Candidates for the Student Association presidency met in the Wisconsin room of the Union Thursday Evening for a formal debate. Current president Ryan Sorenson is challenged by student senators Mike Sportiello and Franco Ferrante.
Important issues discussed at the debate included the initiatives and roles they planned to take as president in light of the Governor Walker’s proposed budget cuts.
Sportiello emphasized rising college expenses in his answer. He elucidated the need to maintain the ability of students to graduate in four years in order to mitigate the extended education expenses involved with taking five to six years for an undergraduate degree. Sportiello also spoke about the need to communicate the UWM story to the public and showcase its importance.
“I’d like to re-iterate that affordability factor,” said Ferrante in response to Sportiello.
Ferrante stated that he would work to preserve programs and degrees that may be cut from UWM. He believes that “pricing” students out of education is the wrong direction for UWM and the city.
“If we don’t take representation seriously at this point, prior to these cuts coming through, programs and degrees are going to be cut from our university.” said Ferrante.
“I can assure you that student representation is occurring right now in the budget planning.” replied Sorenson.
Sorenson noted that he is currently serving on the Budget Task Force, and spoke candidly about the impact of the cuts at UWM. He stated that if the cuts proceed as they currently stand, they “will affect graduation rates”. Sorenson also highlighted the relationships that he has built with state legislators, citing them as a cogency of his representation of the UWM student body in the face of the proposed cuts.
All three candidates iterated the importance of student outreach.
“Outreach is going to be one of the main tenets of my platform,” said Ferrante.
Ferrante believes the SA can do a better job of sharing a dialogue with the student orgs on campus, so as to utilize their knowledge of the student body. He also asserted that student senators should be sitting in on the faculty senate and that there should be faculty on the student senate.
Sportiello noted the need to create better communication between student leaders and the SA. According to Sportiello, this is a role he has already taken upon himself by “spearheading” the student leader subcommittee. Sportiello also mentioned that he believes student representatives should have an expanded role in academic decisions made at UWM.
Sorenson highlighted his belief that maintaining relationships with faculty, deans, and resource centers are critical to effective representation. He also echoed the sentiment that there needs to be effective outreach to student organizations.
Ferrante believes that the student association needs to increase visibility and suggested office hours in the union and a compulsion for student senators to introduce themselves to their classes. Ferrante also suggested that he would hold bi-weekly addresses to inform the student body and keep them up to date on what their student representatives are working on.
“Transparency is key,” said Ferrante.
According to Sportiello, inaccessibility is currently an issue the SA needs to work on. He proposed calling for all student representatives to hold public office hours in the union concourse.
“People need to know what’s going on and who is controlling their money.” said Sportiello.
Sorenson shared his experience witnessing a corrupt and “self-serving” student association as a freshman senator, and noted that he chaired the by-laws and rules commission his sophomore year where he helped to write the student associations current governing documents. According to Sorenson, the student association has improved their social media presence in the last year and created a new student outreach position.
When the issue of parking reform at UWM arose, both Sorenson and Ferrante clearly endorsed the idea of implementing a “parking pass” to replace the current system of subsidized free parking in some locations and dis-uniform pricing in other areas.
Sportiello commended prior administrations in implementing the bus pass system here at UWM.
The next debate will be in town-hall format on Thursday April 9, at 5:30 p.m. in the Fireside Lounge.