Meet the USG candidates: student body president

Baylee Sweitzer, Reporter

Undergraduate Student Government elections for the 2022-2023 academic year opened at 8 a.m. Wednesday, March 22 on the USG election website and closes at 5 p.m. Thursday, March 23. This year, two candidates are competing for the role of student body president.

Erik Gomez

Junior political science major Erik Gomez is currently serving as the USG director of governmental affairs. Gomez served as senator for residence halls during the 2020-2021 academic year and was a member of the Allocations Board the year prior. 

Q: What is your platform? 

A: The physical and mental well-being of the student body is really important, that’s why it is the first point of my campaign. As senator for Residence Halls, I co-sponsored legislation to give care packages with mental health resources to students in isolation and quarantine. I also want to amplify students’ voices. That’s why my next step to end my term as Director of Governmental Affairs is working on a voter registration game-plan for students.

Erik Gomez is a candidate for USG President. (Courtesy of Undergraduate Student Government)

Q: Why do you want to be elected?

The reason why I joined USG is because I wanted to give people a seat at the table. And when I was a freshman, not a lot of people in USG looked like me. I love that I’m able to be a voice for students who didn’t have a voice before, as a person of color. Sometimes I feel like I am undermined or disrespected, and sometimes I do have to work twice as hard just to get my voice heard. But what keeps me going is my colleagues and my friends and peers who tell me how important that work is. For example, I passed a resolution condemning House Bill 454, a bill that disenfranchises trans youth. I also sponsored a unanimously passed resolution to condemn House Bill 327, a bill that limits education and how we can teach diversity in the classroom.

Q: What changes are you looking to enact?

A: The president position is reviewing all the other positions on the undergraduate student government board and being intentional about how they can do even more for the student body. So, for example, I believe that the senator of at Large for Diversity should be required to spend one hour in an affinity space that they don’t identify with. So, for example, I am a man, a person of color and also part of the LGBTQ community. So if I were that senator, once a week, I would go to the Women’s Center, for example. That way, I’m not only advocating for diverse groups that I identify with, but making sure that all diverse groups are represented.

Jenna Gilbreath

Jenna Gilbreath is a candidate for USG President. (Courtesy of Undergraduate Student Government)

Jenna Gilbreath stepped down from her role as senator of student involvement to fill a vacant position as director of student involvement. Gilbreath, a junior communications studies major, served as a member of the Allocations Board during the 2021-2021 school year. Current USG Student Body President Chazzlyn Jackson endorsed Gilbreath’s presidential campaign.

Q: What is your platform?

A: My platform is definitely nontraditional because I want to shift our campus culture. It’s not necessarily like I’m running on a few main points and those are the only things I’m going to do. My platform is really different because it’s all about creating this culture of change and giving students the opportunities to advocate for themselves. Rather than me advocating for you, I’m giving you the resources so you can advocate for yourself. And with this, I feel like collectively we can make a bigger difference together because students will be able to know how to address their own concerns and actually create change on our campus, rather than it being limited to me in my role and the few things that I decide.

Q: Why do you want to be elected?

A: The type of projects I was interested in doing involves getting students connected to resources that already exist on our campus. There’s a lot of really great things here, but people don’t know how to access them or they don’t even know they exist. So [as 2021-2022 Director of Student Involvement], I started working on a program called Change in a Flash. It’s essentially giving students the opportunity to pitch their campus change project and actually receive funding for that project and mentorship. It wasn’t until I was in USG that I started to see these opportunities to have a shift in our campus culture where students can actually be co-creators of our university. I realized that, even though I love student involvement, to actually have that shift in our campus culture, the best position for me would be to run for Student Body President.

Q: What changes are you looking to enact?

A: “I want to focus on our campus culture. I think we kind of have a history of standing up for the things that we care about, and we’ve seen that time after time with rallies and protests and posts to Barstool. We’ve seen students openly talk about the things that they’re frustrated about. But, after that, they don’t know where to go. They will yell about the things they care about, post about it on social media, but there’s never the next steps. So I want to provide students with those next steps so they understand how to actually create change.

Baylee Sweitzer is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected]