By Grace McFadden
On Feb 24, the University of Connecticut’s Undergraduate Student Government hosted a debate for candidates for student body president and vice president. The two tickets taking the stage were Presidential candidate Josh Crow and Vice Presidential candidate Alex Ose and Presidential candidate Jase Valle and Vice Presidential candidate Guymara Manigat.
The debate was separated into two parts, the first of which featured the presidential candidates alone and the second featuring the vice presidential candidates with them.
The evening opened with each Presidential candidate giving his opening statement, and moved on from there to questions submitted by the audience.
The candidates began by touching on internal issues in USG, specifically the high turnover rate. While Crow has participated in USG throughout his tenure at UConn, Valle was only in the USG Judiciary for a semester. Valle listed concerns with student voices being heard in the organization as part of his reason for leaving. In an interview with WHUS News Director Kara Murray, Valle addressed this problem.
“Not this spring, but the spring before that, after being a Justice I did take a step back because I didn’t feel heard and I didn’t feel validated when I was there.”
At the debate, Valle and Manigat were asked if their lack of experience in USG would be a weakness as President and Vice President. Valle dismissed the concern, and in the interview, Manigat said it could even be a strength.
“The plus of not being involved in USG is that we’re not included in that environment. I feel like sometimes people have this perception of USG in which they’re a closed environment, and they have their own ideas and live in their own world. I feel like us coming from a background of more of a civilian student on campus brings a different perspective of it. It makes us feel like we’re like those students.”
In an interview with WHUS, Ose said that experience with USG is what sets her and Crow’s ticket apart.
“I mean, it does come down to experience because that’s the easiest thing within transitioning. But, I’m also a secretary of a Tier II organization, so I have that influence. I understand that part of it and I’ve seen that part of the funding system. I’ve seen both sides of the funding system, which I think is interesting.”
Crow said that he and Ose had already begun working on the turnover rate by meeting one on one with senators to hear their concerns.
“It’s so senators feel that they have a one–on-one setting where they can discuss any issues they have, any concerns they have, and bring up any questions on how they can pursue initiatives. We’ve been able to help students carry forward a lot of their ideas that they would have struggled to do otherwise because we took care of the policy side. We helped them write the legislation. All they needed to do was bring their understanding and passion for an issue.”
The candidates also discussed the Tier 2 funding system, which allows certain organizations to get money from USG. The system has been controversial in the past for being too bureaucratic, as well as for requiring students to file funding requests six weeks prior to an event.
Crow talked about how he and Ose would help the USG funding staff fix the system and do more outreach to Tier 2s to help elucidate some of the questions.
“Something that actually Tier II groups and the funding staff agree on is that the funding system as it stands right now is atrocious. As I understand it, our administration right now is undergoing current efforts to fix this, to make it more user friendly and make it more friendly for our bureaucracy as well.”
Valle emphasized the importance of education about the system, saying that it could be greatly improved by more outreach.
“It goes beyond just making documentation. We really need to put ourselves out there and make ourselves uncomfortable and listen to those in those spaces that are different than ourselves. We’re making it that this is available to you all, traveling to different places on campus that hold all these organizations.”
In the second part of the debate, the presidential candidates were joined by their vice presidential candidates, each of whom gave their own opening remarks.
Manigat emphasized how important diversity is in her campaign, calling it the focus of her and Valle’s ticket.
“Our really big goal is in diversity and inclusion. Some of my goals for the faculty in staff in which I’ve been thinking of proposing a deal for the UConn administration to create a pipeline between HBCU [Historically Black Colleges and Universities] graduates and UConn employment so that they can offer kind of a partnership with them.”
Ose, meanwhile, discussed how she and Crow were looking to unify the campus further and strengthen a sense of community.
“I would say that one of our biggest goals is to create a sense of community. Community is non-existent at UConn at this point. The administration preaches Husky Nation and UConn Nation and Huskies Forever, but it’s kind of non-existent at this point. Not just within USG, but with the Tier II organizations, the cultural centers, Greek life.”
Students can vote in the USG Elections from March 3rd through 5th at vote.uconn.edu.