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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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Q&A: 2024-25 SA e-board candidates

As 15 candidates chase 3 seats, communication and club funding emerge as top issues

<p>Voting for SA e-board opens at 9 a.m. on Monday, March 11, and closes at 4 p.m. on Friday, March 15. &nbsp;</p>

Voting for SA e-board opens at 9 a.m. on Monday, March 11, and closes at 4 p.m. on Friday, March 15.  

When Student Association (SA) president Becky Paul-Odionhin and then-vice president Sammi Pang were reelected last year, it was the first time in 15 years that an incumbent administration kept the executive board.

Paul-Odionhin and Pang, along with treasurer Unnati Agarwal, ran on a platform of club finance reform, club officer training and improved communication — and though their administration has been no stranger to controversy, they achieved many of their stated goals, including club finance reform and a new club officer training program.

Now, Paul-Odionhin, Agarwal and current vice president Grace McDowell are leaving their positions. Fourteen candidates from six parties — plus one unaffiliated contender — are vying for their seats. Some of those candidates already spend their days in the SA offices, keeping the organization running. Others are outsiders, determined to bring a new voice to student government.

The Spectrum spoke with representatives of all parties about their prior experience, their platforms and the future of UB’s undergraduate student government — and the clubs that depend on it.

Voting opens at 9 a.m. on Monday, March 11, and closes at 4 p.m. on Friday, March 15. Elections will be held online using UBLinked.

KhaBhuya!

President: Samin Bhuya

Vice president: Killian Hannigan

Treasurer: Louis Poon

Club service, open communication and stability are at the core of KhaBhuya!’s platform. 

The trio say their extensive experience will help them avoid the breaking-in period most new administrations face. Both Bhuya and Hannigan have worked for SA for three years — Bhuya, SA’s production director, heads a department he and former chief of staff Will Eaton built from scratch, and Hannigan is the current chief of staff, a position that has given him a role in major SA decisions. Hannigan and Poon have worked with SA from a club perspective, too — Hannigan is the secretary of UB Improv, and Poon is treasurer of the Asian American Student Union (AASU).

The three hope to host more, smaller Fest concerts with more genres, in the mold of 2022’s multipart Spring Fest series. To be “as available as possible,” they plan to maintain an open-door policy and a feedback website, and to provide proactive guidance on SA procedures, reducing confusion and helping clubs avoid violations. All three are students in the School of Management, and they say that gives them flexibility to adjust their schedules around their SA obligations.

KhaBhuya! also aims to improve conditions for club sports at UB. Hannigan said that UB Athletics makes all the clubs — many of which are near the top of their leagues — fit their indoor practices into a four-hour window, from 8 p.m. to midnight.

“The way the athletics department at UB treats our sports clubs is very, very poor,” Hannigan said. “There’s a $500 athletics fee that you’re paying every year… The money is just getting thrown at the athletics programs and not being regurgitated to the students. So if they can at least let sports clubs use the facilities that they should have access to, because they pay for them, that would be fantastic.”

KhaBhuya!’s highest priority is setting SA up for long-term stability.

“I feel like there’s a lot of mystification of SA as this kind of shadowy organization, but it’s really just 80 students trying their best to make sure that clubs are working,” Hannigan said. “We just want to make sure that we can get the ball rolling and finish setting it up for the years to come, where it can always be like that — solid and good, and clubs don’t feel like they’re cut out of the loop.”

Aisha²

President: Aisha Adam Bechir (appears on the ballot as Aisha Adam)

Vice President: Aisha Makama

Treasurer: Kaly Lin

Two members of this ticket may have the same first name — but Bechir promises an Aisha² administration will bring anything but more of the same. 

“The story of SA across the UB campus is nothing short of a ghost story, a horror story,” Bechir said. “It’s generally a common, accepted truth that the Student Association is the biggest obstacle that clubs face.”

Aisha² promises “accountable, accessible and approachable leadership.” Bechir said all three candidates are deeply involved in campus life. Bechir, a sophomore quantitative economics major, works with UB’s Islamic Relief chapter, where she first met Makama at a service event benefiting a women’s domestic violence shelter. Immediately after arriving at UB from Russia, Bechir began organizing events with the Muslim Student Association, the Black Student Union and the Organization of Arab Students. She looked into a wide range of clubs, from UB Improv to the Young Democratic Socialists of America to the Debate Society. She is the president of UB’s chapter of Turning Point USA, where she has helped bring prominent right-wing speakers such as Candace Owens to campus.

In all the clubs she’s joined, Bechir has felt the warmth of community.

“Within this larger campus community, every group of students has their own little space where they can feel like they belong,” Bechir said. “Personally, I just wanted to be a part of facilitating that experience for other people, because of how important and how powerful it was for me. That’s why I serve on so many e-boards, and that’s why I always ran for leadership positions in the clubs that I am part of.”

Makama, a former candidate for SA Senate, has an extensive understanding of SUNY advocacy, Bechir said. And with 24 credit hours of classes and positions on four clubs’ executive boards, Lin “basically lives on campus,” Bechir said.

“You should have leadership that’s accessible — that doesn’t evaporate after you’ve elected them,” she said.

Bechir aims to rework the tier system that determines how much funding clubs receive. That system was recently adjusted, with an increase from four tiers to six slightly narrower ones.

She also says SA’s communication — which she describes as “unreliable, inconsistent, inefficient and very slow” — needs to change in order to create a trustworthy, transparent organization.

“I think that we need to orient [SA’s] culture around serving students in order to create a thriving campus community for all of us, rather than this gap, this disregard and total lack of consideration that students are feeling,” Bechir said. “I think students feel like their student government doesn’t care about them — doesn't care about their wellbeing, doesn’t care about their groups or their student base entirely. That’s definitely a problem with culture.”

Bechir sees SA as a potential stabilizing force that could smooth tensions between clubs and instill a sense of campus-wide community that UB has long been missing — a problem she says is at the root of many of UB’s issues.

“I want SA to share information regarding past events, similar to ones that clubs might be thinking of hosting, with clubs, so that students feel that their student government wants them to run successful events,” she said. “Because we do — and their events help foster the thriving campus community that we’re all striving to achieve.”

The Stampede

President: Gavin Krauciunas

Vice President: Karl Guenther

Treasurer: Dilasha Thapa

The Stampede hopes its extensive experience in student government and its promises of “inclusivity, community and transparency” will help the trio stampede to victory.

The group’s bond predates their time in SA: all three members of The Stampede are active in the Leadership House program, and Krauciunas and Thapa successfully campaigned together for both the SA Senate and the Governors Hall Council.

Krauciunas and Guenther met even earlier: in high school, they attended the American Legion’s Boys State mock government program together. Guenther also intended to run for Senate, but had another obligation during a required meeting.

As the SA Senate chair, Krauciunas has worked closely with the current executive board to pass extensive — if sometimes controversial — changes intended to cut delays to club funding and improve SA’s ability to function.

Thapa says that with three years ahead of her at UB, she will have time to thoroughly learn SA’s inner workings as treasurer before eventually pursuing the presidency. She says she has heard students’ frustrations with SA, and that her party intends to address the issues directly.

“I have interacted with a lot of people, and from what I can tell, what people want to see from SA, ultimately, is transparency and communication,” Thapa said. “I understand that not a lot of students here are happy with the student government, and a big part of it is because it feels like SA is detached from UB, and the clubs in general.”

She says that better communication could have averted much of the anger that came after SA canceled Fall Fest last year. The party intends to brief clubs on changes that will affect them after each Senate and executive board meeting, and to hold more town hall meetings.

Thapa says her and Krauciunas’ experience in SA gives them a realistic understanding of how SA can be improved.

“We understand that SA has a lot of restrictions as an organization,” Thapa said. “But we also know that there’s a lot that can be done, even within those boundaries, and we see that, which is something that gives us a slight edge over other candidates. We know the boundaries we can go up to, and we know what can be done within those.”

UBelieve

President: Shivansh Shalabh

Vice President: Benjamin Lau

Treasurer: William Dong

UBelieve wants “to promote a UBelievable SA,” Lau told The Spectrum. The group formed around a shared vision of what SA should do: prioritize clubs’ needs, publicize SA services and alleviate what Lau called “distrust between the SA, the undergraduate body and the clubs.”

All three are heavily involved on campus. Shalabh is president of the Wilkeson Hall Council, and is the tech lead of the Google Student Developer Club. He has also served on UNICEF India’s National Advisory Board, a role he says gives him the large-scale experience necessary to navigate SA.

Lau is an SA Senator, and has only missed one meeting, when he was in Syracuse to represent SA at the SUNY Student Assembly (SUNY SA) conference. He also spearheaded the SA Senate’s endorsement of the statewide Student Suicide Prevention Act.

Dong is the treasurer of UB’s Circle K chapter and a True Blue ambassador. As club treasurer, he says he’s “seen firsthand how SA could really be a nuisance to communicate with.” He says the role of SA treasurer, more administrative and less visible than the rest of the executive board, suits him best.

Lau says students want to hear straightforward explanations of how their money is being spent, and that clubs deserve for SA Senators to take their duties seriously and show up to meetings. He says his administration would aim to send biweekly updates and hold a monthly town hall to communicate with students, up from one per semester since current SA president Becky Paul-Odionhin began holding the meetings. He also hopes to create budget processes through which clubs can split expenses for shared events, rather than leaving one club holding the bill.

Shalabh agreed, adding that he would like to introduce a mandatory Senate attendance policy. Beginning in May, a new attendance bylaw will take effect, allowing the Senate to vote to remove members who miss more than two meetings.

Shalabh also aims to speed processing of clubs’ budget requests and take steps toward sustainability.

“I will be pushing for collaboration with UB Sustainability — small steps, like encouraging SA clubs to use their reusable plates. It’s such a great resource,” Shalabh said. “We have more than 130 clubs under SA. If each of them takes the small step of working with UB Sustainability, it will create a long-term effect.”

We’re the Future (WTF)

President: Allison Schuler

This one-woman party asks, “WTF?” — and though that officially stands for “We’re the Future,” there’s more to the name.

“It also stands for a couple other things,” Schuler told The Spectrum. “‘Where’s the Fest?’ — as you know, they canceled Fall Fest this past fall semester — and it also stands for, ‘Where are the fees?’ We pay mandatory student fees every year. They haven’t gone up since 2018. However, we still pay other fees, and after they canceled Fall Fest, they didn’t really do anything extra. And then I also stand on, ‘Where’s the feedback?’ I want to be as transparent with the student body as possible, and I want the students to know that I am someone they can come to with concerns.”

Schuler, a sophomore business major, cites leadership experience as a brother in the Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity, as a manager of around 110 young people in a summer program and as a member of her high school’s student council.

Communication is among Schuler’s priorities, and she plans to utilize SA’s social media accounts to share more information with students and to gather feedback. Beyond SA’s own communication, she aims to use her position to pressure UB administrators to listen to students.

“The administration just seems so far out of reach, and out of touch, that it turns students away from advocating for themselves and for their fellow students, and bringing change,” Schuler said. “[UB administrators] need to set a better precedent that they are approachable, that they are reachable and that we do have a right to communicate and ask questions.”

You Deserve Moore

President: Jewel Moore

Moore wants SA to do more for students — more advocacy and more engagement. She aims to ensure SA is responsive to students’ needs, and to increase students’ participation in on-campus clubs and events.

“One of the biggest things students want to see is honesty and forthcomingness,” Moore said. “In the past, a lot of answers didn’t come about naturally. It’s something that students have to push for, and even after the students push for a long time, they still may not get the answers to the questions. So, really, my biggest thing is trying to disclose as much as I legally can.”

Moore, a junior communication major, has served as coordinator of the SA People of Color Council, and she managed one of the largest club budgets as treasurer of the Black Student Union, which she still advises. She also notes her membership in the National Council for Women in Leadership, a community service and career organization in her home of Long Island.

Moore plans to work closely with clubs to resolve their problems, raise UB’s profile in SUNY SA, make students aware of the free services available at UB and advocate for better counseling services for students.

“I've been told that essentially when you go, you can set up a plan of how often you would like to attend, but when you attend, you have a different service provider each and every time,” Moore said. “That kind of defeats the purpose of working with therapists — the whole goal is for you to build a sense of trust, dependability and comfort with these providers.”

Unaffiliated

Treasurer: Mohammed Chowdhury Showrov (appears on the ballot as Mohammed Chowdhury)

If he is elected as SA treasurer, Showrov says he will be the voice for clubs. As treasurer of the Sylheti Student Association, he says he has experienced the difficulties that frustrate many club leaders. He plans to reduce wait times for clubs’ budget requests, room bookings and permit approvals, and to handle funding issues “in a quicker and more meaningful way.”

He recalled last year’s controversial ban on outside club affiliations, saying it caught club leaders by surprise.

“I just want to make sure that before any of these big laws are pushed, the clubs know about it,” Showrov said.

He proposed holding a mid-semester meeting with club leaders to ensure they are kept up to date on SA’s direction. SA currently holds town hall meetings each semester, but club leaders aren’t required to attend, and few do. Fewer than 20 people attended last Wednesday’s town hall meeting.

Showrov also suggested hiring additional staff. He says that while he doesn’t know whether such hiring is financially feasible, it would help SA keep up with the volume of work needed to keep clubs functioning. 

Showrov says his platform is simple.

“It’s basically more accountability and more efficiency — just making sure all the money’s going in the right place,” he said. “That’s the treasurer’s role.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Killian Hannigan's position within UB Improv. He is the secretary. We regret this error.

Sol Hauser is the senior news editor and can be reached at sol.hauser@ubspectrum.com

Dominick Matarese is the senior features editor and can be reached at dominick.matarese@ubspectrum.com   


DOMINICK MATARESE
dominick-matarese.jpg

Dominick Matarese is the Senior Features Editor at the Spectrum. He enjoys writing about interesting people, places, and things. In addition to running an independent blog, he has worked worked with the Owego Pennysaver, BROOME Magazine, the Fulcrum Newspaper, and Festisia. He is passionate about music journalism and can be found enjoying live music most weekends. 

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