Monday in the K-State Student Union courtyard, the three student body presidential candidates participated in the first debate of election season.
The candidates are Tel Wittmer, junior in secondary education and On-Campus Allocations Committee chair, Hannah Heatherman, junior in finance and Speaker of Student Senate, and Jacob Casey, junior in hospitality management and On the Spot Improv member. Moderators for the event were Trey Kuhlmann, Wildcat 91.9 news director and sophomore in political science, and Kaylie McLaughlin, Collegian editor-in-chief and junior in journalism.
A crowd of approximately 15 were in attendance, including Thomas Lane, vice president of student life.
Candidates began with opening statements about why they are running and what makes them qualified for the position.
Casey stated he is running to inform other students about Student Governing Association and improve their interest. Wittmer wants to remind Kansas State of the land-grant mission on which it was founded.
“I want to ensure that we are moving forward in the future with the same principles in mind that we were founded on in 1863,” Wittmer said.
Heatherman said SGA has a lot to offer the campus and she wants to bring it to meet its potential. In addition, she said she believes that is what each candidate is running for.
When asked what personality traits would benefit them in this position and how they would represent the student body, Wittmer said he has experience in this regard because he has served as a K-State Student Ambassador with the Alumni Association.
“[Being an] Ambassador involves working with alumni, connecting with alumni on the road, and I want to say we have the best alumni,” Wittmer said. “We need alumni and student support to develop scholarships. That is exactly what our student support platform calls for.”
Heatherman said her role as speaker has given her this opportunity already since she has sat on faculty senate.
“I’ve learned both the ins and outs,” Heatherman said. “I think the biggest thing with that relationship building component is the ability to follow through and establishing that credibility.”
“While we’ve been given a lot of responsibility as student leaders, it’s all for nothing if we’re unable to come through at the end of the day without work ethic behind it, and show show faculty, administrators, leaders, whoever it may be that we’re willing to put the work in behind what we say and not just merely ask for request,” she continued.
Casey said he will focus on the student voice and that being a Residential Assistant in the dorms has give him that experience.
“I really want to go out, find a way to try and find a people and ask them what their questions are,” Casey said.
McLaughlin asked the candidates to choose one platform they would most like to achieve while in office if they could only achieve one. Heatherman said “affordability.” Casey said his platform of “advocate.” Wittmer made an argument for all of his, but ultimately settled on “success.”
Overall, the three candidates emphasized the need to advocate for the students, but they had differing opinions on how to get there.
“As student body president, what is most important for the students is important for you,” Casey said. “It’s making sure that you hear everything that the students were advocating for. As long as we say ‘Your opinion is valid, and I am going to bring it up for you.'”
Heatherman said becoming inclusive is an important part.
“[SGA has] taken big steps, you know, everything from demographic surveys, targeted outreach,” Heatherman said. “I think some of the most meaningful ones come down to the little things that shift our organizational culture.”
The moderators asked the candidates how they would react to high profile incidents on campus such as the white nationalist posters in Bosco Plaza in 2017.
Wittmer said he would work with the administrators of K-State and develop a plan of action by being the voice of the students. Heatherman said she would ask students how they were personally impacted by events and express those concerns to the body. Casey said this events were “unfortunately” common and K-State needs to do more.
“If students are fed up, we need to make sure we handle this correctly,” Casey said. “You should be a human saying ‘I don’t want that to happen again.’ How can we make this a better future without putting band-aids on bullet holes?”
Candidates also touched on mental health. All agreed there needs to be more done for students. Wittmer even said K-State is behind other top universities in this regard.
Primary elections for student body president are Feb. 11 and 12. Students can vote on their KSIS accounts.