Recently, I disassociated myself with the Undergraduate Student Government for at least the remainder of the academic year. I grew frustrated with the lack of attention on substance-based issues such as the brief re-pavement jobs on Discovery Drive last semester and the lack of transparency in the tuition line item on students’ fee bills. I felt that USG’s and Senate’s focus was directed at issues that either dealt with themselves, or that seemed to have more magnitude in the moment, but would disappear almost immediately within weeks. It was incredibly irritating to want to deal with real issues that impact the university as a whole and that go beyond Storrs when next to no one wanted to do the same thing.
After having a falling out with a semi-prominent member of one of USG’s committees (which, for those that are involved and know of the situation, I still refuse to make any apologies for), I left and told myself that I wouldn’t vote in this year’s elections. I was that angry at the mismanagement and the “House of Cards” style of politics. For the first time in my life, I knowingly would not cast a ballot in an election.
Thinking about it now that elections have opened up, I regret the idea of not voting. Voting is how you put your issues and thoughts on them where it matters. If you want something to change, you help the person that will make that change, or you run and try to do it yourself. That’s what a republic is supposed to do, and not voting is the easiest way for said republic to cease to function.
I read the candidate profiles in today’s issue of the Daily Campus, and I am ready to make my decision on who to vote for. For Senate, the decision is clear unless you’re an engineering student, where there are more candidates than there are seats. Since I am not an engineering student, I feel that it would be inappropriate to comment on a race that I cannot vote in, so I will not comment on that. There are, however, three races that I will comment on, and that impact everyone: President/Vice-President, Comptroller, and Undergraduate Trustee.
After careful consideration of the candidates’ backgrounds, I am happy to endorse Andrew Stern and Ven Gopal for President/Vice-President, Dylan Nenadal for Comptroller, and George Wang for Undergraduate Trustee. Stern and Gopal, in the time that I have known them, have proven to me that they want to focus on real issues that will last and will always come back. Stern is the incumbent Chief Justice and serves on the Academic Affairs and External Affairs committees, where he shows an undeniable fire and passion to represent student interests on all levels of management and government. He worked to get students represented properly on Community Standards, and wants to develop a positive, proactive relationship with the university administration and the Town of Mansfield, while making sure that both are properly held accountable. Gopal is the incumbent chairman of the Academic Affairs committee, where he worked on the open-source textbook initiative this year, which was spearheaded by President Dan Byrd.
Nenadal is currently a senator representing Hilltop Halls and is the deputy comptroller under current comptroller Rishita Jani. His experience at the Avery Point campus, and in his current role working with Jani, makes him the right person managing USG’s budget. Finally, Wang is not just the speaker of the Senate, but in the time I was involved in USG, he has been one of my biggest advocates and supporters in the Senate. He has a great resume in just the context of UConn on its own, and he wants to continue that work, most notably by reforming the financial habits of the university. I know that he will be the right student representing all of UConn’s undergraduates across our beautiful state to the Board of Trustees.
Please, while there’s still time left, go to vote.uconn.edu and cast your ballots. Don’t do what I almost did by not voting. If you do that, you will commit a great injustice upon yourself by not making sure that you are supporting the people that will represent you. When you do vote, remember to vote for Andrew Stern and Ven Gopal, Dylan Nenadal, George Wang, and your senators.
Michael L.P. LaPorte