Primary season: three tickets launch bids for ASG presidency

Election season has begun to select a new Allegheny Student Government president and vice president.
After students registered their candidacy via a Google Form, candidates had to “submit a platform detailing one’s reasons for running, a short biography of each ticket member (in terms of their involvement on campus), and a ticket photo” by 5:00 p.m. on Feb. 18 in order to appear on the ballot. By that date, two tickets had been formed: Peter Alegre, ’23, and Kyrie Doniz, ’23; and Veronica Green, ’23, and Rudra Schultz-Ray, ’23. By midnight, Feb. 21, another ticket had been created: Andi Reiser, ’23, and Lucas Biniewski, ’23.
“It was a decision I came to during … the winter break,” Alegre said of his choice to run for president. “In my experience, my three years here, we’ve seen a lot of change that (has) happened on this campus. Some good, but a lot that has happened without student transparency or voices … over the past year especially, it’s been quite egregious. We’ve seen a lot of discontent from (the) student body.”
This discontent, Alegre added, has come in a myriad of forms. Students have expressed concern over the administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and issues regarding diversity, equity and inclusion. There have also been questions surrounding ASG’s effectiveness as a whole. All of this dissatisfaction culminated to influence Alegre’s decision.
“I know that I can’t be a miracle worker and change everything that’s going on at this college,” Alegre said, “but I figure that through ASG I can give back to a college and community that … has ultimately been instrumental in making myself a better person and leader, and to the students that make up who this campus is and made the person I am today.”
With everything that goes into the campaigning process, including the development of a platform and the outreach to students and stakeholders, Alegre has experienced some stress, explaining, “I already feel like I’m behind the ball already, and the election isn’t until … March 30 to April 1.”
“I decided back in October that I was going to run (for president),” Green said.
She asked Schultz-Ray approximately a week later if he would be her running mate. A major reason why she made the choice to run was what she described as the “inaction of the current ASG,” the lack of response to problems on campus. She thought more effort could be put towards addressing said problems.
Schultz-Ray described himself as “essentially an outsider” concerning ASG. Last semester was his first being a part of student government on campus, and he entered with a notion similar to Green’s — that ASG had been stagnant for some time. When Green asked him to run as her vice president, he enthusiastically accepted.
One of the challenges that Green and Schultz-Ray have encountered in their campaign is what Green termed “being able to contextualize the scope of ASG.” She explained that student government has more power than people are generally aware of, that it is simply a matter of using this power effectively, something that her team had to realize and work with when creating their campaign and figuring out what they were going to promise should they be elected.
As for Biniewski and Reiser, they have been involved with student government at Allegheny since they were first-year students. This experience helped them make the decision to run for the highest office.
“We’ve seen … the inner workings, but also what the students want to see and what they want changed,” Reiser said. “I think that what really made us want to run is because we’ve gone through this since we were first-years, so at this point we know what we can do and what actually is feasible for us and how we can make the students happier.”
As stated on their campaign poster, Alegre and Doniz are running on a platform that promotes “diversity, inclusion, and representation”; “accessibility and accountability”; and “student safety and well-being.” Alegre elaborated regarding specific initiatives they have in mind to make these ideals a priority.
Both Alegre and Doniz are already involved in various diversity, equity and inclusion capacities on campus. Alegre is president of the Association for Asian and Asian American Awareness, and Doniz is treasurer of the Green Students of Color Society. These experiences, Alegre noted, have allowed them to gauge student needs and feelings, even before running.
“A lot of people don’t really feel welcome in ASG, especially those who are of (non-white) descent,” Alegre said.
Alegre would like to change that by expanding the mutual aid closet in the IDEAS Center so that it includes more supplies that students can take if they need to; create a new, improved diversity lounge where students can get together and hold programming events; and inform students of ASG opportunities and positions at Culture, Inclusion and Leadership Coalition meetings. He also wants to work more closely with Meadville’s NAACP chapter.
Alegre hopes to increase the sense of accountability ASG has to the general student body and the accountability that the administration has to the general student body.
“With the administration, we’ve seen a lot of decisions happen without student involvement, and broadly speaking, I want these administrators at the very least to tell students about the decisions they’re making,” Alegre said.
Alegre explained that one way to make this happen is to feature administrators and trustees at ASG town hall meetings. In doing so, students can also place names to previously-unknown faces and voice any issues they may have.
Furthermore, Alegre wants to make ASG more accessible by empowering senators, who currently lack the formal power other cabinet members have. He would like to see a cabinet member such as the chief of staff assist them with initiatives and events.
Concerning the safety and well-being of students, Alegre hopes to work closely with Gilly Ford, Allegheny’s Title IX coordinator, and address issues that have cropped up with Title IX. He has programming in mind for sexual safety and healthy relationships to increase awareness of sexual assault on campus.
Green and Schultz-Ray are also prioritizing DEI in their campaign.
“Our main initiative is, if we are elected, in the weeks leading up to the involvement fair and obviously throughout our entire term, we want to work hand-in-hand with CILC organizations,” Green said. She intends on ensuring that these organizations have a voice in ASG, that they are visible, and that their cultural events are sufficiently funded.
Another item on Green and Schultz-Ray’s platform is improving mental health services on campus. The resources available, Green explained, are disproportionately low compared to the number of students. In addition, they want to start a dialogue surrounding current attendance and participation policies in classrooms.
“We would like to go to a faculty meeting at some point,” Green said, “and present a change … to attendance policies throughout syllabuses so that people, if they are struggling mentally, do not have to worry further about attendance grades.”
Schultz-Ray pointed out that there are professors who volunteer their time at the Counseling and Personal Development Center, and that while professors in general play a role in students’ mental health and they should be made aware of this role, there are also paid, trained professionals to help students with mental health concerns.
“We should not make professors our therapists,” Schultz-Ray said. “That’s our whole thing … we just need to really work on making sure that professors can help but aren’t (forced).”
Green expressed the importance of taking into account the unique hardships faced by international students and minority students at a primarily white institution like Allegheny. Making sure that they have the mental health resources they need is another aspect of the ticket’s mental health initiative.
Green and Schultz-Ray are also intent on improving food and dietary options on campus. The ticket is particularly concerned with Brooks Dining Hall. They say that a lack of variety in the meat dishes offered, issues with mislabeling and few vegan and vegetarian options create issues for students with specific dietary needs.
“Some days, (Brooks’s) meat options are almost entirely pork, which is obviously not good for people who can’t eat pork,” Schultz-Ray said. “Some things are mislabeled, as in they don’t have gluten in them, but when you actually have them they do have gluten in them … I have vegan and vegetarian friends that can’t eat at Brooks because the options that they are given are salads and soups.”
Schultz-Ray also drew a connection between being well-fed and being well mentally, indicating that their mental health vision and their campus dining vision are not completely separate entities.
A major aspect of Biniewski and Reiser’s platform is the student experience: ensuring that all students feel like they belong at Allegheny. Like the other tickets, they are concerned with issues centering DEI.
“(Reiser) and I both can see that not all students have their sense of belonging that Allegheny likes to bring to every community member that comes here, and that’s one thing we’re really going to hit home for our campaign to make sure that everyone feels that they have a home,” Biniewski said. “It’s up to us … as ASG to support clubs, to help them with funding and obviously to reinforce them so that they have a good base of what they want to do.”
Reiser echoed Biniewski’s sentiments.
“For students who aren’t involved in clubs and things and are a little bit more timid to get involved, we want to be their voice and let them know that they can come to us with any concerns,” Reiser said.
Should they be elected, Biniewski and Reiser would like to continue the sustainability efforts that Reiser has initiated as the director of sustainability and environmental affairs. Being the director of finance, Biniewski also is aware of some financial issues and would like to address those next year.
Green and Schultz-Ray held a town hall Thursday, Feb. 24 in the Blue Lounge in Brooks Hall. Prior to the event, they explained that they wanted to catch people who might not otherwise get their voices heard at ASG, and reach those who might not have yet been aware about their campaign.
“We’re hosting the town hall as a way to connect with students on a more personal level, rather than just being like, ‘We are part of ASG. We are running to lead ASG next year,’” Green said.
The general election for ASG president and vice president will begin March 30 and close on April 1. A debate is scheduled for March 15.