bunting also discussed his work on sustainability and said the “Student Senate is not very transparent in what they’re doing.”  

Woodmansee discussed the “need for more passionate students” as well as increased senator-student interactions, while Agterberg ended her statement saying, “we would really like to have a more inclusive campus.”

 

 

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