Q and A with Tyler Montel

Q: Why are you running for SG president?

A: The reason that I’m running for SG president is that I’ve been involved in this organization now for two years. I think the SG president wears two hats, along with the vice president. One is an internal SG organization president, and my experience has been that if you have good communication to work well and play within the rules set forth by the constitution, you can really do some innovative stuff inside the organization. Jonah (Brown) did that well, and we’ve seen this year, Nick (Phelps)’s done that phenomenally.

With me being Senate president, I’ve been able to see what the internal position is like. But the other role for the president is the student body president. I’ve seen Jonah and Nick do that very well, working with the administration, working with communities and state leaders too. I think I’ve had a great education learning from those two leaders, and learning things on my own has really set me up to have the experience to play both roles well. Grant (Mills) and I have talked about this since September, that we want to do this and do it for the right reasons from the very beginning — that was the gamble all along. And it paid off that we are running unopposed so we can do those things.

I feel like the relationships I’ve developed and the understanding of campus have really made me care where it’s going. Both Grant and I care about the campus, where it’s going to be 10 years from now. We have deep concern with where it’s headed; that’s why it’s worth doing for us.

Q: What skills or qualities are you going to bring to the presidency?

A: First and foremost is communication. One thing I value the most at UK is the relationships I’ve made with different communities and groups. I can bring that ability to communicate to SG. The internal experience in SG is invaluable too. Not everyone can run for SG president — one has to be familiar with the channels of how to get things done in the organization.

Q: In your other leadership positions on campus, what’s the most significant thing you’ve done for the student body?

A: Helping campus organizations. For instance, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha had the vision to spread Pink Goes Global on campus and asked SG for help. It was great to help plan the event and carry it out. Just being able to work with so many different organizations that wouldn’t be able to fund their programs without SG was one of the things I am most proud of. It’s not that SG is changing everyone’s life; it’s more that SG is helping different organizations to make a difference in the lives of students.

Q: If you’re elected as SG president, what will be your first priority in office?

A: The first priority is representing students, whether it’s representing students in neighborhood associations on off-campus housing, on Board of Trustees, on the university Staff Senate and (to) state lawmakers, or even representing students inside SG — inside the SG Senate and during staff meetings. Our main focus for next year is to take the need of the student body and attach a face and a voice to it, whether it’s talking to President (Lee) Todd, administrators or outside of the university.

Q: What, if anything, would you try to change about how SG operates?

A: There is something very tangible we can work with right now. This year, we ran out of money in the Senate to fund campus organizations through (the) Appropriations and Revenue (committee). I’ve seen the value of the funding and how much these organizations need the funds. Funding student organizations is another important role of SG, and Grant and I have talked about putting substantially more money into the available funding so organizations can work toward the changes they want to see. And we are proposing a Senate accountability act that would ensure that students know what their senators are committed to doing. We want to show students what we are doing and that we are doing things for them, and that they are in fact in the center of every decision we make.

Q: The student member on the Board of Trustees often seems like more of a symbol than someone with actual influence. How do you plan to increase the student representative’s influence on the board?

A: Everyone I have talked to doesn’t seem to believe that the student representative is just a symbol. It’s more about building relationships with individual board members, not just being ready for the meetings and saying a few things during the meetings.

Q: What will be your primary priorities on the board?

A: Issues come up that are unforeseen, being that it is only March. But the board has the final say over tuition. We have to keep the tuition at a manageable rate, not because it sounds good in an interview, but this is the future of our state, and I think the board realizes how important it is for students to get affordable education in the state. And that’s our priority.

Q: What will you do to increase diversity, both within SG and on campus as a whole?

A: I feel like students have heard so much about the diversity problem at UK. Diversity is not a problem — the problem is that we have too little of it at the university. UK has taken some proactive steps to address that, such as hiring Dr. (Judy) “J.J.” Jackson, to create a campus that is welcoming to all students. It’s really a two-step thing: One is to bring in more diversity to campus; but further, we can illuminate and appreciate the diversity we already have. We want to reward innovative programs for the purpose of educating students of diversity. We want to help the organizations to fund these events and to promote them.

Q: Even though your presidency won’t be during a budget session, how do you plan to advocate for UK students with the General Assembly?

A: Nick started this year by scheduling meetings with each legislator, and I went to some of these meetings. We really set a good foundation to give UK students faces and voices among the legislators, but I think we can do a lot more next year. We can get students with their local legislators and show that, as constituents, these students’ interests are relevant. This will show state senators and representatives that students should be a priority, not just because of their votes, but because they are the future of the commonwealth.

Q: You mentioned earlier that the Appropriations and Revenue committee ran out of funds for student organizations midway through this semester. What changes would you push for in the funding process?

A: We are already doing things to reform the way we fund organizations. These measures will limit the amount of money an organization can receive from SG, but from firsthand experience, I can say that it’s difficult for senators to see these groups that need funding when there is none left available. So more than that, we want to put more money there for students to be eligible to receive.

Q: How do you think being the only candidate on the ballot will affect students’ perceptions of your presidency?

A: I hope that people see that Grant and I have a real plan. But the real benefit to students of having only one ticket running is that we’ve been really proactive in the transition. We have a month to work on what we would do as president and vice president instead of focusing on the race. We want to call our plan “Campus 365” — where we want to be a year from now, where we want to leave this campus when Grant and I are finished. I hope students see that while there are not that many choices at the top of the ballot, the choice they do have is a good one and a legitimate one.

Q: What does the lack of other candidates say about SG’s efforts to get more students involved?

A: Nick and his staff have gone great lengths to make sure that students know how to get involved and how to run for office. Grant and I do have 14 senators running on our ticket, if you will, but there are 11 senators who aren’t with us; they are running independently, if you will. And I think that shows that the process has opened up for students who really want to get involved. I don’t think it’s a closed-door policy at all; I think it’s as open now as ever.

Q: Turnout has been low in past SG elections, even highly competitive ones. This year, with only one candidate running for president, why should students come out and vote?

A: This will be the first year we have fully online elections, and it’s something I am really happy with. So I think that will increase turnout, because it will be easier to vote. I think that even though students will only (have) one choice at the top of the ballot, but there are so many senators to lead the campus at-large, and there are a few college senator races that will be pretty tight, so students have the opportunity to come out and support candidates that will enact some real change. A lot of people really get involved the Senate races, because these senators are perceived to be the closest to the student body.