EDITORIAL BOARD-IN THE LOOP: ASWU President candidate interviews and endorsement

Mak Karge—Presidential Candidate What gets you excited about this job?

Being able to really help set the agenda for ASWU. Being a voting member this year, I have been kind of frustrated that I have had to vote on issues that I don’t think impact students. So next year I want to make sure that all of the things we vote on and all of the things we do in ASWU impact students directly.

It does feel like you are a little vague on “things that affect students.” Could you clarify?

A lot of the things we have dealt with recently in ASWU instead of having to do with student body or planning Springfest which is coming up soon, we have been engaging in a civil war between the elected members and the appointed members, which  I think is really unnecessary and something I want to strive to make sure we don’t have to go through these issues again next year.

Do you have any specific plans if you were elected?

It’s going to break down into three main things. First, I would like to not raise the ASWU fee next year. In addition, I would like to put a greater emphasis on engagement with the community—getting the Whitworth name out more in the community so people know more than just the name Whitworth, they know a couple things that we stand for. Third, I would like to adhere more to the Whitworth mission. Both engaging in ASWU with the education of mind and heart, being more engaged with the students and being able to talk to the students not as a superior, but as someone who represents them. Also to continue to build relationships with the administration and the board of trustees, which I have already started to do in the past few months.

You sound like a politician in a lot of these answers in the sense that the ideas sound nice, but they are more theoretical and not grounded in a lot of practical application. I am wondering if I can get a little bit more information into that specific application.

I can try to touch a little bit on each one of them. To be able to communicate with students a little bit more, I would like to create a Facebook page called ‘The Office of the President of the Student Association. ‘ I would post all of the minutes there from the ASWU meetings to make them more accessible to students so they would be able to understand a little bit more of what is going on and then I would give my own opinion where it is needed, where I am coming from, where the student body is coming from and where the administration is coming from to make it easier and communication more viable. Second, when relating to more time in the community and more service in the community, I’d like ASWU to do more partnerships with the Dornsife Center for Community Engagement. This is going to go with a lot of the senators’ jobs and a lot of the coordinators’ jobs, to be able to do weekend trips out into the community, serving the community and building relationships out there. Just like the UREC takes students out every weekend on adventures, I would like to take students out every weekend. Of course no one would be forced to do this, but if you have it in your heart that you want to do community service this weekend, we should have a program set up so you are able to do that.

Any crazy ideas that pop into your head that sound difficult to implement but you think would be great to bring into reality?

I’d like for all the senators from Day 1 next year to have a project that they are working on throughout the year. This year in Duvall, our senator Katie Holtzheimer has worked on trying to find out if all of the washing machines are the same size. What we found was that all of the washing machines on campus are the same size, but the opening is a lot smaller. So, just give the senators a project—something to work on. I’d like something of larger scale, but something they are passionate about and something they can accomplish throughout the ten months they are serving.

Is there anything you want to bring specifically to ASWU?

I’d like to move where we meet to a bigger room where we can have more student engagement. A big part of what I’ve been saying this entire time is that I want to listen to students and for them to be more informed. It’s hard to do that when we have a room that barely has enough space for us to get the ASWU members into it. So sure, I’d like first, to be able to move it into bigger room. If we could and we had the ability to, I’d like to move it into RTT and then  I would like to set it up so the elected members and the appointed members both have their name tags there so that people are able to identify, “Here’s my senator. Here’s where they are sitting,” so that they can sit by constituents. More community engagement, especially in the meetings.

What separates you from your fellow candidate?

Well as Bre mentioned in the debate, she doesn’t have an agenda going forward. When she said that during the debate, it concerned me. Failing to plan is planning to fail. I’ve already spoken to students and the job doesn’t start from the day you are elected—it starts two months before that. So I’ve been building relationships with administration and building relationships with the trustees, getting prepared to have this opportunity to serve. In addition, I see her as striving to do all these things as soon as we get back from the summer break and I think that is far too late to be starting on these things.

What do you want voters to know more than anything about you?

I want voters to know that it is not my opinions that are going to be broadcast throughout the student body next year. It is going to be their opinions. They can expect and should expect clear communication from ASWU through all major decisions that are made. I’m going to have my phone number and my email posted everywhere so that people are able to contact me at any moment they need.

Anything else you would like to add?

This process has been so fulfilling. First when I started campaigning, I was so scared. Every single door I knocked on, but the overwhelming support I received from people just down in Sodexo before I came up here. Someone stopped me that I spoke to once or twice before and asked if they could pray with me. It’s just been an overwhelming experience and I’m really excited to see where it takes us tomorrow.

Bre Lyons—Presidential Candidate

What gets you excited about this job?

It’s definitely been something I’ve been thinking about for the last three years and after talking with Molly Hough, Ian Robins and now with Justin Botejue and seeing what they brought into it and what they are really excited about, it really started to get me thinking about the things I want to do my senior year and the things I think Whitworth could improve in the next year. After having the experience of being senator and now a coordinator on ASWU, being able to see how things can change. I think we all really have great ideas and I think students have really good concerns and I feel with the past experience I have and the mentors I have, I would have the ability to actually enact those changes. So that’s what gets me excited is talking to students and hearing what their ideas are and what their concerns are and then being able to come up with ways to change those things.

Do you have any specific plans or ideas if you were to be elected?

I know I keep saying I don’t have an agenda. I don’t mean that in a negative way at all. Just that I feel that as ASWU, we should be responding to what students need during that current year. Things that have already been brought up this year and I assume will continue next year include mental health on campus being a really large issue. With the decline in mental health amongst students as well as anxiety and depression as we have already seen through the health center because they’ve done their own stuff. That’s something I am definitely passionate about and would love to support administration and the health center in any way that we can. That’s why I brought in Kevin Breel this year So that’s something I could see going on as well as the changes in the chapel and the SGCs so again just plugging in to movements that are already happening and then figuring out how ASWU can be a part of those things.

Do you have any big dream ideas?

I think it’s all practical things for students. Things that people have been frustrated about for a while now like parking and I know the goal would be to make this a walking campus and to move most of the parking off of the inner circle of campus. I think just moving toward that would be progress for students so that they can see something happening, but I think overall frustration with parking space, parking ticket price and just trying to make that transparent to students and show there is some form of progress so that students are being heard. I think that’s a big one. The other being study abroad trips. People are really frustrated. They say 80 percent of students get a study abroad experience, but I am really curious where that statistic lies and if it’s the same 80 percent of students because after talking with lots of people this week, that process is not very clear as to who is chosen and why. Making that application and criteria more well-known and accessible to all students is important.

Is there anything you would bring specifically to ASWU?

I think experience is the main thing. I have been around a little bit and I understand a lot of the policies and the back-end reasons why things are the way they are. I was also a conference assistant so I understand logistically how events are run and how programs are run. I had a lot of that funding barrier as we have to deal with buildings that were built on different grants and how even interpersonally how different departments interact. Having that knowledge, again, when I hear an idea I already start thinking about, ‘who do we talk to?’ What financial burden would that be on the institution?’ ‘What does that look like for the board?’ That base knowledge of knowing how and where to take ideas.

What separates you from your fellow candidate?

I’m not going to rely on that experience alone. I do think that is obvious in that my past jobs and interests have led me to this position and the qualifications but also just an open-mindedness. I’ve been here, but I also understand that this university is flawed and that it is going to go through growing periods. I think that is a lot of what we have seen in the last year and a half, especially after the windstorm. I think mental health is an indicator of what is going wrong. The open-mindedness to change and understanding where we came from and what the goals are for the institution, just because I have been around. Moving toward those to fulfill those needs I think is unique.

How do you plan to keep yourself accountable throughout the year if you don’t have a specific set of goals or an agenda in mind?

I’m a big, ‘you have to write it down’ person. I have already written down everything I have planned for this year and that I want to achieve. I think something that is overlooked in ASWU is that executive team itself—those three people I truly do believe are accountability partners. At the beginning of the year, I would be very intentional of saying, “Hey guys, what are our goals as an exec team? What are our goals independently? And then how are we going to help each other achieve those? I think that’s a very regular conversation that needs to be had to make sure you do stay on track as well as other leadership like Dayna Coleman-Jones and Linda Yochum. Having very real-time goals and making sure we are meeting those along the way.

When would you decide what those goals for you and your executive team are going to be?

Before ASWU even comes on campus, there is a solid week when execs are here first. That is when they do most of their training and team building. In that week, that’s really when you hit the ground running with those execs and you sit down and you are talking to Beck and you are talking to a lot of other departments on campus and throughout the summer I have to go, if I became president, and pitch to Beck what my vision for the year is and what his vision for the year is and how those can be united. Those are conversations that start very early so that by the time the rest of the ASWU team gets here for training, we have already established with the university, different ideas about how we can best work together. This isn’t where we necessarily figure out the plan for the year, but by creating those connections early and being realistic as student leaders as to what we can be doing and pushing by creating those early relationships with administration.

What do you want voters to know more than anything?

That they are the priority. I think right now that’s what the struggle we have seen is a drift between what the administration and its institutional advancement is going, versus necessarily what students are most concerned about. In the president position, you are an advocate for those students and the administration has to keep the doors open. It is creating that bridge. I really am here to listen to that student voice because sometimes it gets drowned out in administration. How many times do we sit on those budget meetings seeing how everything is broken up, when rarely are those reflected about what students are concerned about right now in their day to day and what will affect them in the next five to ten years after they graduate. I am ready to listen to those voices and build those connections and already have the base foundation to do so.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I am really excited about this position. I am really passionate about it. I love Whitworth. I love what ASWU can be. I think it is a really good platform for student voice and I would also say most leadership does not happen on ASWU. I don’t like the idea that if you are an SGC or a CDA or a member of ASWU, now you have privilege as a leader. I think a lot of leadership happens behind closed doors. That’s what I think we are doing at Whitworth. Those are the voices I want to be able to elevate and give a platform to, not necessarily the 30 people with an ASWU title.

 

ENDORSEMENT

After two great interviews with two passionate candidates, it is the opinion of this editorial board that Breanna Lyons be elected for the role of ASWU President over her contender--Mak Karge. While both candidates seem to have an appreciation for the importance of the job in the Whitworth community, Lyons exhibits the strongest appeals to practicality in how she would run things from the big chair next year. While Lyons does not outwardly claim any agenda, she does exhibit a practice to work for communication between ASWU and students in many of the same ways Karge did. In addition, Karge seems rooted in the idea of listening to students as the basis for his platform, yet his motivation for external community engagement is rooted in his own personal experiences and not in the larger opinions and experiences of the student body. As in many elections such as this one, ASWU and the student body would benefit from having both Karge and Lyons in leadership positions on campus in order to allow that inner passion for student government to manifest itself. However, the ASWU President job has to fall to the person who has the greatest chance of being effective.

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