Daily Kent Stater USS endorsements

Last week, members of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board interviewed Undergraduate Student Senate candidates for endorsement consideration. We asked for their goals, how they hope to attain them, and we looked for answers that went beyond, “I want to be a liaison between students and the university,” or “I want to be accessible to all students.”

Granted, these are important traits for any USS member to have, but such vague goals can be unrealistic. We wanted detailed and down-to-earth plans from the candidates, and we received that from most. But some, in our opinion, left more to be desired.

The endorsements that follow are the consensus opinion of the Stater editorial board.

Executive Director – Ross Miltner

On the surface the election for executive director appears to be a battle between dueling sound bites, with “Better Bands” on one side and “Improving Campus Safety” on the other. However, when delving deeper into the candidates’ platforms, one emerges as having a stronger plan for the campus and the community. It is for that reason we endorse Ross Miltner for executive director.

Miltner has detailed plans for working with Kent city manager Dave Ruller in getting the community and the student body to cooperate more smoothly through an internship plan. We also liked his idea for the redevelopment of the Music Listening Center into a space that students, you know, would actually use. To be fair, we were fairly disconcerted by his focus on bringing bands to campus and what we perceived as his desire to pick a fight with All Campus Programming Board.

Christopher Taylor is a competent candidate who would make a fine executive director. As president of PRIDE!Kent, he was able to propel the group to become one of the university’s most active organizations. But we found that far too much of his campaign was focused upon the issue of campus safety, and it is our belief that, despite the recent deviations from the norm, the statistics don’t lie and the Kent campus is as safe as the campus of any other state school in Ohio, if not safer. Also, not much of anything in Taylor’s platform details how exactly he would go about improving safety other than fixing a few call boxes. As for his plans for the community, we found them to be, while well-intentioned, vague and unlikely to be implemented by the university.

At the end of the day this is a battle between the realistic but mundane goals of Miltner and the idealistic but improbable goals of Taylor.

It’s always better to get something worthwhile done – even if it isn’t earth-shattering – than to tilt at windmills.

Business and Finance – Sean Groves

Sean Groves is a smart kid who plans on playing the USS allocations guidelines by the books. As tedious as the allocations process may seem, Groves said he will try not to make special exceptions for any particular group.

His opponent, Nathan Williams, seems too idealistic to run the USS Allocations Committee effectively. Williams wants to create permanent allocations seats for organizations of all “backgrounds and ideologies,” and we wonder how practical that proposal may be.

Considering his proximity to Black United Students, an organization that has a recent history of using significant chunks of USS money ineffectively, we question how fair Williams can be as a USS senator.

We commend Groves on planning to remove block funding for the May 4 Task Force and most of the permanent seats on the Allocations Committee; however, we are unsure how firm he will be if pressured to back down on his promises. For that reason, we will step short of enthusiastically endorsing Groves for the senate position.

Research and Development – Kourtney Wolfgang

Junior business management major Kourtney Wolfgang feels the position of senator for research and development has not been used properly in the past and hopes to stop this pattern.

She boasts being a Delta Gamma and a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, but it’s definitely not her “experience” that makes her stand out.

Wolfgang isn’t making any ridiculous promises – she knows what the position entails, and she wants to be realistic. One of her main points has been “letting students know what’s happening before it happens.” Anything that would help better connect USS with the students can’t be too bad.

Wolfgang is an easy choice, especially since her opponent was recently arrested for allegedly assaulting a police officer.

Student Advancement – Benjamin Feld

Candidate for student advancement and junior marketing major Benjamin Feld has an advantage over his opponents simply because he currently sits on the Allocations Committee. But this doesn’t mean that he is an obvious pick for the position.

Feld and the other two people running for senator for student advancement were not impressive, so consider this a hesitant endorsement.

We hope Feld, if elected, will take a few notes from the current senator, Preston Mitchum.

Academic Affairs – Preston Mitchum

This year, XF grades and the plus/minus scale were the central debate issues for this position, and nobody seems better to articulate these issues to the students than Preston Mitchum. He is already one of our favorite USS members this year and is definitely the most accessible. After interviewing him, he seemed to be much more passionate about this position than his opponent, Caitlin Faas.

Mitchum stated he was against the XF grade because it does not clearly define what cheating and plagiarism are. We agree with his sound bite referring to the XF grade as the “death penalty” for students.

Faas, on the other hand, supports the current XF plan.

“If someone works hard and gets an F, that student should not have the same grade as someone getting an F for cheating,” Faas said at last week’s debate.

Not counting externalities such as family problems or other attendance-related issues, any student who works hard in a class doesn’t get an F.

Mitchum also shares our views on academic departments inconsistently executing the plus/minus scale. Overall, Mitchum seems to be more in touch with student concerns on academic affairs, and for that reason we give him our support.

Community Affairs – Justin Jeffery

While a cynic would say that his opponent has evidently dropped off the face of the earth, it wouldn’t have mattered all that much as Justin Jeffery is a rather qualified candidate. For that reason we enthusiastically endorse him for the position of community affairs.

His plan for a Police Review Board, if implemented, would give students a voice regarding the operation of a police force which from time to time can be a bit on the overzealous side. His plan for a campus coffee hour with the City Council would provide an opportunity to remind the council they also need to make sure to take the thoughts of the student body into consideration.

As was insinuated in the opening paragraph, we haven’t seen hide nor hair of Jeffery’s opponent, Bethany Taylor, and we’re unable to get a solid idea of exactly what her platform is or could be and therefore are unable to state an opinion about her one way or the other.

As Kent Interhall Council president, a student ambassador and public relations chair for Delta Tau Delta, it’s safe to say Justin Jeffery knows a little something about community affairs. After all, he did run for City Council.

And his run for council last year shows a commitment to the community and to the student body and a desire to improve both. We only can hope he is able to fulfill that desire through a year of hard work on the student senate.

This junior political science major wants to help students avoid confrontation with police and let the community know Kent State students can be an asset to the city.

“You have to show them we are more than just partying college students,” Jeffery said. “The students do care and do respect the city they’re living in for four years.”

Student Relations – Donovan Hill

Perhaps the dark horse of this USS race, junior political science major Donovan Hill has told us his platform isn’t “I’m Greek and it’s my turn.” A novel idea. Couple that with some interesting plans and a refreshing attitude, and you get an enthusiastic endorsement for this student relations candidate.

After listening to him at the debates, we initially misread Hill by thinking he was too idealistic. But after sitting down with him, we enjoyed his commitment to USS transparency. Considering his background in grassroots activism, we think Hill will do a fine job connecting to the student body.

University Affairs – Richard Wittkopp Jr.

We hesitantly endorse Richard Wittkopp Jr. for the university relations post on the senate.

We’re not thrilled with Wittkopp, but frankly, we’re so severely disappointed in his opponent, current University Affairs Sen. Megan Sedello, that we hope Wittkopp will bring fresh blood into the position that Sedello has held so pitifully.

Wittkopp, like Sedello, wants to revive the All University Hearing Board, and both want to promote the judicial advocate program through advertising and various other ways of reaching out to the student body.

While seemingly similar in platforms, the difference is Sedello has had a year to get the hearing board back in action, but failed to do so. We have little reason to believe it would see the light of day if she is re-elected.

While his list of campus involvement isn’t as long as his opponent’s, hopefully Wittkopp will actually follow through with the plans he’s promising.

Governmental Affairs – Amy Groya

Although she’s the only candidate running for the position, we can safely give Amy Groya an endorsement for the government affairs seat on the senate.

Compared to most of her university counterparts, Groya seems to know politics and is no amateur to governmental affairs.

As a freshman member of the College Democrats, she told us she registered more than 1,100 voters during the 2004 election cycle. She also has done campaign work for state Sen. Kimberly A. Zurz and has registered voters for state Rep. Kathleen Chandler.

Currently, Groya, who is a sophomore history and political science double major, is membership director for the College Democrats. She also has served on the USS Allocations Committee and the Affirmative Action Committee.

We’re impressed by Groya’s background and her enthusiasm. We also like that she is running on a platform of new ideas as well continuing older ones.

Groya wants to create a report card for state legislators grading them on how they vote on issues relating to students. She also plans to meet with those legislators to discuss higher education funding.

As the 2006 gubernatorial race approaches, Groya said she wants to hold debates between College Republicans and College Democrats to hopefully spark student interest in the race.

Additionally, Groya wants to continue and expand on current Governmental Affairs Sen. John McConnell’s work with the “Live Here, Vote Here” program.

We’re confident that although she is running unopposed, she is still going to work.