Editor’s Note: As editor-in-chief of the UB Post, my decisions have been guided by principles of fairness, minimizing harm, and high ethics as laid out by the Society of Professional Journalists. As a result, I am making an extra effort to disclose my relationship with two candidates mentioned in this article. Abraham Rodriguez is a friend and one of my two roommate. Daniel Khoshkepazi is a neighbor, friend, and the father of two pleasant house guests in the form of plants that I have been watching since he returned home at the COVID-19 outbreak. Under ideal circumstances, I would have passed this along to another UB Post writer but COVID-19 creates less than ideal circumstances. I nor the UB Post will be endorsing any candidate in SGA elections.
Monday marked the first day of campaign season for the Student Government Association with voting beginning on Wednesday.
Candidates are vying for president, vice president, chief of staff, treasurer, and secretary.
Graduate student Kevin McHugh, current president of the Student Events Board, and senior Hugh Norko, current speaker of the SGA Senate (and full disclosure, a contributing writer for the UB Post writer) are running unopposed for Vice President and Treasurer, respectively.
Amadou Bah, current chief of staff, is running for re-election against challenger Maricriuz Abarca.
Sophomore Emily Kamp and freshman Randy Wells are seeking two of the 12 seats in the SGA Senate while John Lucas and junior Ashlyn Woods are returning for their second terms.
At Tuesday’s forum, both Rodriguez and Khoshkepazi spoke of their previous experiences working with students.
“As someone with over 5 years experience with student affairs and student life, both at UB and other institutions,” said Khoshkepazi, to the UB Post. “I want to help our Student Government Association fully utilize its platform to represent students to the fullest at the university and not be afraid to stand up for what students believe.”
Daniel Khoshkepazi, seeking a graduate degree in Global Affairs and Human Security, highlighted his graduate assistant at the Center for Student Involvement and his student affairs work as an undergraduate at SUNY Plattsburgh in New York. This included creating a rainbow bridge to honor marginalized students who came from families and backgrounds that were not supportive.
Furthermore, he emphasized his platform’s focus on increasing student services, such as providing feminine products and contraceptives on campus, while also creating new SGA Vice President positions that address various areas of student life, such as Academics, Student Affairs, and Public Relations.
Abraham Rodriguez, a Jurisprudence major, highlighted his work in the Boglomony Library as a Student Staff Manager and his role as vice president of the History Club. Rodriguez cites working with SGA in these capacities and having less than positive interactions as his inspiration for running.
Rodriguez focused his remarks on Tuesday to his platform issues of easing burdens for clubs and returning the Counseling Center to campus after its spring 2018 closing. Echoing the words of President Schmoke, Rodriguez argued that if students showcased their need for stronger mental health services that they could possibly receive them. He also emphasized his support for veteran students who are “often spoken about with little actually done for them”.
“Unfortunately, the general population of the university thinks all we do is fun activities. However, the greatest benefit that SGA actually has is the voice of the students,” said Abraham Rodriguez to the UB Post. Khoshkepazi concurred adding, “Students can use the SGA platform to advocate for changes that they believe will better this campus and allow for their voices to be heard by the school administration.”
Kevin McHugh, the de-facto Vice President, was absent from the forum yesterday and unable to be reached in time for publication. His platform, as shown on the candidates website, states his plans to “expand student discounts, expand travel grants for students, support UB’s campus pantry, work on offering affordable textbook options, and collaborate with student organizations to enhance your experience at UB.”
Hugh Norko, the de-facto treasurer, spoke of his plans to ease the co-sponsorship process allowing for SGA to provide funding for activities for clubs, such as transportation, food, and lodging on out-of-town trips.
In the race for chief of staff, Bah emphasized his previous experience in the past term specifically his open-door policy of “always willing to listen to students and advocate their ideas”.
Abarca, his challenger, at Tuesday’s forum, explained that her position as an advocate gave her a unique advantage for this role. In November of last year, Abarca was profiled in Reuters for her work advocating for undocumented students at the university and in the greater Baltimore region.
Other candidates addressed specific changes that they planned to address.
Randy Wells, in his run for a Senate seat, explains that he plans to advocate for non-traditional and working students. “I know, for me, the biggest challenge in the beginning was trying to get to school on time, finding parking, and getting to class on time before a professor won’t let you in for their lecture,” said Wells, to the UB Post. A possible solution, he adds, could be “ SGA working with administration and professors to maybe show a little more compassion with students when trying to get classes especially during that rush hour period and by making sure students discuss that with their professors at the beginning of the semester.”
Voting through the MyUB portal begins on Wednesday, April 15 ending on Sunday, April 19.
A recording of Tuesday’s forum can be found here.
Leonard Robinson is editor-in-chief of the UB Post.