by the PHOENIX Editorial Board
Apart from the recent push to ban Loyola’s sale of water bottles, United Student Government Association’s presence on campus is merely a blip on many Ramblers’ radar. Throughout the school year, the student body is largely unaware of legislation passed and issues discussed by the USGA.
With the annual rise in tuition, unimpressive four-year graduation rate, the lack of options in dining halls and other issues, students deserve a student government capable of making changes within the university that advocates on their behalf. But as of right now, it seems the lives of average students have been largely unaffected by the work of USGA.
The PHOENIX Editorial Board is tired of a low-key student government. So with annual USGA elections less than a week away, we want to endorse a presidential ticket that has concrete plans on how to enact real change within the university and promises to continue voicing student concerns throughout the year.
In its decision, the Editorial Board considered The Phoenix’s interviews with each of the presidential and vice presidential candidates about their qualifications and goals for the upcoming academic year. We also took into account research into each ticket’s platform on their websites and consulted with people familiar with the candidates. After consideration and discussion, the Editorial Board believes rising seniors Julia Poirier and Sarah McDowell are the best team for the job.
Instead of describing their goals and ideas with vague political jargon, the duo was able to state specific problems and outlined unambiguous steps to address those issues.
Poirier and McDowell have three main initiatives. First, they hope to make dining more sustainable and receptive to student needs, including promoting more organic, vegetarian and vegan options. They want to increase the diversity of the student body so that its makeup is more representative of Chicago as a whole, in part by recruiting more from high schools in city neighborhoods where Loyola has little connection. They would like to ease the burden of tuition on students by enacting grandfather clauses; clauses would mean that enrolled students would pay the same tuition each year even as the university raises tuition costs for each incoming class.
These goals, and the rest of the agenda they detailed, are certainly lofty, and we hope that they are more than just empty promises made to secure votes. The Editorial Board had its reservations about the practicality of Poirier and McDowell’s ambitious plans. But to provide the change in USGA that we’ve all been hoping for, Loyola needs a president and vice president who are willing to aim high and are passionate about the issues that students find important.
The team has already shown they can make tangible improvements on campus. Poirier, chair of the Justice Committee for two of the three years she’s been on USGA, worked to get water bottle refill stations installed around campus. She has spearheaded the water bottle ban (which is also up for a vote on next week’s ballot and has been previously endoresed by the Editorial Board). Serving her second year in USGA and currently chairing the Residence Life and Dining Committee, McDowell has made small changes within Loyola dining through the creation of the Cuisine Team, a liaison between students and Aramark.
Presidential candidate Matthew Razek and running mate Tori Spears also boast some impressive accomplishments within USGA. Razek, who has a reputation for being easy to work with, has been on USGA for three years and served his last two as Speaker of the Senate. He also has a working relationship with many of the administrators on campus. Spears has leadership background in Greek Life and within the athletic department from her time as a student-athlete. Though this is Spears’ first year on USGA, she co-sponsored the water bottle refill station movement and water bottle ban legislation as a member of the Residence Life and Dining Committee. While the Editorial Board finds their experience impressive, these candidates failed to communicate exactly how they would combat rising tuition or lower major requirements, issues they said were important to them. The vague nature of their platform does not convey the level of knowledge and passion expressed by Poirier and McDowell.
Junior Eftiola Trebicka and sophomore Nicholas Ramirez are also running. With a driving personality and sense of responsibility, Trebicka is known to accomplish the goals she sets. They have admirable aims, such as improving four-year graduation rates and making sure students are prepared for life after Loyola, but this team of candidates did not clearly articulate how they would go about achieving these goals. As part of the Academic Affairs committee, Trebicka worked to lower the graduation requirements to 120 credit hours. Nevertheless, this duo has not been involved with USGA for as long as the other candidates and lacked a defined vision for their administration in their interview.
The remaining pair of candidates is Matthew Smith and Derek Gliwa. The Editorial Board questions whether these two take the issues seriously or could efficiently lead USGA when they are not currently in, nor have ever been, part of the organization.
Despite their differences in experience and the variety of goals each of these teams have, we commend each of the candidates for their plans to keep students in the loop about actions throughout the upcoming year, something that USGA has been sorely lacking. Plans ranged from Smith/Gliwa’s suggestion of placing comment boxes on Loyola’s campus or the USGA website, to Razek/Spears’ plan to hold special forums where student can meet with administrators and USGA, to Poirier/McDowell’s Twitter hashtag #JumpOnItUSGA for students to send direct complaints and suggestions. Having a medium where students can voice their concerns is essential for enacting campus-wide change via social media.
We find Poirier and McDowell the most impressive of the contenders to lead USGA next year. Out of all the candidates, these two most clearly laid out their plans for the upcoming year and were the most passionate about their goals. Whether or not they can follow through on their promises remains to be seen, and we hope that inaction does not cause us to reconsider our endorsement. But Poirier/McDowell’s agenda and attitude are the right ones for Loyola, and their knowledge and energy give us hope that it can become reality.
To learn more about the candidates, check out the full-length videos of The PHOENIX’s interviews with each ticket. Voting takes place via email on March 27-28.