Meet the candidates: UB SA 2017-18 president, vice president, treasurer
The Student Association executive board controls roughly $4 million of student money collected through the mandatory student activity fee of $104.75 per semester. Elections will take place from March 28-30 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Student Union Theater. Four parties are running for executive board positions. One student is running for treasurer independently. Here is a breakdown of the candidates:
Name: Riley Oates (right)
Major: Economics and political science
Current SA Position: Senator
Riley Oates was elected as a Student Association Senator (SA) last semester, after running alone on the Integrity ticket. Oates said he considers himself the “outsider candidate” and said he is happy to sit alone on “one side of an issue.”
Oates joined the UB Model European Union during his first semester at UB and later co-founded the UB Debate Society. Although he has less SA experience than the other candidates, Oates said his experience with successfully creating a club sets him apart from the other candidates.
His platform’s primary goal is to bring integrity back to SA by holding members accountable for their job’s duties. By holding club coordinators accountable for working with clubs and helping them receive grants, Oates said he hopes to make it easier for clubs to thrive at UB.
“The SA president, the vice president, treasurer, they work 20 hours a week and get a 15 grand stipend for the entire year, meanwhile these club presidents are putting 15, 20 hours a week into their clubs and spending $100 of their own money so their clubs can have things,” Oates said. “I think that’s what we need to work on, we need to make sure that we’re not just allowing clubs to be here but that we’re allowing them to prosper and thrive.”
Oates said he also hopes to improve Fall Fest by pushing harder for it to be held outside and to bring “better artists.” If elected, Oates said he and his e-board will hold bi-weekly town hall-style meetings for students to air their grievances.
Name: Angie Quilla (left)
Current SA Position: N/A
Angie Quilla has been involved with the UB Debate Society since it was founded, as one of four members involved. A year later, she became treasurer and worked to build the group that now has 30 regular members, according to Quilla. She has also been involved in the So Fem club for the last year.
Quilla laid out three main goals for her vice-presidency. Her first goal is to add fundraising brackets to make it easier for clubs with large budgets to fundraise.
Currently, the rollover system only allows clubs to keep the money they’ve fundraised if they can match half their budget, which is more difficult for clubs like the Japanese Student Association, whose budget is $3,500, according to Quilla.
“A lot of clubs struggle to find community service and it just becomes another thing that they have to work for when they could be using that time for better events for their club,” Quilla said.
She said she wants SA to host four to six campus-wide community service events per semester to make it easier for clubs to complete their community service requirement. Quilla added that this also helps the UB and Buffalo community at large.
Her last goal is to improve student advocacy. Her first specific plan is to provide free tampons and sanitary napkins for all women’s bathrooms on-campus.
Quilla said this project can be provided with funds from the $104 mandatory student activity fee and plans to work with Health Services and other organizations.
Name: Alexis Ogra (middle)
Current SA Position: Special Interest Coordinator
Alexis Ogra served as president of UB College Republicans last year and served as secretary of the club her freshmen year. Last year, Ogra was the ethics chair for Sub-Board I, Inc’s Board of Directors and served on SA Senate for two years.
Ogra said she has been able to voice student clubs’ opinions to SA “very effectively” as the current Special Interest Coordinator and thinks that can be easily translated into representing students’ opinions to UB administration.
As SA president, Ogra looks to tackle issues such as how SA spends student money, how SA reaches students and the lack of parking on campus.
“I think really that the Student Association bureaucracy itself, maybe not the clubs, have been using money wastefully and I think we need to really cut down and eliminate wasteful spending so that money can be given out to clubs,” Ogra said.
Ogra said she noticed how wastefully SA spends money while on staff. She said SA embarked on a camping trip for staff orientation that cost about $4,000 and students in the staff wear L.L. Bean Jackets, which cost about $4,000. She feels expenditures like this should be cut down so more money will be available for clubs and SA programs.
Ogra also does not think the ticket policies for Fall Fest, Spring Fest and the Comedy Series were rolled out effectively
“There was a lot of miscommunication between us and the student body,” she said. “We weren’t prepared for it to be implemented and that really led to lower attendance at our events when we could have been at our maximum capacity.”
Ogra wants to improve the ticket policy so more students would attend SA events.
As a commuter student, Ogra said she has had to decide between risking getting a ticket, skipping class or being late to class because she could not find parking.
“Especially in the winter [parking] is not something students should have to deal with. The university at this point doesn’t even acknowledge that it’s a problem and we need to be able to voice our opinion to them in a more effective way so that our university can expand,” Ogra said.
When Ogra was the president of College Republicans, she shared an office with College Democrats, Mock Trial and other clubs and they were all very friendly with each other.
Name: Alicia Stepniewski (left)
Current SA Position: Bookkeeper
Alicia Stepniewski is a first-generation immigrant from Poland. She first got involved in SA when she joined the Polish Student Association and Mock Trial her freshman year. As a bookkeeper for SA, she said she has built a relationship with SA clubs and understands the issues each club faces.
“I want clubs to know that the sky's the limit with their club and by helping them know what’s available to them within SA and within UB, I hope to help them make their club events better and also help them get more students involved,” Stepniewski said.
As vice president, Stepniewski wants to advocate for students, get students involved in SA and help them find their homes on campus.
Stepniewski wrote a letter of dissent against the increase in academic excellence fee to UB administration. All seven student governments backed Stepniewski’s letter.
“[This] is ridiculous because students don’t even know where this fee is going towards and sometimes $100 is like a few weeks of groceries for students,” Stepniewski said. “We’re all in debt so I don’t want to increase the debt of students.”
Stepniewski wants to hold UB administration accountable for their actions and she also wants SA to be held accountable by having anonymous surveys for students and SA staff members to fill out voicing their concerns with SA and her performance.
Stepniewski also wants to change the club orientation process.
“Right now club orientation is basically three hours where someone just talks at you and no one remembers this, everyone’s tired, I’ve been through this and I want to make it really active so that everyone’s involved,” Stepniewski said.
Stepniewski wants to educate the executive board about new accounting software. She wants to have the president and treasurer work together to learn more about the new accounting software and have the vice president and secretary work together to learn about track sheets and how to reserve a room.
Stepniewski also wants to have an “open-door policy,” where students can voice their concerns on a post-it on her door at any time.
Name: Peter Pranata (right)
Major: Industrial Engineering
Current SA Position: Finance Bookkeeper, President of Indonesian Student Association
Peter Pranata is an international student from Indonesia. He has been involved in SA for roughly two years, starting in his sophomore year as a secretary for the Indonesian Student Association. He eventually became the president of the club.
He believes each of these positions have given him a better understanding of how finances work in SA.
“If I were elected as a treasurer, I would have the judgment when making tough decisions, especially when tough financial problems arise,” he said.
Pranata also worked in International Admissions and served as an international ambassador for UB.
Pranata looks to enhance the rollover requirements introduced by former SA treasurer Joe Pace and the 2-2-2 requirements of current treasurer Dan Emmons.
Pranata wants clubs to be able to ask for a certain amount of money as a form of reimbursement at the beginning of the semester. He said it currently it take about three to five days for this reimbursement to get approved and he wants clubs to be able to call him under emergency situations so they can buy the items. Any money that is not used will go back into the clubs’ account.
Pranata also looks to expand SA clubs’ vendor partnership.
“As of right now, we only have a partnership with Red Roof Inn, which can cause a lot of problems,” Pranata said. “Red Roof Inn is cheap but at the same time it’s not always located at a prime location so when clubs go to competitions or conferences, they have a hard time finding a close hotel or a close Red Roof Inn.”
He said for this reason, clubs often end up needing reimbursement.
As treasurer, Pranata wants clubs to be able to propose to the treasurer, vice president or president of SA for a maximum of $300 to sponsor the events. They will have 10-20 minutes to present and the SA e-board will approve or reject the proposal on the spot.
Pranata also wants to go through financial activities with clubs during orientation.
Name: Devashish Agarwal (right)
Major: Computer Science
Current Position: Treasurer of Mock Trial, Vice President of Consulting Club
Agarwal is no stranger to SA. He believes SA should start taking initiative and listening to students.
“Initiative does not only mean thinking about policies but also doing them,” Agarwal said. “They are made by the students and talking to them.”
Agarwal said he has been talking to students in the Student Union for the past few weeks about the “unfair” meal gap policy. He also wants to restructure the ticketing policy.
“Student policies are not made inside a room,” Agarwal said. “They are made by talking to the students and listening to them.”
Agarwal wants to better publicize SA, increase campus visibility and get more students involved.
“The whole idea is that when we are saying we are trying to do something, we are actually doing something about it,” he said. “We’re not doing this just to say, we actually have a history of doing it. When we say we take initiative, we mean it.”
Agarwal said coming to UB as an international student, he didn’t know how America and UB worked. He said he had to put in so much work and time just to get involved.
Agarwal wants to work to diversify SA.
“The amount of time and energy I put in is not something any student should be putting in to do that,” Agarwal said. “The student government should be coming to the students not students going to the student government.”
Agarwal wants to have a 45-day feedback service to speak with students to hear their comments and see if they are benefitting from SA. He also wants to have a texting policy where students can text SA their concerns and input.
Name: Peter Jowdy (left)
Major: Pharmacology and toxicology
Current position: Hobby Council Coordinator, SA Senator
Jowdy has spent the last three years working with SA clubs. He’s a Finance Committee member, former Assistant Club Services director and former SA Club Services mentee.
Jowdy believes a lot of the errors SA makes lie within SA administration.
Jowdy said club problems stem from a lacking vice president/coordinator relationship, an “arbitrary” club services department and temporary club recognition policies.
He said coordinators are often “thrown into” their position and he wants to train them and maintain a strong connection by having bi-weekly meetings with them.
After working in the club services department, Jowdy wants to give the people in the department more defined roles.
He wants the department to be in charge of club fairs, club inventory and community service drives.
Jowdy wants to change the temporary club policy and “speed up the process” by giving them one semester to meet three credits of each of its requirements and the following semester, the club would be permanent on probation.
“This would be a good way to still test the performance power of the clubs, giving the benefits of a permanent club quicker while also testing the longevity of the club,” Jowdy said.
Jowdy said given his experience, he knows “exactly” what he’s in store for and what problems will arise because “they have been the same problems every year.”
Name: Janet Austin (middle)
Major: Exercise Science
Current SA Position: Head Outreach Coordinator
Janet Austin said she knows about money from when she first got a job in high school and comes from a club perspective financially. She is the secretary of the Exercise Science club, a former Orientation Leader, field hockey member and UB 101 Peer Mentor.
She said the finance department of SA lacks the club perspective. She wants to change the club orientation to be more interactive for the students.
She also wants to expand the rollover policy.
“If a club misses their 2-2-2 requirement from the fall or the spring, but they make it up to have a sum total of four for the entire year, then they should be eligible for 50 percent of the rollover,” Austin said.
Austin said the finance department is changing to a new online system called Altice. She said no one will know how to use it, so she would like to create documentation of how to use it and post it on the SA website.
Austin wants to add a processing checklist so they can see what is exactly needed from them when they are for instance filling out a P.O. She also wants to add a processing feature so any club can see the status of a P.O.
Austin wants to emphasize she isn’t a stereotypical finance candidate.
“I’m coming from the club perspective because I know the pain that the clubs have to go through with the lack of communication they have with the finance department,” Austin said. “I am here to help with the 20,000 undergraduate students and offer the skills and communications I have.”
Voice of Change Party
Name: Leslie Veloz (middle)
Major: Psychology and English
Current SA Position: Black Student Union Vice President
Veloz said the most important issue to her is providing student advocacy, beginning with creating a diverse and inclusive campus.
“One of the biggest parts of our agenda is making sure that all of our students feel welcomed here and represented, that they have someone who will listen no matter how small the issue we are here for you and we will address whatever concerns or changes you would like to see at this university,” Veloz said.
Veloz said her party plans to work with administration to push for more female and minority faculty members. Veloz said her party’s experience on the other side of SA, as members of the student body, is what sets them apart from the rest of the candidates.
“I’m the VP of the largest minority club, he is in an international group, just we’ve all been supporting and been involved and on the receiving end of the student experience so we can really relate and we already have a relationship with our student body so now we want to advocate for them on an administrative level,” Veloz said.
To reach her party’s goals, Veloz said they plan to hold more annual school spirit and community service events to bring together multicultural groups.
Veloz said it’s also important for her to be visible to students on campus and not just a “mystical” person who students don’t recognize or feel comfortable talking to.
“We want to make sure that SA officials, if elected, we’re more incorporated into the student body’s life, that we’re more involved with everything and continue to support clubs, being visible, making sure the student body is able to speak with us and speak with us at all times,” Veloz said.
Veloz said she thinks student activism is important and wants to make sure students are trained to know what they can and cannot do to ensure they won’t be derecognized.
“As officials of SA, if we were elected, we have to be nonpartisan but we would want to make sure that our students have the support and know the resources they would need in order to continue their activism work,” Veloz said.
Name: Jamersin Redfern (right)
Major: Psychology and history
Current SA Position: Latin American Student Association (LASA) President
Redfern transferred to UB from Buffalo State College after he visited friends on campus and “fell in love” with the school. Since his time at UB, Redfern has served as vice president for the Latin American Student Association.
He said he wants to give students a forum to express concerns and discuss changes they would like to see on campus.
“I don’t think that any of the other platforms are putting themselves out there for other people to feel comfortable on campus, making it a big issue, as we say we want to make the community a better place,” Redfern said.
If elected, Redfern said he would work to ensure club leaders receive proper training to reduce mistakes made by inexperienced clubs that can lead to clubs being derecognized. In his own experience, Redfern said he and his e-board had to teach themselves how to use various programs like SAFE and Listserv and he understands the frustration of improper training.
Redfern said he also hopes to follow through on campaign promises, a problem he sees with the current SA administration. He will also work to create more awareness and access to events around Buffalo.
“Buffalo’s one of the best cities in New York, but a lot of students don’t get to see it that often,” Redfern said. “Today right now we’re having a St. Patrick’s Day parade, we feel that should be advertised for students to go to, we’re the biggest university in Buffalo, so we should be involved in the area as well as other things.”
Redfern said he also hopes to address safety on and near South Campus. He said he will work to provide more safety shuttles and push for more police on watch for students walking back from campus.
Name: Aishat Keshiro (left)
Major: Biological sciences
Current SA Position: Activities Coordinator for the African Student Association
Keshiro does not have any direct experience handling finances, but said she will research and work closely with the other finance departments in SA to make up for any lack of experience.
“We don’t want to drastically change anything, we think that there’s a solid foundation here in SA, we just want to make sure the execution of it is really implemented,” Keshiro said. “It’s one thing to say ‘we have these rules’ but we want people to feel like these things are really happening and energy is being put in the right places.”
Keshiro said she hopes to implement a sense of versatility, organization and communication that she felt wasn’t always present in the current SA administration.
“I feel as though the past members in my position specifically haven’t been able to be versatile enough in dealing with the clubs,” Keshiro said. “Sometimes you really have to be able to sit down with people and understand where they’re coming from – from larger issues to very little issues. Being able to just move with the flow.”
Keshiro said she plans to communicate regularly with the SA Finance department and sub-board to ensure organization, as well as keeping in regular contact with the other members of the e-board.
“The lack of organization has led to so many downfalls and people feeling as though they’re not getting what they asked for out of their mandatory fees, so we really want to be an organized front,” Keshiro said. “Also, having that fundamental key of open dialogue which I feel hasn’t been really seen through the SA office.”
Keshiro plans to reserve the Student Union Theater (SU) twice a month to promote a dialogue between students and SA officials. If this doesn’t work, Keshiro said she is prepared to initiate the dialogue.
Treasurer: Ali Kaba
Major: Political Science
Current SA Position: Student Association Assembly member, Muslim Student Association member
Ali Kaba is running independently for treasurer. When Kaba lived in the Ivory Coast for 10 years, his interest in politics piqued.
Kaba has no background in finance at UB, but he was a part of the finance committee in his previous college.
He said although he has no prior background in finance and doesn’t have all the necessary skills, he plans to “learn by experience.”
Kaba said if he gets elected he wants to implement club hours. Club hours will be a certain time during the school day twice a week where there will be no classes and students can engage in club activities. Although he admits it will be tough to compel the university to stop classes for a few hours a day, he believes club hours are a “feasible” plan.
“I feel like we are paying all these mandatory fees but at the end of the day we don’t have time to get engaged,” Kaba said.
Kaba wants to be transparent and keep in touch with each SA club. He said he will use his “power” if any suspicious activities occur within SA. But he said he isn’t running on power, he’s running on “passion.”
Kaba also wants to end the current meal plan time gaps and increase the attendance to SA meetings.
Kaba has yet to familiarize himself with the role of treasurer but plans “to do his research.”
Kaba feels his diverse background sets him apart from the other treasurer candidates.
Ashley Inkumsah and Hannah Stein are the co-senior news editors and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sarah Crowley is the senior features editor and can be reached at email@example.com.