Two of the candidates for comptroller found significant common ground during the Undergraduate Student Government candidate debate at the University of Connecticut yesterday evening.
“I really think there are a lot of issues we need to tackle and I’m glad to see my opponent and I are very similar in our views,” comptroller candidate Richa Jain, a USG senator and member of the Funding Board, said after the debate.
Both Jain and Priyanka Thakkar, another comptroller candidate and Vice Chair of the USG Outreach Committee, shared policy objectives of curbing excessive USG spending in order to make more funding available for student groups.
“There has been a lot of erroneous spending within committees,” Thakkar said. “I think that after this year, we’ve made a lot of changes. I think that for the next semester I would focus a lot on tackling internal support and see how we can combat financial matters there.”
Jain stated her agreement with these claims in her rebuttal.
“I believe that if USG is spending student fees, then more of those fees should go toward student groups rather than USG as a whole,” Jain said.
Jain also emphasized a platform of making funding more accessible to student groups.
“I realized (people) are currently very unhappy with the state of how funding is going,” Jain said. “While I think we have a lot of great ideas about how we want to run funding, there seems to be an inherent issue with access.”
Jain said she also wants to have members of the USG Funding Board at their training workshops for student groups to answer any questions and to make the process more interactive rather than instructive.
“What I foresee as the biggest problem within our student body is (that) there’s a lot of confusion and miscommunication,” Jain said. “My biggest concern is to make the funding process itself easier for student groups...they’re very frustrated with the current system.”
Thakkar said she wants USG to be more connected with student groups going forward.
“What we need most is to understand Tier II groups,” Thakkar said. “I think once you understand student groups, you can have more experience deciding where the money should go.”
Thakkar said she believes either she or Jain would do well as comptroller.
“I was very happy how (the debate) went,” Thakkar said. “Both my opponent and I had some very good points to make. Regardless of what happens, USG will be in good hands.”
The uncontested vice-presidential candidate, Wanjiku Gatheru, also spoke at the debate about the policy goals of her and her running-mate Ama Appiah, who was unable to attend due to a class conflict, Gatheru said.
Gatheru said their campaign is focused on six different initiatives: environmental sustainability on campus, diversity and inclusion, USG accessibility and transparency, improving advising relations, increasing support for post-undergraduate success and increasing accessibility to research opportunities for students.
“Even though we’re unopposed this term, we want to make sure that the UConn student body is (out here caring) and motivated,” Gatheru said.
Gatheru said she hopes to combat the exclusionary misconceptions that surround USG.
“We understand that there is sometimes a negative connotation that comes with student government with people assuming it’s only for political science majors...and we want to debunk that idea,” Gatheru said, noting that neither she nor Appiah are political science majors.
Gatheru said she wants to make students recognize that the members of USG are accessible to them by talking about the organization in classes at the beginning of the semester and having members of USG hold regular, well-advertised office hours.
“I feel there’s a lack of proximity of USG members to the general UConn body and hopefully (we’ll) be able to interact with students on that level (which) would be really really interesting,” Gatheru said.
Gatheru said she wants the student body to know that she and Appiah are dedicated to representing their interests.
“We want people to know we are there for students,” Gatheru said. “We definitely want to work with the student body on initiatives that matter to students and not just initiatives that makes USG look good.”