By Ted Yoakum
Western Michigan University will elect a new Western Student Association President and Vice President from March 19-23 to replace the Kaplan-Neldon administration. The Western Herald sat down with presidential candidates Matthew Vargo and Sean Nicholl, and their respective running mates Nikki Ledbury and Collin Mays, to discuss their platforms and goals for next year’s WSA.
What do you study here at Western?
Vargo: This is my third year here at Western, and I am studying organizational communication and philosophy, I’m doing a double major.
Ledbury: I’m studying africana studies, environmental studies, with a minor in non-profit leadership.
Nicholl: My major is business finance, I have minors in marketing and economics. I’m a junior.
Mays: My major is political science, and I’m minoring in communications and management. I’m a junior/senior status.
What are your plans after graduation?
Vargo: Right now, I’m looking to grad school, and I’m either going to pursue study in higher education, political affairs, political administration or something of the like, so it’s a little bit up in the air right now.
Ledbury: I’ve actually done a year with AmeriCorps and I would really like to go back and do another year with [them]. After that, probably Peace Corps or something along those lines and administrative work with some sort of non-profit or environmental non-profit.
Nicholl: I would like to be the Chief Financial Officer somewhere, a day-to-day operations sort of guy, the top of a major corporation. That would be the ultimate end goal for me.
Mays: The governor of Michigan.
In five words or less, describe your campaign.
Vargo: Student-invovlment, diversity, sustainability, accessibility, and
Nicholl: WSA New Ways.
Mays: Energetic, fresh, determined and capable.
How can people reach you on the web?
Vargo: Look for wsadreamteam.com. Our Twitter is @wsadreamteam, and our Facebook page is vote Vargo-Ledbury for WSA Presdient and Vice President.
Ledbury: We have a hashtag, which is #wsadreamteam. We like to keep things consistent.
Vargo: Through all those mediums, you can contact us. So if you tweet at us, we’ll respond. If you post on our Facebook page, we’ll respond. On our website, we have a few different options to contact us. If you want to schedule a visit, you can do that through our website, as well as send us feedback and ideas, and leave us with your name so we can contact you and discuss those ideas with you, or not. We also have a commit to vote section. Your email will be kept confidential, but if you leave us your email it basically says that you’re committing to vote for us and we’ll send you a reminder when voting happens.
Mays: We have a hashtag, #wsanewways, new ways with Nicholl-Mays, we believe in new ways for the campus. WSA New Ways on Facebook and Twitter, in fact, if you tweet at us, we’ll always get back to you immediately.
Nicholl: The website is wsanewways.com.
How do you feel about campus sustainability, and the sustainability fee?
Ledbury: [Sustainability] is something near and dear to my heart. I am a environmental studies student and I’ve worked for different environmental non-profits in the past… The sustainability fee is the third part for our platform for sustainability. Not changing it necessarily, because that’s going to be up what we see from the students throughout this campaign, but to reevaluate it, [to see] exactly where the money is going, about being very transparent about where it’s going and working with the administration. The other part of sustainability is advocating for education on campus, but through the senate. Making small changes in our everyday lives in and educating what they can do to change maybe their habits right now, so that we can foster that kind of growth and sustainability at the university level.
Nicholl: As far as sustainability goes, we made it an issue. One of our slate members is the current sustainability chair, and what from I’ve seen, the sustainability position is the hardest to transition to from year to year. By having her on onboard and stay for a second term, she’ll be able to hit the ground immediately and I feel like we’ll be able to make a lot more strides in sustainability. As far as the fee goes, she’ll already have a year of experience how to monitor the grants that we give out through the sustainability fee, so that way it will be a more effective process moving forward, so instead of having three to four months of ‘I don’t know what I’m doing,’ she’ll have all of that taken care of. We’ll be able to immediately have sustainability projects on campus within the first month that we’re here back at school.
How will you ensure that RSOs continue to recieve funding?
Vargo: First and foremost, we need to appoint an allocations chair who is unbiased, and is actively unbiased, and will look at budgets, will look at organizations in a very objective manner. I feel like where that comes from is the interview process, making sure that when we appoint this person, there’s an understanding of that objectivity that we expect. Then, it’s reaching out to the students and saying, ‘we have money here, this money is your money to put on events and do things on campus. Guidelines have to be followed, but we want you to use this money.
Ledbury: That has a lot to do with accessibility. Having [notices] posted in a timely manner so that people have the amount of time that they need to put together a budget and making sure that they know exactly when those are going to take place, how they take place, and what they can actually put in budgets for. Sometimes, budgets will come through and it seems like they probably didn’t know about the guidelines, and if they had they probably could of adapted those budgets so it would be passed.
Nicholl: We really want to look into the allocations process. From the past couple years I’ve seen, we’ve made some good strides in that. There are a few areas I want to nitpick and tweak, so that way we can make sure that everyone is receiving the kind of funding they deserve. There’s a little bit we can do on the process side of allocations that we can make it a little bit better that we will look at next year.
How do you plan to increase senatorship in the WSA?
Vargo: Often times, when you walk into the WSA meeting for the first time, the feedback we get is that there’s a lot of intimidation. We feel like that comes for the political nature of the WSA, which naturally, it is a political organization. What we want to do is to try to change that culture of that organization, where we can still do business, we’re still that political organization, but the atmosphere is different. The atmosphere is welcoming, the atmosphere is something that says we want your voice here because your voice matters. We want to be accessible to students. Once that happens, we feel like students will be attracted to the WSA who may not have been attracted to it before.
Mays: Definitely reaching out to people, going to RSO meetings. Those are crucial. We do it now because we’re campaigning, but we want to continue to do it. At least one member of the cabinet will hopefully attend every RSO, once a month. When you span that out across 14-15 [cabinet members], it’s definitely doable. We definitely want to reach out to people and know that we’re here for them. You can be a senator without necessarily having representing the group you’re in, you can represent the business college, the college of arts and sciences. There are many ways to get involved, and we want to encourage people.
How will you make WSA more transparent?
Ledbury: One of our big ideas for next year is to create an online forum that’s a more casual way for people to express their views. If you were to post on this online forum, it would be posted, so it would be very public, so people can have discussions in a respectful manner. Then we can take those back to the senate and create resolutions, do what we can to make sure those voices are heard, even if they aren’t necessarily senators. They are students, and we want to hear what they have to say.
Nicholl: We want to make sure that not only are we completely approachable people, that you can come up to us and have issues with what’s going on, but just to find a way to get our meetings out there more. We want people to see what WSA is doing at all times. There should be no closed doors, we want to make it as transparent as possible. We feel like [the current] administration has did a good job in making that move, and we want to expand on what they’ve done.
Mays: We need to let [students] know that we’re here for them, we work for them.
Why should students vote for you?
Vargo: Right now, I’m the president of OUTspoken, the LGBT and Straight Ally student organization here on campus. I also work in the admissions building, in the student ambassador office, [where] I help do training. I’ve also been a Fall welcome ambassador, I’ve helped plan Bronco Bash last year, and I’ve done a lot of work on Campus.
Ledbury: I’m the chairperson of Drive Safe Kalamazoo. On top of that, I’m the [WSA] Speaker Pro Temp. I maintain a good GPA, and I do really, really care about the students on campus. Sometimes I spend 12 hours on campus, a lot of that is unpaid. The reason we’re here is not for any contrived reason, we’re here is because we really, genuinely care about WMU. We’ve proven that we have the leadership in our past that will make us succeed in the WSA next year for sure.
Vargo: When you look at Nikki and I, we have proven leadership. We’re doing these things on campus already. We’re advocating for students already, we’re in charge of our own boards and cabinets and stuff like that. We feel like we have the necessary skills to bring that to the WSA, as well as the skills to bring life to the WSA and to make it a really great organization.
Nicholl: For me, personally, through my two years in WSA’s cabinet, I’ve been given the experience and the relationships with administration. I now know the correct routes that stuff takes to get done, so when we have concerns in the future I know who to take those concerns to. In the past, I’ve had people at the head of our organization who didn’t know where to take those concerns. Through my experience, now I know exactly who to go to. I have a relationship with Dr. Dunn, I have a relationship with Dr. Diane Anderson. I can get things done because of my experiences with them, I’ve built relationships with the administration, and that’s what I think is huge. In the past, we’ve hit road blocks and stopped; now, we’re going to hit road blocks and we’re going to go right on through them.
Mays: New ways are coming to WSA, and we’re going to bring them. I stepped into WSA last year as the vice-chair of political affairs; this year, I’m the chairman. I love WSA with every fiber of my being. This is probably one of the hardest and most enjoyable jobs I’ve had. The reason why it’s so enjoyable is because I get to work with people, I get to interact with people. It’s so important that people know that we’re here for them, and that we have their best interest at heart.