Youngstown State University’s Student Government Association elections are quickly approaching, with online polls opening on April 1 and 2. Students will be able to cast their ballot to determine their representation in the coming academic year and to determine who will lead the SGA body as president and vice president.
This year two tickets are running for the executive positions. Michael Slavens will run for president with his running mate Jacob Schriner-Briggs. Opposing them is Max Gocala, and his running mate Paige Rassega.
Slavens and Schriner-Briggs will run on a platform emphasizing communication with the electorate and creating a communication network that will allow them to effectively convey the needs of students to the administration.
“The first thing we really are going to harp on is communication. Because with student government, you are a liaison between the students and the administration. So student government, in and of itself, doesn’t have the administrative ability to, in and of itself, practically change things, but what we do have is the ability to communicate with people who can change things,” Schriner-Briggs said. “The second thing is just basically going to be progress — just moving the student body forward.”
Though the pair plans to address a variety of contested and pivotal issues from safety concerns to academic equity, they, if elected, also assure students that their voice will significantly influence the issues they tackle.
“We have general areas we would like to address, but to walk into the election with a bunch of predetermined planks is kind of counterproductive to what student government is. In the sense that we shouldn’t be deciding what should be changed for everyone else, we should let them decide and then work to further their interest,” Schriner-Briggs said.
Slavens pointed to the current initiative, which he and other executives are spearheading, to add a student government tab to the YSU home page as an example of the pair’s commitment.
“When you login, it will come up and say, ‘student government.’ Then within that, it will be, at least initially, we are thinking of a forum, where obviously we will be the moderators,” Slavens said. “Any question, comment, concern that they want to pass on. … We will talk to who we need to talk to and then give them an official response or tell them who to return to.”
Gocala said he and Rassega are running on a platform of better representation of the student body in SGA.
“We want to make a student government body that accurately represents the student population as a whole, so that all walks of life are represented well on the body. We can’t do that overnight and we can’t even do that in one term, but we can lay the groundwork so that more people feel comfortable not only running but becoming involved in student government,” Gocala said. “We, Paige and I, are your average Joes. We are not Scholars; we don’t have 4.0s. We can relate more so to our campus population.”
Gocala will try to accomplish this through improved communication as well, via social media and direct involvement.
“If we do our best to outreach to all organizations, so that they feel their voice is heard in the most appropriate terms — whether that be social media, face-to-face interaction or simply us going to attend their meetings — I think that they will not only feel that they are heard, but also feel a trust amongst their club and student government,” Gocala said.
Rassega said that she and Gocala will also seek to garner more funding for allocation to these student groups by pursuing the issue with the administration and familiarizing themselves with the new president and provost.
“We have done research from other universities, ones even similar like Kent, they have so much more money than us to deal with when it comes to student organizations. People get upset when they are not getting what they ask for, but we only have so much we can work with,” Rassega said. “Just keep bringing up how important it is. We are the customers here at YSU. We are the students, we should matter.”
Each ticket brings with it a level of experience with SGA. Gocala and Rassega both serve as representatives on the SGA body. Although Schriner-Briggs is new to SGA, Slavens has spent the last year as vice president.
“I thought I would enjoy it, but I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy it. I thought it was a really great experience,” Slavens said. “I loved the feeling like I am actually accomplishing something, doing something with my time here — making a mark, and I really want to continue it.”
Both tickets’ campaigns are in full swing. Both are employing everything from social media — both sides having created a Facebook page with over 200 likes — to T-shirts to alert students to their platform and the impending election.
Gocala said he has reached out to all the organization presidents on campus in his campaign.
“We sent out an organization president email. All 170 presidents got an email that simply asked if we could go and talk to their organization as a whole. Kindly saying or kindly asking for an invite to their regular meeting between the email being sent and the elections. So far we have gotten about 37 replies and invitations to come talk to them,” Gocala said.
With polls online for the first time this year, both sides predict a better turnout than ever before. Gocala pointed to the homecoming election, which is said to have increased from 250 votes in 2012 to over 1200 when polls went online.
“The first reason is because voting is going to be more accessible,” Schriner-Briggs said. “That will increase turnout in and of itself, butut then also because this is actually going to be a contested campaign. I think with two tickets trying to energize the student body, you are going to also have a bigger turnout.”