New coalition to take on KUnited for Student Senate
- Dec. 5, 2012
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A new coalition is seeking to break the nearly two decades of dominance KUnited has had in student senate.
Last night, Ad Astra announced itself as a coalition as well as the candidates who will run against KUnited in spring elections.
To room of about 50 people at the Beta Theta Pi house, 1425 Tennessee St., Marcus Tetwiler, a Paola junior, announced he would run for president. Emma Halling, a junior from Mishawaka, Ind., will run as the vice-presidential candidate.
Tetwiler said the coalition formed as opposition to the one-party system KUnited currently runs in senate. He said there’s a need for more voices when spending Senate’s more than $20 million budget.
“It’s clear we need more student involvement,” Tetwiler said. “We have less than 10 percent of the student body voting, but it’s everybody’s money being spent.”
Ad Astra is the second coalition to announce it is campaigning, behind KUnited’s announcement Monday. KUnited’s presidential candidate is Brandon Woodard, current Student Senate vice president and Topeka senior with Blaine Bengtson, a Salina junior, running as the vice presidential candidate.
Woodard, who was arrested and charged for operating under the influence in September, said he does not believe his charge carries weight on Student Senate issues. On November 30, a judge issued a continuance in his case until January.
“I do not believe my charge has any relevance on what I do in Senate,” Woodard said. “I think they are completely separate.”
Woodard also said he believes his experience could make him a stronger advocate for education on what to do in situations similar to his own.
Ad Astra vice-presidential candidate Emma Halling said she believes all leaders do so by example, and many student leaders have made safety a priority.
“Democracy is a practice in accountability, and candidates’ conduct should be taken into consideration during elections,” Halling said.
Tetwiler, the current Student Senate transportation coordinator, oversees University transit programs, including SafeBus and SafeRide, which are funded by student fees.
“I hope that DUI scenarios can be an avoidable part of a Kansas University student’s experience,” Tetwiler said. “My office does everything it can to provide a safe ride home.”
Tetwiler said Ad Astra is still ironing out a platform, but thinks there needs to be more communication between Senate and the students.
“We want people to know what’s going on in the Senate chamber,” Tetwiler said. “It shouldn’t be a secret.”
KUnited is also still forming a platform. Woodard said, current Student Senate president Hannah Bolton selected him to be her successor. Though Bolton said she “cannot comment on the upcoming election as I am in a nonpartisan position.”
Under Student Senate Rules and Regulations, any students can organize and nominate students.
KUnited has won 18 of the past 19 elections, but does not have a written or permanent candidate selection process.
Kris Velasco, Wamego senior and former campaign director, said in previous years, a caucus was held, but in 2009 the loser of the caucus formed Envision KU, giving KUnited its closest election in recent history.
Since then, those interested in running tell the KUnited president, who makes the ultimate decision, but consults a board of previous and current members, including the vice president.
Velsasco said he would like to see it go back to the caucus system, because KUnited is strong enough to survive it.
“I don’t think it’s competitive when the two people who normally pick, one of them is the nominee,” Velasco said. “I always thought it was fair before because strong candidates were picked who would lead.”