Student Association President and Vice-President candidates debate important issues on UWL’s campus and in the community


Image retrieved from UWL YouTube.

Morgan Hose, Assistant Editor

On Monday, April 19, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Student Association President and Vice President elects met virtually to debate prominent issues surrounding this year’s election.   

Those running for Student Association President include Jared Zwettler (K.C. Cayo), Jenasea Hameister (Madelyn Hansen), Jake Williams (Erin Everson), Jordan Lattimore (Adrian Hernandez), and Isaac Ozolins (Robert Friske).   

Vice President candidates are K.C. Cayo (Jared Zwettler), Madelyn Hansen (Jenasea Hameister), Erin Everson (Jake Williams), Adrian Hernandez (Jordan Lattimore), and Robert Friske (Isaac Ozolins).  

Topics covered in the debate included mental health, diversity and inclusion, campus safety, COVID-19 and getting vaccinated, reopening campus, and responsibilities if elected President and Vice-President of the Student Association.   

The debate began by Faith Fisher moderating the questions for the Presidential candidates. Each Presidential candidate began by giving an open statement.   

Isaac Ozolins said, “I decided to run for SA President because of how the university has responded to the COVID-19 crisis. It is time for the university to stop putting their education, mental health, and college experience second. SA is a check on the universities power. Remember that it’s your school too, you get a say on how it’s run.”  

“K.C. and I are running because the SA needs experienced leadership now more than ever. We have the experience necessary to lead the student government out of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic and to promote sustainable, accessible, and inclusive policies across campus. We know the limitations of the student government and we pledge to not make any unrealistic promises. Together we will all work to create solutions, practical solutions, to the problems we face daily,” said Jared Zwettler.   

Jake Williams said, “I’m running because I believe that students deserve a better college experience, not just because of the pandemic, but overall. We hope that under our leadership that we’re able to correct what has been wrong with SA for so long and to put in place options and policies that not only help SA carry out what has been established but also make sure future generations have the same opportunities.”  

“Together, Madelyn and I hope to advocate for diversity and inclusion, environmental sustainability, mental health and wellbeing, and nutrition for student-athletes on campus. We hope that during our term we can support students and bring their voices to the administration at UWL. Additionally, we want to provide a welcoming environment where students feel comfortable voicing any of their concerns or ideas,” said Jenasea Hameister.  

Jordan Lattimore said, “We believe as a student body we’re able to make positive changes by addressing a variety of different issues, such as sustainability making UWL a healthier ecosystem. Secondly, regarding mental health, suicide is the third leading cause of death in students 10-24. 90% of those who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness. By tackling mental health issues, we can see fewer suicide cases simply by making resources more available to students on campus at all times and informing students of these resources, Lastly, according to a recent poll, 86% of parents believe that the safety of campus is an important factor in choosing a college. No parent wants to send their child to a college they deem unsafe. These are some topics we hope to emphasize to make UWL a better campus.”   

Question 1: “What is one thing you would like to do in your position and how do you propose that you would accomplish that goal realistically?”  

Lattimore: “As a student, we go into Whitney for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and we’re offered a plastic bag. Hundreds, if not thousands, receive bags each time they eat at Whitney. That adds up to about 8,600 plastic bags a month. We as a campus can reduce our carbon and plastic footprint to impact Wisconsin by 2-3%. I would go about this by handing out reusable bags at the beginning of the year. I would also ask the Green Fund to budget and install more reusable water filters.”  

Hameister: “One thing that Maddie and I want to advocate for is diversity and inclusion, we think that is important especially at a primarily white campus. We would want to create events with multiple organizations where individuals have more chances to engage and understand the importance of their distinctive groups. We want to have honest and vulnerable conversations, regarding things that need to change in UWL. Mental health advocacy is another important topic, especially given the counselor to student ratio.”  

Williams: “The one thing that I want to focus on is the fact that SA is fundamentally broken in almost every regard. SA is the largest live-action role-play organization on campus and we as an institution are not set up to advocate effectively for our students. We barely have the ability to communicate with the entirety of the student population with emails getting lost. I would work to bring in more voices to connect students.”  

Zwettler: “Throughout my time in SA, I have seen many articles written in The Racquet Press advocating for increased mental health resources and getting a sustainability coordinator on campus. These two things have one major element in common and that’s budget transparency. While that’s not a very exciting thing to talk about here, it is an important issue to bring up. We need to be more transparent on where the university is allocating our funds in order to start conversations on how to get resources such as more counselors or a sustainability coordinator.   

Ozolins: “A big problem at this university is that people will vote for senators and there’s no accountability to know what funds are being spent on. Before budgets are approved, an email needs to be sent out to students to know what the funds are being spent on. Budget transparency is a big thing at this university and students need to know about it. You pay your fees, but never know what you get out of it.”  

Question 2: “Tell me why you ran for President and what makes you feel like you are qualified?”   

Ozolins: “I ran for SA because of this COVID-19 crisis and it has been a disaster for this community. At the same time, this lockdown cannot go on. It has completely destroyed this campus’s ability to get along with each other. I was on AIDAC, SUFAC, and the legislative affairs committee, and I felt that in my experience they needed a fresh view.   

Zwettler: “I have been on SA for this past year representing the College of Science and Health as a student senator. In my first year, I created and chaired the COVID-19 Policy and Research Committee which functioned to research administrative policies to ensure they were being communicated transparently to students. Later on, I was elected as the chair of AIDAC where I helped allocate over $1.3 million. I worked hard to meet with individuals to ensure their voices were being heard. I ran for President because I believe that budget transparency is a must. We need to work with the administration, not against them to pressure them, but work with them so students can know where their fees are going.   

Williams: “I decided to run for SA President because of two main things: one, that this year has been awful because of COVID-19 and I believe that SA could have done more to offset some negatives that we’re seeing and two, that I learned that SA had not been in compliance with open meeting law which is a state statute that demands transparency from all student organizations. The fact that SA is not transparent, and hasn’t been for multiple years, combined with their inability to connect with students both online and in-person is why we need change.”  

Hameister: “I ran for President because I want to advocate for students on campus and be a voice for representation for all students. I feel that I am qualified for this position because I was heavily involved in organizations in high school. I was a part of the team that qualified for state in parliamentary procedure. I am also the Director of Community and Engagement in Alpha Phi, the sorority that I’m in.  

Lattimore: “I am less interested in the title of President, and more genuinely concerned with the needs and wants of students. I recently transferred here from Minnesota and I’d like to think that my introspective from two different campuses are very different and those contrasts give me the experience to bring to UWL.”  

Question 3: “Being President is a full-time commitment, requiring at least 25 hours a week. Please explain how you will manage your time and keep yourself accountable so you can accomplish your goals.”   

Lattimore: “I have a pretty open schedule, so I can allocate the time I have free to be the SA President.”  

Hameister: “In high school, I was very engaged with a lot of organizations, as well as sports and academics. I am more than qualified when it comes to time management and accountability, so I feel as if SA President is another thing I can take on.”  

Williams: “I will use my abilities of time management to make sure that I am able to be on top of the amount of work, as well as attending every meeting necessary. I plan on having my executive cabinet heavily involved so that the work that I do isn’t a solo effort to make sure that all voices are heard.”   

Zwettler: “I’ve had a lot of experience working to manage my schedule with various internships, jobs, and committee assignments. I’m the chair of three committees which has taught me time management and prioritization.”  

Ozolins walked through a day in the life of his senior year of high school to emphasize how he managed his time and handled it responsibly. “I have put in the hours and work in my high school experience,” said Ozolins.   

Question 4: “Diversity and Inclusion are very important to UWL’s campus, how will you make this a more safe and inclusive space for students with marginalized identities?”   

Ozolins: “This isn’t one of those things you can throw money at and expect it to go away. I think the best way for the campus to foster a culture of understanding and acceptance is if we can get our campus open again. I think of the Rec basketball courts, for example, it was a great melting pot of students.”  

Zwettler: “As a leader, I want to make sure I’m listening more than I’m talking. We need to bring more voices to the table to make sure people from marginalized communities are being heard.”  

Williams: “I believe committees should be completely open, if you’re a student on campus that isn’t being heard, then you should be able to join a committee.”  

Hameister: “Being a voice for those who feel underrepresented and bringing more equality and fairness to campus is something that I want to focus on.”  

Lattimore: “As a student of color, I believe that UWL is doing a relatively good job of making students of color feel inclusive. The multicultural community is always reaching out to tell us about events going on and I think we can continue doing that. Also, making sure we are staying updated on issues going on around campus and how they feel. When it comes to diversity and inclusivity, I think having informational panels on privilege can help and we can use those to our advantage.”  

Question 5: “Many of you have sustainability as a key part of your platform, what specific action step can you use to increase efforts on campus and what projects will you pursue using the Green Fund and other sustainable groups on campus to achieve those goals?”   

Lattimore: “Informing students that there is a Green Fund to use can increase efforts. Not using so many water bottles, using reusable bags, and knowing resources, such as where to recycle plastic bags, can be helpful.”  

Hameister: “Incorporating the Green Fund more on campus to bring awareness to students. Also, incorporating more energy-efficient areas on campus or starting a community garden or greenhouse. Eliminating waste in Whitney by using less single-use plastic can make a difference as well.  

Williams: “I am the sustainability office for Angel Hall and we’ve been looking at alternatives to single-use plastic. One of the major failings of SA was to communicate information to students, so I hope to make information more well known to students.”  

Zwettler: “One of the biggest things we can work on is recognizing that sustainability doesn’t stop at our campus borders. We need to work with students from Viterbo University and Western Tech and city officials to address sustainability on the city, county, and state level. I hope to create a coalition with students from all three campuses in order to address these issues.”  

Ozolins: “One thing that I think is often neglected from the Green Fund is fixing old infrastructure. There are a lot of things that go unseen that could make a difference. It’s simply planting trees around campus, I feel that planting a few more trees around campus and letting them grow will make the campus a more enjoyable place while making it more sustainable.”  

Question 6: “As many of us are aware, mental health has been a huge conversation at UWL and other universities. What do you want to do in your role to help improve the mental health of students on campus and how will you do this?”  

Ozolins: “The thing about mental health is that it is very closely related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The more you isolate people, the less they can interact and have a good life. I don’t think this problem can be solved by a committee or money, we need to open back up and get campus life back to normal.”  

Zwettler: “There is clearly a mental health epidemic. We want to continue current President Cate Wiza’s efforts to create a mental health task force to address this major problem.”  

Williams: “It’s clear that SA hasn’t done enough in advocacy this year. I want to make mental health a part of START for freshmen so they can get basic exposure to mental health resources. I want to get more counselors in the CTC because too many students are being turned away from counseling.”   

Hameister: “We want to create an outreach program to make resources easier to access and to create knowledge on things happening around campus. We also want to do monthly check in’s with students to make sure we can provide students with what they need.”  

Lattimore: “I would like to educate students on mental health through Bingo games or seminars at the beginning of each semester. Also, I’d like to offer anonymous text-based services to students in need. Expanding the Counseling and Testing Center is another big issue we need to fix.”  

Question 7: “How do you plan to successfully help transition UWL back to normalcy, if that is an option? How will you adapt if COVID-19 is still a prevalent threat in our community?”   

Lattimore: “If COVID-19 is still a threat, we can still wear masks, but let’s find ways to open organizations that students want to attend on campus.”  

Hameister: “Campus is doing a good job, in my opinion, of keeping everyone safe with the resources, testing, and vaccination site. If elected, I would work with the administration to keep up those efforts and to ease back into normalcy. Safety is the number one priority at UWL and I’d like to continue those efforts while still acknowledging students’ viewpoints.”  

Williams: “I want to help organizations transition strongly back into in-person meetings. Honestly, UWL squirrels on Instagram has done more community-building than the entirety of SA.”  

Zwettler: “We are currently in the process of working with University Centers Director, Kyle Burke, to make sure that organizations have a way to meet in person as the weather gets nicer. I’d like to work with Faculty Senate to make sure that student voices are being heard.”  

Ozolins: “People will wear their mask in the dorms and on campus, but later that night go out with all their friends and party with no masks. It just seems like it’s this big joke around campus and we all have to pretend it’s the black plague or something. Vaccines are here, we can’t stay shut down. We’re not paying them to teach ourselves in online classes, we’re paying them for the college experience and we should be getting that.”  

Will Monk went on to moderate the Vice-Presidential component of the debate.  

Question 1: “How will you support the President and create a positive working relationship while effectively communicating to properly represent the student body?”  

K.C. Cayo: “The main role of the Vice President is to be holding my president, cabinet, and senators accountable. I should always be going to our cabinet and senate meetings to discuss what we’ve been working on.”   

Maddie Hansen: “Jenasea and I are roommates, so we’re really close with each other and I’ve learned how we both work together. I consider Jenasea my family, so I look forward to running our campaign as family and working well together.”  

RJ Friske: “I am almost always on my phone, so I’d be able to be very responsive to students. Isaac and I would be like a well-oiled machine getting what the students want done.”  

Adrian Hernandez: “Jordan and I have a great support system and we’re very approachable people. I will hold both myself and Jordan accountable for achieving our goals and hearing all ideas.”  

Erin Everson: “In order to properly represent the student body, I would like to make myself available for students to bring their suggestions and concerns to.”  

Question 2: “There have been recent events at other universities in the region, most notably Viterbo, that have been experiencing a lot of racial discrimination, such as vandalism. Our community as a whole has seen a lot of hate and division, how will you work to bring the UWL campus community together when racism, discrimination, and hate divides us?”   

Everson: “I don’t feel qualified to debate issues that affect black people, but I have not noticed that a lot of this has been going on, but I also recognize that not everyone has had the same experience that I had.”  

Friske: “The best way that I think we can come together as a campus community is to open campus back up because that’s how you meet people. It’s hard to make friends from diverse backgrounds when everything is online.”   

Hernandez: “I know that there’s a lot of colored students that feel marginalized and I’ve experienced that here at a predominantly white campus. Promoting student organizations is a good way to let students know what resources are out there.”  

Hansen: “I believe it starts with honest and vulnerable conversations. I want to be a platform for the whole community, and that no one goes unheard.”  

Cayo: “While I agree in some regards that having conversations on these topics is important, I do not think we should be forcing people of color to be having them. I was a part of the campus climate survey that went out earlier this year and based on those responses, we will create programs around those results.”  

Question 3: “A sense of community is extremely important, how will you communicate between the administration, faculty staff, the president, and senate in making sure that student voices are being heard concerning mental health on campus and the community at large?”  

Hansen: “We’d like to create programs where mental health assistance and support is more available to students on campus. We’d also like to create events once a month on campus, such as bringing dogs into pet, to create a better campus environment.”  

Hernandez: “The urgent care counselor availability is only from 2:00-4:00 Monday through Friday. You can’t time a breakdown or stress, those can’t wait. Having that availability is very important for mental health.”   

Everson: “I would like to make myself available for students to be able to talk to. I think SA has currently been limiting themselves to what they can do.”  

Cayo: “Student senate has open meetings where we have a student body open forum so students can bring any issues they have to those spaces. Additionally, I’d like to stay away from the idea that the only reason people are having mental health problems is because of the pandemic. SA is currently working towards a fall break option.”   

Friske: “The best way to fight the mental health epidemic is to open up. Feel free to reach out to us if you need to talk to someone. We will communicate with the administration as effectively we can and pressure them to open campus back up.”   

Question 4: “As vaccines continue to roll out in the state of Wisconsin, how do you plan to promote getting all students vaccinated at UWL? How do you plan to promote vaccines to those that are skeptical on campus? How do you address the concerns of students who may not be ready to return to normal?  

Everson: “I don’t think it’s fair to demand that everybody get the vaccine, however, I do think that we should impose restrictions on those who do not get the vaccine, such as requiring more frequent testing. To try. To encourage students to get the vaccine, we could highlight the misinformation going around about the vaccine.”  

Friske: “I encourage students to get the vaccine, but I don’t think it’s right for the campus to enforce students to get it. We can encourage and recommend it, but requiring it seems unethical to me.”  

Cayo: “There are already conversations right now about making it mandatory for students to have a vaccine card to be on campus next semester. The most we can do is either take a stand against it, which won’t get much done, or we can support them on these measures to negotiate or compromise.”  

Hernandez: “Forcing students to get the vaccine isn’t appropriate and takes away our freedom, however, we should continue enforcing testing to respect the safety of those that are vaccinated.”  

Hansen: “I believe that testing should be mandatory for those without the vaccine, and administration should be recommending the vaccine. Safety is the number one priority for this campus and community.”  

The debate finished with closing statements from all the presidential and vice-presidential candidates. The Student Association President and Vice-President election will take place Tuesday, April 27 from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.