Student Body Presidential election to be contested for first time in years

Story by Martha Landry & Alex Zank, Currents Editor & News Editor

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When UW-Eau Claire students go to the polls for the spring Student Senate elections starting April 15, they will have a choice to make for the first time in four years between two tickets for Eau Claire Student Body President and Vice President.

The two tickets are Bryan Larson and Jason Rector, who are saying experience matters, and Mathew Riedel and Frank Heaton, who say it is time for Senate to see some changes in the way it behaves.

Although the election has been publicized, freshman Nicole Allen had not even heard the elections were starting.

Being unaware of the requirements of a Student Body President, Allen wasn’t sure what she looked for in a candidate.

“I guess it would be somebody you could count on to do what is best for the university and the students,” Allen said.

Larson and Rector said they are running because of their passion to serve on a strong student governance body.

“One of the things we believe in really strongly is the strong history of shared governance, and strong history of student governments here,” Larson said. “Not only … do we have the most influence in our school of any student government in Wisconsin, but we have, relatively speaking, the most influence of any student government in the country.”

Riedel said he and Heaton are running because there are things they would like to see changed on Senate and the way it has functioned the past year.

“The reason why we decided to run together, first and foremost, is the current culture of Senate,” he said. “It’s one that promotes leadership among the same social circles that are already involved in a lot of activities together. We’d like to see a more diverse representation on Senate.”

They said their ideas for further student outreach and inclusivity sets them apart from Larson and Rector.

Experience

Larson has served on Senate for two years, chairing the Finance Commission in the current Senate session. Rector has been serving as a senator for just as long and is also the current director of the Intergovernmental Affairs Commission.

Rector said through their previous experience, he and Larson are prepared to make ties with incoming Chancellor Jim Schmidt and had direct input during the search process.

“We met with the Chancellor Search and Screen Committee; they went around to each director (asking), ‘what are you looking for in a new chancellor?’,” Rector said. “We can aid the incoming people, if elected, with their jobs as well, having been there and done that.”

Riedel has no formal experience with the Eau Claire Student Senate, but served as student body president at UW-Marathon County and vice president of the UW Colleges. Heaton has been on Senate through three elections and served as the director of the Organizations Commission until he resigned from Senate in the fall.

Heaton said at the president/vice president debate on April 9 the reason he resigned was that he was upset with the way the current Senate was functioning.

“If there are concerns that I would quit in the middle of the job (of vice president), that is not something I intend on doing,” Heaton said.

The issues

Potential reforms to Student Health Service, lobbying efforts on behalf of students and further outreach to students were some major areas covered at the Monday debate.

Prioritizing student outreach is a primary focus for Riedel and Heaton.

Riedel said walking around Davies and going to the residence halls as well as engaging diverse groups of students, are things that should be improved on in Senate.

Larson and Rector also think student outreach could improve and said it is an important thing to accomplish as well.

“This is one thing I particularly want to change … I feel like when you walk in the office and you’re walking around, it gets kind of silent,” Larson said, adding he would like to change this by challenging senators to be more inviting when students walk into the office, and for senators to actively engage in student conversation.

Junior operations management major Jefferson Schmidtke attended the Monday debate and said he was interested in SHS and what both tickets thought of the issue.
“Just to hear groups speak on that issue was big for me,” Schmidtke said, who has used the service before.

SHS has been under an extensive review process for several years. There has been research done showing which services students most commonly use, listening sessions held and a Request for Information process. SHS is now currently under a Request for Proposal process.

There is a possibility that the health services could be outsourced to an outside vendor if that is deemed the best option moving forward, or it could see minor reforms or not much change at all.

Larson reassured students at the Monday debate there will always be a health service on campus, but the amount of student dollars being spent warrants a look into the services to see if something could be done to make it cheaper, but just as effective, at providing care.

Riedel said SHS was an issue both tickets could agree on and it is an important service for students. He said he wants to include more student input on the issue too with more than just typical listening sessions.

“My version of true outreach is meeting students where they’re at,” Riedel said, adding he would stress walking around Davies and the residence halls asking students questions about SHS.

Something not yet covered, but an issue that interested freshman kinesiology major Adam Perento was the amount of parking on campus.

Perento said he did not know there were even elections going on next week for Senate, but he plans on voting in the election after learning there was one being held.

“I think it’s important (to vote in the Senate election),” Perento. “You get a chance to vote the way you want things to happen.”

Elections begin April 15 and run through April 18. On Monday students can vote in the Haas Fine Arts Center and Hilltop, and Tuesday and Wednesday they can vote in W.R. Davies Center.

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