Student Government candidates answer questions raised at Wednesday’s debate

What’s the difference between your teacher accountability program and

Unlike and modeled after successful programs at universities across the country, our teacher accountability program would gather an individual evaluation from every student who completes the course. relies on polarized reviews — majorly negative or positive — but our system would publicize all students’ perspectives to provide a more accurate and holistic evaluation. Additionally, it would detail the course structure and teacher’s measurement preference (exam or assignment-based evaluation).

We believe such a system better prepares students, aligning their interests with teacher expectations.

Our conversations with faculty and academic administrators made it clear: students need more information to better register for classes and our teachers hope to attract students better suited for differing teaching styles and grading systems.

We want to ensure no student is unprepared on the first day of classes and teachers are not subject to consistently apathetic learners.

I am currently one of the coordinators of the College of Arts and Sciences Ambassadors. In two years with the program, we have seen our senators one time — at the end of last school year. This year, I was in contact with SG for about a month before learning that A&S had no senators. If elected, how will you ensure that your college senators are representing their college, as opposed to personal affiliations?

The unique, unrivaled aspect of our ticket is that our college senate candidates are highly motivated, firmly established leaders within their colleges. These are students who have already connected with deans and college administrators and have developed interests in and passion for their respective colleges and its students.

Early discussions with our candidates showed each was eager to represent his or her college in a way that benefits those students never approached by their college senator, historically underrepresented. Each candidate provides fresh ideas and immeasurable passion for the opportunity to give back to his or her college and do good for student peers, and each is committed to year-long total representation.

How do you plan to increase military support (ROTC) in its time of need?

Stephen is the son of a military family and we recognize the commitment of our military students. We want to better promote Student Government’s funding opportunities and connect with all student groups to enhance each individual’s campus experience.

In preparing for this campaign, we reached out to military veterans and ROTC students to investigate their concerns and goals. We have found there are unique ways to connect Student Government with the mission of our campus military community — co-sponsoring like-minded events like Day of Remembrance and funding military organizations’ initiatives.

This is another example of our mission to connect with our diverse student body and reach out to all students groups, encouraging each organization to seek Student Government’s assistance.

If financial circumstances require budget cuts, what would you first eliminate from SGA’s budget?

The advantage of our platform is that it does not compromise Student Government’s budget by introducing a handful of expensive, unfeasible, unnecessary programs. Those new initiatives we do want to implement are cost-effective and efficient. We want to evaluate Student Government’s current programming to cut wasteful spending and redirect funds toward exciting, satisfying opportunities all students can enjoy.

If funding circumstances did require cuts, however, our administration would first eliminate executive staff salaries. Our team committed to this campaign because of passion for the organization and enhancing the student experience, not because of financial benefit.

In regards to the $600,000 budget, is it true that if you don’t use it, you lose it?

Currently, all remaining funds from Student Government’s annual budget transfer to the next administration. In our current roles, we are working with the existing administration to develop a clause to cap leftover rollover funds. Any monies that exceed that capped allotment would be contributed to the University Scholarship Fund to assist students needing financial aid. This is an exciting amendment to challenge our senators to responsibly allocate funds to the most important initiatives and consider our students’ financial need in years of limited programming.

As Senate Appropriations and Revenue committee member and Chief of Staff, respectively, Mary Katherine and I have extensive experience developing Student Government’s budget and ensuring fiscal responsibility. Our administration will balance an efficient, transparent budget that eliminates waste and considers our students’ scholarship needs.

You both touched on improving the experience of the unmotivated/average college student. How would you reach out and develop programs to get these students involved?

Studies show students involved on campus are better retained, more likely to return to campus. We want to develop a mutually beneficial relationship between students and their government. This relationship of shared satisfaction will establish a tie to this campus and its opportunities for each student. If Student Government reaches out to this campus’s networks and addresses the interests of all students, we hope our peers feel more inclined to get involved on campus, joining organizations that enjoy success with the help of Student Government, and develop a passion for enhancing the student experience.

Engaging organizations to assist in recruitment and empowering students are easy efforts to involve the entire Wildcat community. Our student body is talented and passionate, and we want to attract our peers to our proposed “Legacy” initiative, a new approach to a current yet underdeveloped, under-utilized program. This program will allow students access to Student Government’s resources and team to develop their own, programs and initiatives, leaving their own personal legacy on campus, establishing a tie to this community and potential programming that benefits all students.

On your platform you say that you want to increase diversity on SGA. Staples-Wimberly has a program called ONE Kentucky planned. What do you have planned on increasing diversity?

Student Government’s primary role is representing its constituents, the students and their diverse interests and concerns. We believe our ticket provides a unique, diverse approach to total representation.

We intentionally selected each candidate based on his or her campus involvement, background and passions — students from large and small, Greek and non-Greek, service and faith-based organizations, as well as in-state and out-of-state students.

Some have Student Government experience, others are young, passionate and eager to get involved for the first time. Our full ticket includes the interests of all colleges on this expansive campus and our graduate and undergraduate students, an effort to fully represent.

Outside of student representation, Student Government must commit to the programs and initiatives of our student’s diverse backgrounds and concerns, projects like SAB’s “It Gets Better.”

We want to maintain direct, open lines of communications with our student organizations, using administration liaisons to frequently poll those organizations, engaging them to identify new ideas and concerns and report to Student Government, so our administration is up-to-date on campus issues and student concerns.

How do your current positions make you the most qualified candidates for the positions you are seeking?

Mary Katherine and I provide unequaled executive and legislative experience. Our history with funding allocation, budget development and student organization engagement showcases preparedness.

We have unique, close relationships with faculty, staff and administrations, having worked with university leadership for three years — relationships we can rely on to surpass constructive red tape and successfully implement Student Government’s initiatives.

More importantly, we are involved outside of Student Government in big and small organizations across campus, providing a more expansive understanding of this diverse student population, its interests and its needs.

Additionally, our experiences prepare us to lead from day one on the job. Having navigated the intricacies of the executive and legislative branches, Mary Katherine and I escape any learning curve an inexperienced administration would naturally face.

First and foremost, we would like to thank everyone who came out to Wednesday’s debate. We were happy to have the opportunity to discuss many of our ideas and are looking forward to putting these ideas into place next year.

Unfortunately, innovation nearly always brings harsh criticism. We are happy to confront these criticisms in the hope that readers will see that our ideas are not only fiscally responsible and feasible, but also include concrete plans for making Student Government Association a more representative organization that can better serve the entire student body.

Instead of slamming our opponents’ platform (or lack thereof), we want to keep this letter positive and focus on the tangible benefits our administration would provide to UK, as we have throughout the entire campaign process.

Leadership is about trying new things and suggesting ambitious plans as opposed to solely playing devil’s advocate.

Many of our plans would be invaluable to students once implemented, but were falsely decried as being too expensive, too risky and not a smart use of SGA money. This is simply not the case. Our interest free loans would bear very little risk and cost to SGA.

We would not be handing out loans to every student who came knocking on Student Government’s door. Instead, at the beginning of the semester we would set aside a specific amount to be loaned out to students who struggle with costs of school supplies, textbooks, rent and other expenses at what is often the most costly time of the school year.

This loan would be charged to the same account used for tuition, room and board, parking fines and nearly every other charge imposed by UK. Due to the extremely high volume of charges placed on and paid on the myUK system daily, this program would represent a miniscule portion of myUK traffic.

Most of these loans would automatically be paid off as financial aid comes in and payments are made on the account. Unpaid loans would result in holds on registration, graduation and advising. SGA would thus be able to collect almost the entire amount loaned out in the first months of the semester, with the rest being collected before the end of the semester.

Since the number of loans available will be capped at the beginning of each semester based on current budget situations, there is no risk of the program costing more than originally planned due to a high volume of loans requested.

While we do anticipate that the program will be very successful, we are committed to an extensive research process before it is made available to the student body.

It is also important to note that this program, and others that we have suggested, will not create unnecessary constraints on the budget.

As of March 21, 2012, SGA has spent less than half of its allocated money. We do not see it as careless to propose new programs and services, as it would allow the SGA resources to benefit those who directly fund Student Government.

We see a great parallel between this loan program and Cats Cruiser, which was also proposed during campaigning but underwent a significant vetting process with UK Legal and a number of other UK departments after the candidates were elected. It is important to note that Cats Cruiser evolved significantly from its original plan in this vetting process, but through dedication, Cats Cruiser emerged as a program that remained true to its original intent.

We will explore the idea of possibly restricting these loaned out funds to plus account, where money could only be spent on food, textbooks, etc., and not on alcohol, which was a valid concern of many in attendance at the debate. However, we recognize that the program would be most effective if students were able to get cash.

It is also very important to note that this type of program, which was so wholeheartedly bashed by our opponents, is already a service that student governments at many of our benchmark schools, such as Michigan State University, offer.

The next issue that concerned our opponents and some members of the audience was the cost of our proposed textbook lending library. While we do recognize that there will be a large initial expense, we believe that the potential reach and usefulness of this program undoubtedly justifies the cost.

By devoting just $20,000 to the textbook lending library, SGA could potentially purchase over 400 used textbooks at an average cost of $50.

These books would be selected for popular classes where students often spend hundreds on a book only to use it a couple of times each semester. If 10 students use each of these books during the school year, we will have reached around 4,000 students, or approximately a quarter of the undergraduate student body, in this program’s first semester.

By offering these books on a reference basis in the library, we would be able to serve the maximum amount of students and ensure fairness in distribution since the books would be available on a first come, first serve basis.

Furthermore, there will be a vast amount of surveying done in order to establish which classes could benefit most from this service. In response to one of the questions posed to us, we never planned to offer this service to all 100 and 200 level classes. It is very unreasonable to expect SGA to provide textbook accommodations for every student, but it is our hope that each student will benefit from this program in at least one class during their undergraduate career, saving them several hundred dollars.

Our other plans for Student Government involve making it a more representative and transparent organization. As was discussed in the debate, this is already evident through the diversity of our Senate ticket, which includes students not only involved in Greek Life, but also ROTC,Club Sports, Varsity Athletics, Residence Life, Religious Life and countless other organizations.

In selecting these senators, we chose students who we know will challenge us and provide insight that is reflective of the entire student body, instead of students who share the same background and involvement that we do.

In addition to working toward representation for all students within Senate, we will also make Senate voting and attendance records easily accessible and increase their visibility, ensuring their accountability to the students and colleges they represent. Also, our plans for direct discussions with leaders of student organizations will cut out the “middle man” and allow us to directly serve these groups.

This, along with expanded funding options for these organizations, will play a huge role in countless students’ Kentucky experience, and will help them reach out to a wider range of students and bring them closer into the UK community.

Under Staples-Wimberly leadership, students would truly see change in Student Government with innovative programs designed to increase involvement, aid students who are struggling financially, and promote ideas of respect, equality, and unity on campus. Next, we will address other concerns that were brought up during the debate. We have answered all questions that were asked via our in-depth summary above and the following Q & A section.

DanceBlue is a very influential event on campus that Student Government has significantly contributed to financially in the past. Will you continue to allocate a certain amount to the marathon or do you feel there is better use for that money?

DanceBlue is a great example of what incredible feats UK students can achieve when we stand and work together for a common cause. It is because of this impact that we feel funding for DanceBlue should undoubtedly be continued.

We’re excited to work with Ethan Ritter, next year’s Dance Blue overall chair, to extend the reach of DanceBlue not only within the university, but also throughout the state. Funding for Dance Blue will remain the same, if not increase, depending on their need for a larger operating budget.

I am currently one of the coordinators of the College of Arts and Sciences Ambassadors. In two years with the program, we have seen our senators one time — at the end of last school year. This year, I was in contact with SG for about a month before learning that A&S had no senators. If elected, how will you ensure that your college senators are representing their college, as opposed to personal affiliations?

This is an excellent question and an issue that we are particularly passionate about. When selecting senators, especially those who were running for College seats, we looked first to students involved in the college organizations that do a phenomenal job of representation within the college. Greek affiliation was never the focus, as choosing students who would do a good job is more important to us than winning the infamous electoral vote from Greek chapters.

We are particularly excited that one of our senators running for the A&S Senate seats, Kaylin Oldham, currently serves as an A&S Ambassador and, if elected, would represent the entire college exceptionally well.

If financial circumstances require budget cuts, what would you first eliminate from SG’s budget?

One of the first places where we believe money could be saved is in the amount paid to SG staff. This year, $38,400 was dedicated to salaries of Student Government employees. We have proposed a new executive staff structure, which would eliminate superfluous positions and save Student Government thousands.

Why do you think it is appropriate, through your platform for a new LDP, to force a group of staff on an administration that had no hand in picking them, and a group of students that has not proven themselves besides being chosen for their merits from high school at the beginning of their freshman year?

Although we did not get a chance to detail specifics of our plan for LDP expansion at the debate, this is definitely a misinterpretation of our proposed plan.

LDP’s focus has always been to connect freshmen with a multitude of campus organizations, and there never has been, nor are we advocating for, a guaranteed spot in next year’s Student Government staff.

Instead, we want to expand the program so that more students are able to reap the benefits. This will include marketing the program more effectively and to a wider range of people.

In regards to the $600,000 budget, is it true that if you don’t use it, you lose it?

Money can be carried over from year to year, but stays within Student Government. Running a huge budget surplus only leaves the responsibility for spending in the hands of your successor.

Since SGA funding comes from student fees, it is important to use it in a way that benefits the students who pay the fees while they are currently students.

We believe that fiscal responsibility includes using the resources that have been given to SGA in a way that provides programs and services to the students who are paying for them.

Is it really realistic to buy books for all 100-level classes? How many books would you buy for a class of 200 kids?

Buying books for all 100-level would not be a good use of Student Government funds and we did not advocate this idea at the debate on Wednesday or in our platform.

Instead, we plan on extensively surveying students to find out which classes would most benefit from this service. We would begin very conservatively by buying only a few books for large classes and then strategically expand based on use.

It is our goal that every UK student would benefit from this program at least once during their undergraduate career, saving them several hundred dollars.

Without knowing the current Kentucky legislation, which applies to UK, how are you going to effectively represent the student body?

We recognize and apologize for the mistake concerning the tax code surrounding textbooks and acknowledge that there is a large learning curve for whatever students take office.

You will always be able to expect this kind of accountability and recognition of mistakes from our administration. We understand that by suggesting a complex and innovative platform that some of these ideas may not come to fruition.

We are still dedicated to assisting students financially through our textbook lending library and will also lobby for what is colloquially known as a “Textbook Tax Holiday,” which also exempts other necessary school supplies.

Once in office, we will work with Wildcat Interest Group, UK’s professional lobbyists and the president’s office to promote a common goal that will benefit the university.

Furthermore, we will recruit students for WIG in order to have a large group to visit Frankfort during legislative sessions.

You are saying that the money we students are paying in student fees will potentially go to someone who “can’t afford” to go on spring break without it?

As was discussed above, the loan program would be capped and available on a first come, first serve basis, so the loans most likely will not be available by spring break.

While funding spring break may be your only concern, many students have indicated that this program would be incredibly useful in alleviating the financial burdens that result from a number of expenses at the beginning of the semester and/or emergency expenses.

Additionally, the cost for this program would be very minimal since the loans would require repayment in 30 days.

Essentially, students using this program would be borrowing money from other students, which would later be paid back and used to provide other programs and services. Therefore, the same money is able to provide more benefit to students.

The current economic crisis is due in large part to banks giving out bad loans. Would it not be irresponsible to give out loans for students to blow on spring break? How would you decide who or who not to give money to?

Loans would be given on a first come, first serve basis to students who are in good academic standing with the university. By establishing a cap on the monetary amount to be spent on loans each semester and connecting the loan to a student’s financial obligation to the university, we would ensure the loan program would not stress SGA’s financial resources.

How do your current positions make you the most qualified candidates for the positions you are seeking?

Although we have both been very involved with SGA for the past two years, we feel that our experiences outside of Student Government is what makes us the most qualified candidates to represent the entire student body and bring fresh ideas that benefit a broader range of students.

Regardless of anyone’s current positions and titles within Student Government, there is a huge learning curve when stepping into the chief positions and this is why we think it is of the utmost importance to not only be plugged into the inner workings of SGA, but to have diversified experiences in other areas on campus, which is one of our greatest assets.

One would be naïve to think that just Student Government experience would qualify one to serve the entire student body. Collectively, we’ve been involved in organizations that reach many corners of campus and the Lexington community, including Greek Life, Team Wildcat, Honors Program, IGPA, LFUCG Town & Gown, GSP/GSA Alumni Club and organizations within the Gatton College.

These experiences have helped us become more aware of the issues facing our student body and truly make us uniquely qualified for these positions.