SGA hosts student body president debate

Jason Tidd, editor-in-chief, and Kaitlyn Alanis, news editor, moderate the live SGA debate between candidates Matt Mindrup and Emily Zwick and candidates Jack Ayres and Olivia Baalman on March 6.

A need for greater outreach to the general campus community and student body was the theme put forth by both student body presidential candidates, Jack Ayres and Matt Mindrup at the Student Governing Assocation presidential debate Tuesday night at KSDB’s studios in McCain Auditorium.

The debate, hosted by the Student Governing Association, KSDB, the Collegian and Channel 8 News, was moderated by the Collegian’s Jason Tidd, editor-in-chief and senior in journalism, and Kaitlyn Alanis, news editor and senior in agricultural communications and journalism. Questions came from the moderators, as well as from Facebook and KSDB’s phone line.

Ayres, speaker of the senate and junior in chemical engineering, was joined by vice presidential running mate Olivia Baalman, SGA Health and Safety Director and junior in computer science.

Mindrup, senator from the College of Arts and Sciences and sophomore in biology, was joined by running mate Emily Zwick, sophomore in agricultural economics.

Mindrup started the debate by outlining his campaign’s specific platforms.

“We believe (our platforms) are both attainable and affordable for the student body,” Mindrup said. “Our six platforms include getting Hale Library open 24 hours again, a campus food pantry, improvements to advising, ALICE training, a peer mentoring program… and changing the public speaking requirement to a broadened communications requirement.”

Ayres said his campaign includes three central platforms, which are, “Your Degree, Your Campus, and Your Voice.”

“‘Your Degree’ is focused on the academic advising experience at K-State by updating DARS reports when you switch career tracks,” Ayres said.

“’Your Campus’ encompasses different technology aspects of campus, including things like the ATA buses and GPS tracking on those,” Baalman said.”‘Your Voice’ gives students more avenues to having their voices heard and the guarantee that that voice is heard within SGA and K-State administration.”

Ayres said the experience he and Baalman have in student government make them the best candidates for the executive offices.

“Olivia and I also want to touch on why we think that we’re the best candidates to be your next student body president and vice president, and it is because we think we bring the relevant and necessary experience coming from two different sides of SGA,” Ayres said.

Mindrup said his campaign offered an “outsider’s perspective.”

“Emily and I believe we have both the necessary skills to do this role and that we bring in an outside perspective because I’ve spent the last year and a half involved in SGA but Emily has actually never been in SGA,” Mindrup said. “She’s spent her time on campus doing other leadership involvement so we think we bring in both an outsider’s perspective and the necessary experience.”

Outreach for uninterested voters

The candidates answered questions on reaching out to students who do not typically vote or partake in SGA elections, especially since all four candidates are Greek-affiliated while only 17 percent of the student body claims the same.

“When Emily and I decided to run, we made a pledge that we would reach out to every student organization on this campus and we did just that,” Mindrup said. “So far, we’ve spoken to over 100 organizations and spoken to over 2,000 students on either one-on-one conversations or small-group presentations. We were able to identify a lot of organizations that have never had an SGA representative come and talk to them.”

Ayres said reaching out to those students is something he has done throughout his career in both SGA and as a student.

“As a freshman, I was president of the student affairs committee, and then I transitioned in my sophomore year,” Ayres said. “I was the vice chair of the student engagement committee. I think what I learned from those experiences are our efforts from SGA as a whole… We need to do a better job across the board of outreach that affects things like funding requests from those groups so we can really help.”

Role of SGA, campus leadership experience

“I think one really unique thing about Jack and I’s experiences in SGA is that we’ve had different paths in it,” Baalman said. “Jack brought his experiences, what he wanted and what he’s heard, and I brought a different factor… I got to serve on the presidential search committee last year for K-State, and I learned a lot about graduation and retention rates that I had never known about.”

Zwick said her involvements in other campus organizations makes up for her lack of experience in SGA and offers a different perspective.

“I’m not actually involved in SGA right now,” Zwick said. “I spent my freshman year and the past semester and a half really getting involved in other areas on campus. I’m on Student Alumni Board, Student Foundation… I’m a Pre-Law Ambassador. I was Freshman Honorary last year, so I really dove into these different organizations and devoted my time to them.”

On the issues

In regards to the upcoming expiration of the university’s exemption from state concealed carry law, Mindrup said he would remain “apolitical.”

“I don’t think it’s the student body president’s job to tell the legislators what we think,” Mindrup said. “It’s our job to support the student opinion. If we’re elected, we’re going to be the student body president and vice president, so this is an issue we probably need to stay apolitical on because our campus does not have a set stance on it.”

Ayres said he was against allowing the exemption to expire.

“I don’t think the role of the student body president is to remain apolitical on this issue,” Ayres said. “Looking around at the chalking, on Facebook… I think that students are concerned, and rightfully so. A lot of students support the idea of concealed carry. However, with the state law that was changed very recently that eliminates the licensure requirements, I think that makes a lot of students concerned.”

Both candidates expressed strong commitments to supporting the planning and construction of a Multicultural Student Center but that funding for such a building should not come from student fees.

On the subject of recent sexual assault lawsuits against the university, Ayres and Mindrup said there is a need for change in regards to the university’s policy in handling allegations, but that change may not be immediate—at least while the lawsuits are ongoing.

Both candidates also said they support amending the university’s student code of conduct to include language that prohibits racism, as well as sexual harassment and assault, although Mindrup said such a prohibition should stop short of infringing on First Amendment rights.

Closing thoughts for students

Both candidates encouraged students to make their voices heard at the voting booths on Tuesday and Wednesday. Ayres said his main concern was allowing students to express their voice through the ballot.

“I think the number one thing students can do—and both campaigns have talked about in the impact of student voice—is vote,” Ayres said. “Now granted, Olivia and I would love it if you would vote for us, but I think it’s critically important that students vote for senators and (Union Governing Board) representatives and Student Publications board because that is the No. 1 way to have your voice heard as a student.”

Mindrup said he hoped students would vote and that his campaign reflected a commitment to students.

“Please just vote,” Mindrup said. “Emily and I would love to have your vote, but we just need higher voter turnout … The focus of our campaign is it’s not about us. It never was, it never will be. We want it to be about the students and I hope that all of you have seen that in the process of running and what promises we’ve made to continue reaching out to you and not making you come to us but us coming to you … All of the students out there—that is our number one concern and it is what we want to focus on.”

I'm Rafael Garcia, and I'm a 2019 K-State graduate in journalism and former editor-in-chief of the K-State Collegian. I believe that much of the world's problems come from a lack of understanding of other people, but by telling other people's stories and finding the good in the world, I think we can increase our understanding and appreciation of each other. Questions, comments, concerns, news tips? Email the Collegian team at