Q & A: Presidential and Vice Candidates (Pt. 1)

Story by Thom Fountain

Managing Editor Thom Fountain talked with student body presidential candidate Phil Rynish and his running mate Mark Morgan.

Thom Fountain: Do you want to give a little history of you at the university and in senate?

Phil Rynish: I started about two weeks into my freshman year. I was appointed by then president Tim Lauer. I heard about Senate during orientation and thought it was something I’d like to get into, so I got involved. For the first year I was just a senator and then about halfway through first semester sophomore year I became Organizations Director and I served in that capacity until spring when I was elected vice president and here I am today. And I’m a junior biology major from Seymour, Wis.

Mark Morgan: I didn’t get involved in Senate until my junior year, although I was a transfer student so I spent my first two years at a different school. I was appointed back in November, (Phil) was actually on my vacancies committee, as well as then-president Michael Umhoefer. Served out all of last year as a senator and this year I’ve been Academic Affairs Director.


TF: So why did you choose to run?

PR: I chose to run because I think Mark and I bring the experience we need right now. We’ve been talking about budget cuts and things like that that are going to be faced at the university and I think Mark and I have a lot of experience to work with all facets of the university to help minimize those cuts. We’ve got experience with local, state and Mark even on a national level leaders and I think that experience is going to help us as we lobby for UW-Eau Claire students to help minimize those cuts. I also wanted to run because there’s a lot of good things going on here and there’s a lot of things that need some changing. And I think that I’ve seen a lot of how this process works — the ins and outs of the university in my first three years here, especially this year I’ve expanded my experience broadly and I think I’ve got a pretty good idea about how to go about solving those problems and how to make this a better place for the students and for everyone.

MM: A lot of the same issues. I think that especially after working really deep in it as you do as an Academic Affairs Director or even just a very active senator is you can start to see, frankly a lot of the good that’s being done and simultaneously you can see a lot of the changes that need to be made in order to maximize that good. And I think that both Phil and I together can provide the type of broad vision in order to ensure that with the difficulties that are coming with state budget cuts, with frankly society in general having kind of an anti-academic, anti-state employee mindset, is I think that as a university we need to take a unique approach to move forward. We’ve already implemented a lot of tools we need in order to do that it’s just a matter of tweaking those tools and continually expanding student authority and control in areas and I think together we can do that quite well.


TF: So moving into the issues, state budget cuts are the big thing on the table right now. How do you plan on managing and working with those cuts as they come to the university?

MM: I think one of the biggest tools we have for that is the Blugold Commitment. With the Blugold Commitment, one of the promises we made to students is it is not to be used for backfilling, not to be used to just cover up budget cuts. So that needs to be ensured as we move forward — it’s not money to backfill. But it is money we use to hire faculty, to retain faculty, to attract new faculty and to be able to promote that on campus — to promote the high end practices, internship experiences, the unique things about this campus that when you see cuts at other schools, that’s what’s getting cut. And I think here we’ve developed the mentality that that’s really a core aspect of what this school is and that pool of money and the tools there will allow us to keep the excellence and the kind of education we have going in the face of those budget cuts.

In addition to that, I think that — Phil mentioned lobbying — I think promoting the proposed Wisconsin Idea Partnership, the idea that we have to have more on-campus flexibilities, be it in purchasing, be it in managing our own HR policies to retain qualified faculty. That needs to be lobbied for and that needs to be maintained, whether it’s done in this biennial budget process or as separate legislation. It’s absolutely necessary to face the budget cuts that we’re getting.

PR: And I’d say, going back to the Blugold Commitment, we love our faculty here and quite honestly, as we look to replace some faculty that are retiring — (The Spectator) ran that story that there are record numbers retiring, so we know we’re going to have to do that — a lot of people around the country see Wisconsin and their honestly kind of afraid to come here and I’ve heard that from numerous sources. We need something to be able to attract them to come and I think the Blugold Commitment is that. Mark was at the HLC Conference, and people are really impressed with what we’re doing here and I think that’s going to really help us bring quality people to the university to help our students get that education that they want as we move forward with this.


The full interview will be staggered in three parts. Part two will be available Saturday and Part three on Monday.