Presidential Candidate Drew Williams’s and Vice Presidential Candidate Sofie Rodriguez’s futures are written in stone a week before the Student Government elections kickoff. They are the next SG executive leaders.
Even though their executive ticket is uncontested, current Vice President Williams and Senator Rodriguez encourage students and student organizations to cast a vote of confidence at the polls between March 27 and 29.
“However, we will be reaching out to orgs because I think it is important that we gain their support,” Williams said. “Even though we are running uncontested, we are still going to ask them to still vote to know that they want us to perform well.”
The 2018 SG election was not always uncontested.
In February, the Election Board voted to extend the meeting and deadline for senatorial and presidential applications by one day after Senator Dhuval Bhakta submitted incomplete paperwork lacking a vice presidential candidate.
He returned the next day with Senator Hassan Quershi as his vice president and the board accepted their candidacies, according to Kyle Zapadka, speaker of the Senate and Election Board chair.
The Student Judiciary Council declared the board’s decision unconstitutional because the proper steps to amend the Election Manual’s deadline and meeting dates were not taken.
In the same decision, SJC also said that the Election Manual states that no one may cite “ignorance of the election manual as an excuse,” Zapadka said.
“[The Election Board members] know the constitution, and they know it better now because we realized we had some unconstitutional things,” he said. “SJC was on the ball and called us out for not following the constitution, and they made the right decision.”
For these reasons, Bhakta and Quershi’s ticket were revoked, resulting in an uncontested executive election.
“I agreed with their decision that the ticket was not valid, but it wasn’t something that made me happy because I encourage people to run in the election,” Williams said. “This is a democracy and the student body should have the opportunity for whoever they choose and there should be more than one ticket.”
With the election’s outcome decided, Williams and Rodriguez are preparing for their tenure as president and vice president by reaching out to students and administrators.
The two recently met with Vice President for Student Affairs Phillip Cockrell to allocate more resources to the Counselling Center.
“There are a lot of flaws with the Counselling Center and part of my personal mission as well as the current president is to improve everything [there],” Rodriguez said.
A common complaint Rodriguez hears is that students must schedule an appointment a few weeks out because the center is overbooked, she said.
“Just [to understand] that students don’t need to wait for long periods of time to even get an appointment at the Counselling Center,” Rodriguez said. “That’s one thing that is very frustrating for students to put themselves in the position where they are very vulnerable.”
Rodriguez, a third-year recreational therapy major and disability studies minor, founded UT’s chapter of Active Minds and plans to sponsor legislation through her organization and to allocate more funding to mental health resources on campus.
She and Williams adopted current SG President Jimmy Russell’s plans to connect UT with downtown restaurants and hope to see tangible results during their tenure.
A recently introduced policy requires students living outside a 25-mile radius of UT to live on campus, but Williams argues this policy creates a “gap” between the university and the city. He wants to bridge that gap.
As someone who has never seen a Mud Hens baseball or Walleye hockey game, Williams wants students to enjoy the traditions of Toledo — like a Tony Packo’s hotdog.
Williams and Russell are discussing options such as creating a direct TARTA bus route to downtown and implement student discounts at most restaurants, bars and clubs, he said.
“Me and Jimmy are already working with Bonnie Murphy from Auxiliary Services, and she set up a committee with people from around campus to help discuss getting TARTA access to downtown,” Williams said.
In a time when the #MeToo movement is in full swing, Rodriguez, a member of Alpha Omicron Pi, believes Greek Life and student organizations must better address sexual assault, abuse and harassment education.
A new member symposium she attended for her sorority focused on diversity and inclusion, but failed to include sexual assault, alcohol, drugs and sexual education, Rodriguez said.
She suggests revamping the educational side of the symposium and utilizing the Panhellenic sexual assault program in sororities, fraternities and other student organizations to better educate and bring awareness to the student body about these issues.
“We’re not dumb, that happens on a college campus, and being part of Greek Life, that’s prevalent,” Rodriguez said. “Greek Life is in the news nationally because people are dying from alcohol poisoning.”
SG also plays a part in making education more accessible, making Title IX more approachable and bridging the gap between students and administrators, she said.
“I think a lot of students think [of] Title IX, and say ‘it’s a scary thing,’ but it can be something that students can use,” Rodriguez said. “I can name a ton of students who have gone through this on-campus, off-campus while they’ve been at UT and just haven’t been comfortable enough to do anything about it.”
Her solution is to build a safe and welcoming environment at SG, the Counseling Center and Title IX office for students and victims of abuse and sexual assault.
For SG to promote a welcoming environment, it must be transparent and open to all students, Williams said.
“We want students to understand exactly what we do,” Rodriguez said. “My friends think ‘I have to be part of this secluded secret government clique and I can’t come into the office,’ but we encourage people to come into the office.”
To increase SG’s involvement on campus, they might drop tabling or supplement it by approaching students directly at events or throughout the student union, Williams said.
Rodriguez and Williams worked together on legislation with Zeta Phi Beta Incorporated to put feminine products in bathrooms, but not many students knew about this change before going to a restroom, he said.
William’s solutions are increasing the SG newsletter’s circulation, boosting their social media presence and post legislation online and on the bulletin board outside their office.
“[We want] to hand out shirts and walk around the union or around the university and asking people what they want to see,” Williams said.
The Student Government elections are March 27 through 29 on OrgSync.