Student Association president and vice president candidate Q&A before upcoming election


Student Association logo. Image obtained from the UWL Student Association Facebook Page.

Isabel Piarulli, Mulitmedia Editor

On Thursday, April 6, candidates for the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Student Association (SA) president and vice president met to discuss their reasons for running for the upcoming 2023-2024 term.

The general election will take place on April 13 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. UWL students will vote via email for the SA president, vice president and senators.

The candidates for the next academic year are Emma Latus running for president, alongside Siri Flores running for re-election for vice president. The third candidate is Jimmy Birchfield running for president. They each began the Q&A with their personal statements.

Birchfield is a freshman pursuing a career in physical therapy with a minor in leadership. “Leadership is kind of part of my game and this [being president of SA] will hopefully help me get there,” he said. “I am also an ROTC cadet, so Reserve Officer Training Corps, part of the military. Another big part of that is leadership so I think this will be a big stepping stone or a great addition to my tool kit in terms of helping lead, direct and helping improve my general environment.”

Emma Latus was the second SA presidential candidate to give her personal statement. She said, “I am currently a sophomore here at UWL, studying political science and English. This summer I am going to be studying abroad for a couple weeks and I am really excited to get a new perspective and bring new skills back to my career here at UWL and hopefully this position.”

SA vice president candidate Siri Flores was the last to share her personal statement. Flores is a junior majoring in psychology with a minor in professional and technical writing. “I am the current vice president of SA, and I am running for re-election because I learned that there is only so much you can get done in one term, it is really unfortunate that your one term is one year,” she said. Flores explained during the first half of her term she was building the framework and will not have to spend time as much time building relationships with administrators because she has already done that. “We can just hit the ground running and start doing things that we’ve been planning for the last couple months.”

Question: Please tell us why you ran for president (or vice president) and what makes you feel like you are qualified.  

Birchfield first answered the question. He said, “As I mentioned before I am pursuing a lot of skills in my life based around leadership. In my past I have served as student council president at my previous high school, that was another instance where I really enjoyed getting used to my environment.” Birchfield explained how he organized fundraisers and school dances in past student government positions.

“I feel like I can bring a lot of passion to this job,” he said. “I understand that Siri has some ideas in the works, I would be really interested to hear what she has planned for us, and I really think I could help you get to where you want to go if not now through this position through another position.”

Latus said in response to the first question, “I am interested in president because I’m really passionate about this organization. I was involved in student government all through high school, so I was really excited to get involved when I came to UWL.” She explained how during her freshman year at UWL she served as the secretary of SA and through that, she learned how the organization works.

“Then this year I’m serving as the state affairs director which has given me a great opportunity to work with legislators, administrators and student reps from other schools which is very exciting,” Latus said. “I think I am qualified because of that prior knowledge because I have worked closely with past presidents, and I think I have a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge on how to forward this position in the future.”

Flores gave insight into her first year as vice president in response to the first question. She said, “I’m running for re-election election because I think there is a pattern with this organization which is why not many things get accomplished from year to year, it’s because you’re new to this role. You spend the first half of the term or year getting to know the lay of the land because it is a really big job to take on. You spend that first half getting to know everything and then it’s winter break and then you have about six weeks of actual time that you know what you’re doing, and you start doing those actionable items and then it’s election season again.”

“I have a clear set of goals that I want to accomplish within the next year, and I can just go ahead and get started doing it. I’ve learned what this job requires, and I believe that I have what it takes to do that,” said Flores.

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

SA presidential candidate Birchfield said, “I believe that mental health is a massive issue, not just around any one campus specifically, but as a nation, as a whole. So I think that for me personally, that’s something I’d like to see a lot more of introduced throughout campus life, just ways for faculty members and even down to the level of the RA, to help engage with new students, old students and students who are dealing with a lot of stress from classes, studying, constant work schedules, basically being a college student.” Birchfield explained how he came to UWL from a different state and professors and RAs reached out to him without prompting to make him feel welcome.

Latus said, “I really want to work on building a stronger sense of community on campus. I think that’s a big part of bigger issues that students find on campus, while we may find community in certain organizations or clubs those who may not be encouraged to be involved don’t have that and I think that that is a main struggle for students on campus.” As SA president, Latus would encourage communication between student orgs and clubs. She continued, “Just make campus a more welcoming place, make sure that everyone feels welcome whether that be through events or just getting the word out there about different things that are going on.”

SA vice president Flores said that while her goal may seem small, she knows it is obtainable because she has held the role of vice president for the past term. “Sustainability is really important to me, and I want to like cut down the waste that we have on this campus,” said Flores. “I think something that every student can participate in regardless of socioeconomic status, regardless of what class they are in, is providing OZZI boxes to every student.” Flores was a student at UWL during COVID-19 and saw how non-reusable takeout boxes filled trash cans around campus.

“We have the OZZI system on campus, the current system isn’t ready for every student to use it but there are funds. I have spoken with the sustainability director, and it is possible every student would be able to participate,” said Flores. OZZI boxes are reusable containers that are funded through UWL’s Green Fund which uses $10.83 collected from each student included in tuition fees. “That money would be going right back to every student, again regardless of socioeconomic status, and you could say that you had a part in helping the stability here on campus,” she said.

Question: Diversity and inclusion are very important to UWL. How will you make our campus a more safe and inclusive campus for students from marginalized identities?

“I really do think, as I’ve been in this position, that every single group or organization is on their own little island and there’s no cross-communication,” said SA vice president Flores. “So I think we need to strengthen the overall net we have here in order to create a better community for everyone.”

Flores continued, “My biggest goal is to bridge the gap between the different orgs. I also know that at times there has been the threat of some groups wanting to remove diversity org seats on Senate and I just want to say that that is not going to happen while I’m in this position of power. It’s not OK.”

In response to this question, SA presidential candidate Latus first explained there needs to be fair and equal representation across campus. “As Siri said, protecting those seats and amplifying the voices of diversity organizations is incredibly important,” said Latus. “Creating a safe and healthy space for people to have conversations about how they’re being affected and how they feel and discussing what action steps we can take as leaders to fix those problems.”

SA presidential candidate Birchfield responded to this question by first talking about the digital signs around campus that advertise facts about UWL. He said, “I was super ecstatic to see UWL was number six in the nation for supporting LGBTQ+ peoples.” Birchfield explained there are a lot of people close to him who are in the LGBTQ+ community and have faced struggles being themselves in their environments, so he was happy to see UWL works towards being a welcoming environment.

Birchfield said, “I noticed that we have some organizations that revolve around these groups of people, and I think increasing the amount of awareness for newcomers, for freshmen. I’ll be acting as the voice of the freshman here, just put it out there more, we want to know about how we can support how we can participate, and how we can grow together as students at this university and together as a community.”

Question: Our community has seen a whole lot of hate and division. How will you work with UWL’s campus together when racism, discrimination, and hate divide us? 

Flores was first to answer, she said, “As we’ve seen this past year there have been some very inflammatory and hateful things written on our campus with chalk. The unfortunate thing with this job is that as much as you want to outright condemn you can’t, but we can still support everyone on this campus.” Flores explained how she and Latus have discussed the importance of having their door open and being the voice for people that feel they don’t have one.

“Everything right now feels like it’s behind closed doors and only for certain people, very exclusionary, so why can’t we just open those doors and all of us [senate, student orgs and students] build the community together,” said Flores.

Latus in response to this question explained how UWL offers a lot of great resources and diversity organizations, but they could be reaching more people. To do this she suggested, “acclimating the organization into campus, making it seem easy and fun like you’re just hanging out with other students because that’s really all it is.”

She also talked about the student open body forum that is a part of SA meetings where students who are not members of SA can come to speak to the group publicly. “I think we really need to work on as an organization finding a way to let students know that [open body forum] is a resource, that we are a resource.” Latus continued, “I think one way we could do that is inviting different organizations, clubs and committees to come and speak during that time.”

SA presidential candidate Birchfield also sided with the idea of bridging the gap between SA and UWL students. “If we really want our students to feel more included, then we have to be able to reach out to them more and try and engage with them more. I had no idea Student Association they existed a couple months ago, I heard about it through one e-mail and I’m like ‘Hey I’m interested about finding out about this’.”

All UWL students can participate in electing their student representatives in SA. A general election email will be sent out at 7 a.m. this Thursday, April 13, and will close at 7 p.m.

SA Candidates Birchfield, Latus and Flores, from left to right. Photo taken by Isabel Piarulli.