The time has come for new Student Government Association members to step forward and take the lead of the student body.
In this year’s election Juan-Diego Hernandez will be running for president with Vince Hucek for vice president against Seth Hoffmeister for president with Shantanu Pai for vice president.
Both parties, with unique strategies, plan to initiate their campaign with the similar goal of getting students out to vote. Both sides will be primarily focused on increasing voter turnout, which has seen some recent lows.
“Last year only about 500 students voted; out of 9,500, it usually ranges from around 500 to 1,500 each year,” said current SGA Vice President Liz Westberg.
“There is no reason why it should be that low,” Hucek said.
United Council President Seth Hoffmeister said that he and his running mate Shantanu Pai, the SGA Inclusivity Director, have set the goal of reaching an all-time high voter turnout.
Westberg said that turnout has not breached 2,000 in many years.
“My freshman year I didn’t even really know that SGA even existed, and that’s a travesty, and it is student government so hopefully we can get students to have a desire to be interested in it,” Hucek said.
“I feel as though there isn’t fluidity between the students and SGA, not that they haven’t been doing great, they have been doing great, but I really wanted to run for president to open up SGA so students don’t feel intimidated about coming in and talking,” Hernandez said.
Diego and Hucek said that it is their intention to get out and make sure their presence is not just an email, but face-to-face contact with students.
“Our general theme is visibility and accessibility, these are huge and will not only help with the vote but after the vote,” Hucek said.
Meanwhile their opponents are also planning for post-SGA election.
“As being president of the statewide student association United Council, I love working on student issues and I think we are at a time that we really need to fight to hold on to the quality of education that we have and at the same time improve it as well,” Hoffmeister said.
Hoffmeister had entertained the idea of running for a second term as president of the United Council, which is centralized in Madison, but said he was getting homesick for UW-Stevens Point and the work that was harder to get done on a state level could be done here much more easily on the localized UWSP campus community.
“I’ve been involved with a lot of student orgs and I joined SGA when I was a freshman, and I realized that all the things I wanted to get out of my college experience we had the power to do; as students in Wisconsin we have a tremendous amount of power over the institutional governance of UW-Stevens Point,” Hoffmeister said.
Hoffmeister and Pai are gearing up for engaging the students in the presidential election as well as targeting Wisconsin’s new voter ID laws, which Hoffmeister said disenfranchises students.
“We are going to go out of our way to make it easier for students to vote in the 2012 election,” Hoffmeister said. “I want to set a goal that if elected we will have the highest percentage turnout in the UW System. It’s a lofty goal but I think we can do it.”
“Seth has something others don’t,” Pai said. “Seth is a dreamer, and while not everybody always likes dreamers, they bring new ideas to the table.”
Pai has been an active international student at UWSP for five years, two of which he was the vice president of the International Club. During his time here, he has brought about many changes to how the university views international students.
“My eyes may not be new, but they are trained,” Pai said.
Liz Westberg said that she and Ryan Rutledge are both proud of all that they have accomplished and would like to see some of the programs they started continued into the next SGA staff’s agenda, programs such as the Student Research Fund and the free newspaper stands around campus.
“I know so many people who love that newspaper program, I myself grab the paper every morning, it’s fantastic,” Hucek said. “I would love to continue the programs they started, they’ve definitely improved this campus and we just hope to continue what they’ve started.”
A public forum will be held in the DUC on March 27 for students to sit in on the debate between the two parties; the election polls will open via email on March 30 at 8:00 a.m. and close on April 5 at 4:00 p.m.
The results will be announced at 6:00 p.m. on the day the polls close.