By Gina Vaile/Managing editor
As the Student Government Association says goodbye to the first full year of the Shared Governance Program, four Eastern students campaign to become the next student leaders for the organization, taking Student Government into the next year.Elections for the student body president and Regent are next Tuesday. In preparation, candidates have made appearances at student organizational meetings and placed campaign materials around campus.
April 8 SGA hosted its annual presidential debate where slated candidates Jacquelyn Leach and Tracy Gragston and candidates Kristina O’Brien and Lance Melching answered questions about platforms and general objectives the next SGA administration will work toward.
Leach and Gragston
Running for office is something this slate is accustomed to. Both Leach and Gragston have served as officers or chairmembers in several Eastern organizations, including the SGA. Their experience in those capacities is what Leach said is an important aspect the two will bring to the table if elected student body president/Regent and executive vice president.
“All students need to enjoy their college experience,” Leach said in an interview, noting she is already attentive to student concerns on campus.
“The students need somebody who knows campus, from living in the halls to sitting in the desks that may or may not fit students of all sizes. I care about ‘what are the problems and concerns’ that students have,” she said.
Her runningmate said one issue of concern for many students is safety. “We’ve had rapes on this campus this school year and that has to be addressed,” Gragston said.
“Residence Life Council perhaps can look into ways to help the residents prevent this from happening. Safety should be one focal point (of the next administration),” he said.
Leach and Gragston hope to strengthen the ties between Student Government and other organizations on campus to prevent diversity and promote inclusiveness.
“We need to get people from other organizations to work together,” Leach said. “If you don’t know how to do something or if you need help, the SGA should be there to say ‘we’ll help you learn.’”
Both Leach and Gragston make diversity an issue in the forefront.
“Diversity to me is inclusiveness. It’s beyond the black-white issue. It includes people of all backgrounds and all preferences. It’s about people coming together and functioning together. It’s about respect,” she said.
O’Brien and Melching
They describe each other as the student advocate meets academic advocate. O’Brien and Melching served as Student Rights chair and Academic Affairs chair respectively this past year in the SGA. The two say their experience with the committees and university administrators is an asset and is important if elected as the student body president/Regent and executive vice president.
The two hope to keep current issues on the forefront of the SGA agenda next fall and spring. Issues such as the plus/minus moratorium; the new tuition policy that requires those students taking more than 16 hours to pay $60 per credit hour over; co-curricular transcripts, and a commitment to make shared governance work.
“Students don’t realize how much of a voice they really have when it comes to issues that affect them directly,” O’Brien said.
“The purpose of SGA is so students have a line of communication set up (with administration) and for students to know somebody will address their concern through the proper channels,” she said.
The two really hope to get the co-curricular transcript program implemented on the Eastern campus. Melching, who played a significant role in starting the pilot program, said the co-curricular transcript will be a benefit to students.
“It’s an opportunity for students to be recognized for the leadership roles they hold,” he said.
Melching said if elected, he hopes to run the Senate with consistency and by making sure the Senate, Student Activities Council and RLC work together to make Shared Governance work.
O’Brien, who is a non-traditional student, said she would like to see the SGA expand outward and work closely with organizations such as Panhellenic and Interfraternity Council to have more outreach with the students on campus.
“Some organizations feel like they aren’t being represented. Lance and I are willing to work extremely hard for the students at Eastern Kentucky University,” she said.