Spectrum endorses neither UB Student Association president, vice president ticket – and here’s why

The Spectrum annually endorses candidates for the Student Association executive board, but this year we do not feel confident enough in either party’s president and vice president ticket to give an endorsement.

Not that there aren’t things to like about the Progress Party of Matt Rivera and Megan Glander, and the Transparency Party of Maximillian Budynek and Daniel Christian. We like the experience of Progress and the well, the call for transparency of Transparency.

But our editorial board does not feel comfortable endorsing a set of candidates we do not feel 100 percent confident in. It would be a disservice to you, the UB student body, for us, the student newspaper, to pretend we did for the sake of having to endorse someone.

So instead we have come to the decision to allow you to know what he like – and do not like – about this year’s presidential and vice presidential candidates in the hopes of informing you as best we can before you head to the polls. We feel it is better to lay out our issues with each party than to mask our uncertainty with a hollow endorsement.

Our issues with the two parties come down to Progress’ vagueness and Transparency’s lack of SA experience.

Rivera and Glander of Progress have SA experience and are the safe choice, but gave unspecific and rehearsed speeches to our staff on Tuesday that was far from deserving of an endorsement. Budynek and Christian of Transparency were professional and prepared for tough questions from our staff, and have worthy aspirations to make SA more transparent, but their lack of any SA experience at all gives us too much pause to endorse them.

In an ideal world, we could combine the experience of Rivera and Glander with the openness and calls for transparency of Budynek and Christian – but we cannot.

Progress is by all accounts the establishment party that has the support of the current SA staff. The party is perhaps feeling confident in its electability – and it showed during their speeches and Q&A sessions in our office.

Progress’ entire platform of the “three C’s” of community, consistency and compassion felt hollow to our editorial board. The party centered its talk on inclusion and making more students feel a part of SA, but when pressed for specific plans and polices on how it would do so, we were not impressed.

Even last year’s Unity Party, who were running unopposed and had little if nothing to gain from our endorsement, proposed more concrete changes and implementations to SA than this year’s Progress Party.

Rivera’s Q&A session with our editorial board, which can be found here, ran longer than any other candidate. That’s because we were waiting and pressing him for to give specifics on how to get more students involved and feel included in SA, but he instead chose to continue speaking in general terms and refer back to “community, consistency and compassion.”

For example, we like that Rivera wants to hold more open forms for students, like the current e-board has done with the athletics department fee. Yet it would have been nice to hear what exact issues his party is passionate about, as it was the current e-board that took charge on the athletics fee issue.

At times, Glander was equally unspecific. She too focused most of her talk on the “three C’s” and a somewhat rehearsed profession of her love for helping clubs in her current position as Special Interest, Services and Hobbies (SISH) Council coordinator.

Unlike her running mate, she did however propose some actual implementations to make things easier for clubs, like revamping club orientation, making the temporary club application available online and creating video tutorials for clubs.

We’re a little hesitant on the video tutorials, as we’ve heard candidates promise to make such videos in the past to no avail, but Glander’s other proposals seem like realistic and simple changes that can be implemented to help clubs.

But presidents and vice presidents have to be elected as a ticket, and Glander’s proposals were not enough to overcome the overall vagueness and unclear reforms of Progress.

Don’t get us wrong – Progress’ goal to include more students is a valiant one. All undergraduates pay $104.75 a semester to SA, and too often we see too many students not getting anything out of that money by not being involved in SA activities. It’s on the organization to at least make an effort to reach them, and for that we were grateful of Progress’ message.

But their lack of specific ideas and reforms on how they would actually make this happen turns what could have been a very solid platform into a loose ideal that seems like it will never come to fruition.

While there may have been some sense of disappointment with the qualified Progress Party, we were pleasantly surprised by the Transparency Party.

After last year’s brief run of fellow SA outsiders the Clarity Party, which seemed to be running on more of a whim than a serious campaign, we admittedly expected something similar when Transparency came through our doors.

President candidate Budynek and his vice president candidate Christian were instead well spoken, prepared to answer questions about their lack of experience and with well-intentioned aspirations to make SA more accessible and clear to the average student, with things like an SA oversight committee and encouraging critiques from The Spectrum.

Although Budynek and Christian have never been involved in SA, other than Christian’s unspecified amount of time in UB Space Bulls, they have a host of other on-campus experiences and even some experience in a town mayor’s office.

Christian caught our attention when he delivered a passionate portion of his speech about advocating for a stronger university sexual assault response. We like for our candidates to go beyond their job descriptions and use their positions as student leaders to advocate.

But when asked how exactly he would use his role as vice president to advocate for such policy, Christian fumbled around about using his leadership role to voice concerns to the administration. It was as if he was unaware he could hold open forums and call for a stronger policy through the SA Assembly, as the current e-board has done.

And this perhaps best illustrates the problem with the Transparency Party. They have solid goals and aspirations, but ultimately their lack of SA knowledge could hold them back from actually accomplishing such tasks.

Budynek and Christian admitted they couldn’t say much about how they would change the inner workings of SA, as they have not worked inside organization. They simply see from the outside there are issues students have and they would work to address those once inside.

We would have liked Transparency to have researched SA enough to answer questions about fixing issues. We would have liked to hear that they have been actively meeting with the current e-board, the professional staff, council coordinators and making their faces known in the office. Instead Budynek mentioned he had met with unspecified club who had issues.

If you’re going to run for positions leading a $4 million organization, we would hope that you would do everything possible to learn about its inner workings and issues before you even ask students to put their trust in you.

Again, we were pleasantly surprised by Transparency. With their passion, smarts and calls for transparency, we would probably endorse them for an SA staff position or as speaker of the assembly or senate chair.

But to give an endorsement for president and vice president – two of the three highest positions in the organization – to two people with no past SA experience, that we cannot comfortably do.

That’s not to say we don’t feel outsiders could never lead SA. An outside perspective is never a bad thing. But for an outsider to receive an endorsement from us, they would have to show they had previously made a large-scale effort to understand SA. Budynek and Christian came close, and just not close enough to make us feel comfortable endorsing them to the student body.

But Budynek and Christian do bring up good points about bringing transparency to SA – points that reflected somewhat poorly on their more experienced running mates.

While Budynek and Christian said they would encourage criticisms from The Spectrum, Progress’ answers about the relationship between The Spectrum and SA did not impress us as much. Progress did not seem as willing to accept criticism.

When asked what if any issues he took with how current SA President Minahil Khan runs SA and what he would improve upon, Rivera could not give an answer. He instead took several minutes to profess how great he thinks Khan is as president.

Rivera is allowed to admire the person whose position he is running for – but to not have even a small critique or for the person who currently has the job you want, is concerning.

During this time he also made comments that he feels Khan some times gets too much blame for things that are out of her control. This gave us pause.

The president of SA is supposed to represent the organization and ultimately be responsible for all that goes on. It’s on the president when things go right and wrong inside the organization, regardless if it was outside of his or her control or not. We would like a presidential candidate who accepts this and is willing to take it on, which Rivera did not show with those comments.

Again, Rivera and Glander have redeeming qualities. They have the qualifications, as well as genuine goals to get more students involved – an effort we would like to help them with if they are elected – but their overall platform was not enough for us to tell our readers they are absolutely the ones to vote for.

And this is the dilemma we as an editorial board have found ourselves in. There are things to like and dislike about both tickets, but enough concerns with both that we feel we cannot definitively tell our readers they should vote one way or the other.

We only hope we have provided you with enough information to make an informed choice for yourself. And we really do hope you go out to the polls this week.

Whether you are in a club and attend Spring Fest or not – SA directly effects every undergraduate who pays it $104.75 a semester. These positions that control that money and this election matter.

We know there is tendency to avoid the Student Union and the campaigning candidates handing out flyers and trying to speak with you during SA elections week. We know there is a tendency for SA staff and club members to make up the majority of voters.

Let’s start to change that. These are the only positions on campus that control your money that you, as a student, get to decide who holds them. So educate yourself on the candidates and platforms and make an informed vote this week. We hope we were able to provide you with that, even if we could not definitively tell you whose name you should cast on a ballot.

The editorial board can be reached at eic@ubspectrum.com.