The voting period for the Undergraduate Student Government fall 2020 election began today at noon and will last until noon Thursday, October 1 giving students the opportunity to vote for senator seats and a new chief diversity officer, as well as the president and vice president of the student body.

Presidential candidate Michael Hernández is a sixth-semester political science major running with fourth-semester chemical engineering major Guilmar Valle as his vice president. 

Returning to the presidential election is seventh-semester political science and urban and community studies major Jase Rafael Valle and his vice president, Guymara Manigat, a seventh-semester allied health sciences major. They said they’ve decided to relaunch their campaign after running in the spring 2020 election against former President Josh Crow and Vice President Alex Ose.

“It just didn’t sit right with me to not run because I felt like the students were depending on us this past year and they were depending on both of us…on both candidates running,” Jase Rafael Valle said. “Sadly to say, one side let them down and I think for me, I want to show students that we’re not here to let them down.”

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Manigat (left) and Jase Rafael Valle (right) ultimately decided that if they were going to run for election this year, they would run together. Photo: Jase and Guymara 2020

Hernández and Guilmar Valle said they saw USG’s call for candidates two weeks ago and decided to run, dedicating their campaign to providing mental health advocacy, institutional change and increasing student engagement and participation.

“Mental health advocacy can take many forms on campus and part of it is, I think, part of a broader effort to be more inclusive institutionally, in the sense that we want to expedite initiatives,” Hernández said. “…when we have folks on campus who want to push initiatives, they are going to see a welcoming place where they can get funding and institutional support.”

Guilmar Valle (left) and Hernández (right) are both from Stamford, CT and went to Westhill High School together. Photo: Hernández Valle 2020

Manigat is the former president of UConn NAACP and is now a senior advisor for the organization. She said that she has done a lot of work advocating for social justice in the past and plans on helping students feel less isolated and unsafe in a time of such social turmoil. 

Changing the academic calendar is an important and overlooked infrastructure adjustment that needs to be reviewed, according to Hernández. Guilmar Valle, current School of Engineering Senator, said if elected, he and Hernández will work to develop a better academic calendar.

“Besides trying to add in some reading days, we’d like to look into the withdrawal policy and the pass/fail policy,” he said. “If we can amend those so that they’re more beneficial toward students, that’s just another stress we’re removing and [we’re] making the campus a healthier place.”

Jase Rafael Valle is campaigning on the “commitment to the well-being, excellence, and representation of us all,” according to his campaign’s Instagram page. One of his policies will make funding for Tier-II organizations more student-friendly.

“We’re not communicating effectively across [to] our students, when it even comes to campaigning,” he said. “I think that’s really what we need to work on. We need to start making our documents user friendly, they need to be formulated in a way so that students not involved with USG can understand it.”

Hernández and Guilmar Valle also said that they want to fix the internal problems within USG. The “UConn Statement,” according to their Instagram campaign page, will reinforce UConn’s commitment to providing a “safe, open and non-partisan space.”  

“USG can’t be this place where political science majors, and I say that with much love for the program, being in the program…it’s not a place for poli sci majors to go play politics, ” Hernández said. “This is a place where everybody should be welcomed, where work should be getting done.”

Both candidates expressed the need to immediately address the racial injustices in our society and at UConn. Jase Rafael Valle and Manigat said they are prepared to begin new diversity and inclusion initiatives. 

“The world just feels like it’s just in a very delicate space, and I feel like I should be able to represent and work toward [change], I feel like I needed to be there for the students that I was there last year for,” Manigat said. “This is another opportunity for us to show what we can do for the student body.”

Voting is available through vote.uconn.edu. 

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Kate Ariano
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