USG Elections: Profile on Comptroller and Chief Diversity

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Today, USG is holding its annual spring elections. On the ballot are a variety of executive and legislative positions including President and Vice-President, Comptroller, Chief Diversity Officer and senators. The period to vote for all these positions will open at noon on Tuesday (Mar. 1) and close at noon on Thursday (Mar. 3).  

While a debate was held by USG last Thursday for presidential tickets to express their plans, no such opportunity is given to the important positions of comptroller and CDO. According to the USG website the comptroller is primarily responsible for the handling of USG’s financial responsibilities.  

“The Comptroller of the Undergraduate Student Government: holds primary responsibility over the finances of USG; crafts the budget of USG; works in conjunction with the Funding Student Supervisor to curate the Tier II Funding Policies; meets with Tier II leaders to assist them with navigating USG policies; keeps track of USG’s inventory; works with USG professional staff to take care of all bookkeeping needs; assists Tier II groups with Second Chance Funding and Variance Policy; reviews timesheets for USG employees; [and] works with appropriate Student Activities Staff regarding financial needs of the organization,” per the USG website.  

The Chief Diversity Officer is similarly important. The CDO presides over the diversity and outreach committee and keeps statistics pertaining to diversity competency and election outreach.  

“The Chief Diversity Officer of the Undergraduate Student Government: calls and presides over all meetings of the Diversity and Outreach Commission, with regularity as determined by the Chief Diversity Officer; has the power to call a special session of the Governing Board with 24-hour notice should a situation requiring immediate action arise at any time; keeps a record of statistics pertaining to diversity competency within the Undergraduate Student Government; must be party to all employment actions of the Undergraduate Student Government; works with the Chief Justice and the Communications Director during election periods with the specific intent to broaden USG’s visibility to underrepresented groups on campus; gives a State of Diversity during Student Senate in the fall and spring semesters; [and] attends all meetings of the Student Senate,” per the USG website.  

There are multiple candidates running for each position this election cycle. The Daily Campus reached out to each candidate to ask the same question: What specifically do you plan to do in the position if elected? Featured are their answers in the order that they will appear on the ballot.  

FOR THE POSITION OF COMPTROLLER 

Benjamin Keilty, a senior math and music major at the University of Connecticut, is running for Comptroller for USG. He advocates for simplifying the club funding process as well as fighting to improve mental health resources. Photo provided by Benjamin Keilty

Benjamin Keilty 

“As Comptroller, my biggest priority would be to simplify the club funding process. USG’s primary job is to fund Tier-II Registered Student Organizations (RSOs), but the process to get funding involves early deadlines, complex rules and unfriendly hearings. This has led directly to USG’s huge bank balance and budget surplus. Every undergraduate student pays $45 per semester in fees to USG, and simplifying the RSO funding process would help make sure that money goes back to students where it belongs. Beyond that, I want to make sure that RSOs have access to the tools they need to succeed, from equipment to IT help to @uconn.edu email addresses. I plan on working with RSO E-boards to make sure that USG is doing its job and giving them the help they need. I’ve also been heavily involved in mental health advocacy during my time on campus, and I want to use USG’s resources to help students in need pay for the expensive mental health care at UConn.” 

Edward Zelikman, a sophomore at the University of Connecticut, is running for Comptroller for USG. He has two main objectives: simplifying the funding process for student organizations and increasing the money allocated to clubs and other organizations. Photo provided by Edward Zelikman

Edward Zelikman 

“Over the past couple weeks I’ve spoken to students from a variety of organizations and the feedback I’m getting is that students orgs are either not getting enough money, or the process is simply too complicated. With that in mind I would like to focus on two main objectives. The first is simplifying the funding process. I would like to ease some of the restrictions currently in place so that students have an easier time requesting and receiving money. My second goal is even more important, and that is to increase the amount of money allocated to clubs and other organizations. USG currently budgets $1,000,000 (around one third) of their money to clubs, despite doing a very poor job of spending money themselves. I’d like to see this number raised, perhaps even doubled, depending on what the budget is at in the fall. This also goes hand in hand with raising the maximum amount of money that clubs can request.” 

FOR THE POSITION OF CHIEF DIVERSITY OFFICER 

Carter Newman, a sophomore at the University of Connecticut, is running for the position of Chief Diversity Officer at USG. His goal is to make USG a more accessible space for students to address their concerns and needs on campus. Photo provided by Carter Newman

Carter Newman 

“If I am elected the position of Chief Diversity Officer, my goal is to restructure the USG Organization so it is a more accessible space for students to address their concerns and needs on this campus. This is due to the current climate many of the students are facing whether it be from the horrific issues of racism, sexual assault, accessibility to educational needs, or more representation in faculty that mirrors the students. I would like USG to become a key place on campus where students can be informed of their rights when they have been mistreated and an access point that can lead them to solutions in order to handle their individual needs. I think it is crucial to recognize that USG has become very isolated from the rest of the student body and fails at supporting the students across all areas at this University. While working on this, I hope to input initiatives and events that are reflective of the diverse student body on campus and can encompass people from different backgrounds working together. It is a big goal but one that is doable with the work ethic I and the students of this university possess. Many times, the administration fails to provide the needs of students so I am determined that my work apart of the Undergraduate Student Government can fill that void.” 

Brandon Drummond, a sophomore at the University of Connecticut, is running for Chief Diversity Officer for USG. He wants to ask the tough questions that no one else will about the task forces that fight and investigate sexual assault cases. UConn is ranked #1 for most sexual assault cases reported on a college campus, and he wants to make sure that students are heard in the decision-making process. Photo provided by Brandon Drummond

Brandon Drummond 

“As most of us have already heard, the administration created ‘task forces’ to combat the sexual assault epidemic here at UCONN. The new interim president even introduced more task forces to fight and investigate sexual assault cases. The students and even some faculty members I have spoken to believe that the task forces are performative and for publicity. Students do not think that these task forces will result in any action being taken. As Chief Diversity Officer, I would investigate what these taskforces do. I would ask the tough questions that nobody will ask. Specifically, what are these taskforces? What have these taskforces accomplished? And how have the taskforces benefited sexual assault survivors? I will also try to create a new kind of task force. This task force will include Student Government leaders, faculty, sexual assault survivors, and members of the UConn administration. And we will sit down and discuss the sexual assault statistics on campus, past and present, and how we will fix the problem. UConn is #1 for most sexual assault cases reported on a college campus in the United States. Is UConn proud of that record? The students deserve to be heard during the decision-making process, and when I am Chief Diversity Officer, I will make sure that they are.”  

Ahenkan Akuffo-Parry, a sophomore at the University of Connecticut, is running for position of Chief Diversity Officer for USG. Prior to coming to UConn, she has lived in three different countries and has seen first hand how diversity brings success to communities. She also fights for victims of sexual assault and wants to create an environment where those who have been affected can feel safer. Photo provided by Ahenkan Akuffo-Parry

Ahenkan Akuffo-Parry 

“If elected as USG’s Chief Diversity Officer, I plan to continue USG’s diversity-based events and even plan them more regularly than they are now. As an RA, I have seen the benefits that are accrued when students, who hail from different backgrounds and have different identities, go to these diversity-related events and in turn, use what they’ve learned at these events to foster progressive conversations and interactions with other people. Another thing that I plan to do is to encourage collaboration amongst the current clubs and organizations and boost involvement. For most students, the involvement fair is the only place for them to learn about potential clubs that they may be interested in. But what if we had a platform that promoted discovery outside of the involvement fair and fostered engagement within the clubs themselves? I have had many conversations with student leaders whose clubs are at risk of dying out because of a lack of new memberships. Thus, I believe that a collaborative space, made possible by USG, would help solve this issue. Furthermore, one of the most important things to me, as a black woman, is representation. I have been in spaces where there has been little to no representation of black women, and though I persevered regardless, I found that I was more successful in spaces where I was able to relate to or share like experiences with someone else. Admittedly, UConn has a fairly diverse student body but we have to admit that there are incredible people, with incredible backgrounds and identities, that can barely break through the crowd because of how much smaller they seem in comparison to the vastness of the UConn community. This is something I endeavor to change. I plan to create a medium that periodically highlights the members of the many communities and cultures on campus. Chosen by the students themselves, I believe that this would bring about the education and an understanding of our community’s different backgrounds and even bridge the gap between one another. My last objective, but definitely not the least, concerns the harrowing issue of sexual assault on our campus. As an individual who is personally impacted by this, I plan to work tirelessly, not only with USG but with the greater UConn community, to establish effective, proactive solutions (that go beyond establishing task forces), in order to ensure that our campus is safer and that survivors never have to endure such an ineffective process that prioritizes the university’s image over justice. Though I have many ideas on how to push forward this role, these are the main goals I hold dear and I hope that you all consider voting me to serve as your Chief Diversity Officer so that with your help, I can help contribute to a better, more inclusive campus for everyone!” 

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