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WSA Election Season Winds Up in Final Weeks

With the Michigan primaries just behind us, Western Michigan University gears up for a presidential election much closer to home. That election is for the president and vice-president of the Western Student Association. These will be the people the WMU community elects to represent their needs and concerns to university administration, as well as in Lansing and to other universities. The president and vice-president of WSA are the voice for all the students at the university.
 
You should probably learn who is running.
 
Both campaigns opened with creativity. For Matthew Vargo and Nikki Ledbury, WSA’s current diversity chair and speaker pro tempore respectively, this creativity came in the form of a “Platform Party.” According to Vargo, this was a “tangible” way to gather student input in the Vargo-Ledbury (or WSA Dream Team) platform, which was remarkably successful.
 
“We recognize that we are two people and in order to speak for the greater WMU community we needed to reach out,” remarked Vargo. “The platform we have now is entirely generated by student input.”
 

While Vargo-Ledbury innovated around their platform, Sean Nicholl and Colin Mays, WSA’s current chief of operations and political affairs chair respectively, brought back an old idea about the campaign itself. In addition to the president and vice-president, Nicholl-Mays (or WSA New Ways) have announced that their chief of operations would be Chris Rettich, current University Pride chair, and that they would retain the current sustainability chair, Meghan Walsh.
 
“I chose to run as a slate to make a statement that WSA needs more retention between cabinets each year,” Nicholl commented. He added that by doing so, the transition process from one year to another would be smoother and years of experience could be drawn upon during the transition process.
 
As for what each campaign would do if elected, both Vargo-Ledbury and Nicholl-Mays have extensive sections on their campaign web sites covering what exactly they hope the WSA will accomplish in the next year. For Nicholl-Mays, their platform mimics the university’s recent Strategic Plan, breaking their goals into three pillars, the first of which is Campus Unity. Nicholl-Mays hopes to continue the work of administrations past to bridge the divide between Greek Life and main campus as well as reaching out to East Campus, Parkview and Battle Creek.
 
Vargo-Ledbury’s version of the Campus Unity pillar is “Student Involvement,” part of their five-point plan. Approaching many of the same ideas as Nicholl-Mays in different ways, Vargo-Ledbury cited reaching out to students living off campus as a cornerstone of this plan–a cornerstone that, though not explicitly stating an effort to connect with Greek life, would logically include it. They also cite a desire to be the voice of students in the redevelopment of East Campus and the construction of the School of Medicine.
 

Both campaigns also approached the topic of interacting with Kalamazoo from different directions. For Vargo-Ledbury, this meant a strong sense of advocacy, both with the city and the state, on behalf of students, as well as forging deep connections with events in downtown Kalamazoo.
 
Nicholl-Mays, on the other hand, reminded students to treat the city with respect, and in turn be respected by it. They also pledged to work to bring students downtown, but also expressed hope that once there those students might be able to find jobs in the community.
 
Both campaigns encouraged a stronger sense of volunteerism on the part of students.
 
Nicholl-Mays’ last pillar, Campus Relations, sought to deepen bonds around campus: between the WSA and WMU administration, between student organizations, and between students and departments. In so doing, the campaign seeks to create a stronger university with more pride among its students.
 
The remaining initiatives for Vargo-Ledbury (Sustainability, Diversity and Accessibility) focus heavily on capitalizing on WSA’s past successes in the future. From issues like retaining the WSA Diversity Scholarship introduced this year, to working with the Office of Sustainability to reevaluate the sustainability fee, to following in the footsteps of a WSA resolution to further encourage locally-sourced products, it is fair to say that building on the past is as much a goal for Vargo-Ledbury’s platform as it is for Nicholl-Mays’ slate.
 

“The reason we’re here is not for any contrived reasons, we’re here because we genuinely care about WMU,” Vargo told Her Campus. He said that through OUTspoken (of which Vargo is president) and Drive-Safe Kalamazoo (of which Ledbury is chair) the duo already advocate for the needs and concerns of students on a daily basis. “We’re doing things on campus already.” And, if elected, they promise to bring that breath of life to the Western Student Association.
 
With endorsements from organizations such as Squirrel Club to Aviation Student Council, and a community endorsement from the Kalamazoo Gay-Lesbian Resource Center, it seems that message is being heard.
 
But with endorsements including the Interfraternity Council, American Choral Director’s Association, and the Sales and Business Marketing Association, the Nicholl-Mays message is being heard just fine as well.
 
That message is experience. Nicholl told Her Campus that with two years as Chief of Operations for the WSA, he has learned how best to address concerns. “In the past we have hit roadblocks and have stopped; I plan on going right through them and helping out our students,” said Nicholl.
 
Following in Nicholl-Mays’ footsteps, Vargo-Ledbury plans to announce a slate in the week before elections as well. This, along with media releases, RSO visits, the Her Campus WSA Presidential Debate, a Western Wednesday and surely a flurry of advertisements, pins, t-shirts and more promises are sure to make the week after break an exciting one!
 
Don’t miss the debate on March 14 at 8pm, hosted by Her Campus.
 

Editor: Noel Carlson
Katelyn Kivel is a senior at Western Michigan University studying Public Law with minors in Communications and Women's Studies. Kate took over WMU's branch of Her Campus in large part due to her background in journalism, having spent a year as Production Editor of St. Clair County Community College's Erie Square Gazette. Kate speaks English and Japanese and her WMU involvement includes being a Senator and former Senior Justice of the Western Student Association as well as President of WMU Anime Addicts and former Secretary of WMU's LBGT organization OUTspoken, and she is currently establishing the RSO President's Summit of Western Michigan University, an group composed of student organization presidents for cross-promotion and collaboration purposes. Her interests include reading and writing, both creative and not, as well as the more nerdy fringes of popular culture.
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