Candidates for Kansas State student body president shared their platforms and answered audience questions during Student Governing Association’s 2022 Presidential Debate on Tuesday, Feb. 15.
This year’s candidates are Bryce Atchison, junior in agricultural economics and global food systems leadership; Parker Vulgamore, junior in agricultural economics and pre-law and Marta Richenburg, junior in history and political science. Maggie Billman, junior in education and chief of staff of SGA, moderated the debate.
The debate opened with an introduction from each candidate explaining their connection to K-State and why they decided to run for office. After the introductions, Billman proceeded with questions, first asking candidates how they would work to collaborate with a transitioning administration to serve students better.
“I did have the great opportunity to meet with [President Linton] and chat briefly during the announcement, and I was really excited to hear how enthusiastic, forward-thinking and optimistic his vision is for Kansas State,” Vulgamore said. “And especially since he made a very intentional point of talking about how important it is to talk to students and hear student voices.”
Vulgamore said his campaign seeks to support student organizations and make sure students share in decision-making on campus. Richenburg said having a fresh start with President Linton is a great opportunity to build lasting connections.
“The connections that whoever the next student body president is going to make with President Linton is going to carry with future student body presidents and future student bodies to come,” Richenburg said.
Atchison said the administration’s transition is a crucial time for K-State, emphasizing the future of the College of Agriculture.
“Dr. Linton came from being the Dean of Agriculture at North Carolina State to coming here and being the president of our university, which I think is awesome,” Atchison said. “I think we’re going to have a great connection there, both being agriculturalists.”
Each candidate then had the opportunity to explain how their administration would make sure all student voices are heard, starting with Richenburg.
“I’m really proud to say that most of our initiatives did not come from just me and Payton [Lynn]: it came from a wide variety of students that gave us some of the issues that they see on campus,” Richenburg said, “and that’s really what the student body president is supposed to do, they’re supposed to listen to the students, they’re supposed to take the issue that they see on campus and turn them into initiatives that can be dealt with, with the administration.”
Atchinson said student organizations are the heart of the university and stressed the importance of working with those organizations.
“I think that it’s important that all student’s voices are heard, especially the student organizations on campus that get together every night to do wonderful work for the university, and that really strive to make a change at the student level,” Atchison said.
Vulgamore said his experiences outside the classroom with different groups of people drive him and give him purpose on campus.
“There’s beauty in being immersed in this diffusion of cultures, perspectives, ideas, religions, backgrounds — whatever it is, that make us so different, and learning and growing together,” Vulgamore said. “I absolutely love that.”
Next was a focus on student issues, with Atchison addressing food insecurity. Atchison said 44.3 percent of K-State students go to bed without a meal each night.
“That is our food insecurity rate at Kansas State University, of which we have one of the highest in the nation — and it’s been like that for years, since our campus climate survey in 2019,” Atchison said. “Yet, not a lot’s been really done to address that. There’s been really great things like the Food Security Scholars and several other organizations on campus that have made great strides in advocating for food insecurity, but we’re still missing something.”
Vulgamore said his campaign hopes to improve the orientation process for new students, focusing on K-State’s history, school spirit, student resources and more.
“There’s so many awesome resources that K-State provides its students, and it’s one thing to have those resources, but it’s another to know about them…,” Vulgamore said. “So that as well as bystander intervention training and some of the KSUnite initiatives we kind of talked about, there’s so many things that every K-State student should know.”
Richenburg said one of her and running mate Payton Lynn’s main platforms is advocacy for sexual assault survivors.
“We heard the calls for change with protests on campus, we heard the protests of change all around the nation in different college campuses, and I love K-State, but sexual assault does not stop outside of our borders — it is here, and quite frankly it needs to stop,” Richenburg said. “We want to stop the act before it happens. Obviously, it’s unrealistic to say that it’s going to be done and over with. There are bad people in this world. It’s still gonna happen, but it’s about educating and supporting victims and setting up a good support system. I could not be standing up here if I did not have the support system that I had.”
Candidates then discussed how they would select their cabinet to best serve students before wrapping up with a few questions from the audience.
One audience member asked how each candidate would work to improve the experiences of students of color on campus. Both Atchison and Vulgamore said working with student organizations is key to their plan.
“I think we need to work closely with several student organizations and several students to know what we can do better as the student body president and vice president and how we could change the university for the better,” Atchison said.
“I recognize that I don’t know what’s best for certain student groups, but empowering their voice and listening to them and working with students is absolutely key,” Vulgamore said.
Richenburg said one area of improvement for the university’s relationship with students of color is increasing the diversity of counseling services.
“I have heard many horror stories of students of color going to counseling and having a terrible experience, and not because it was anything against their counselor, they just don’t understand what it’s like to be a person of color,” Richenburg said. “They don’t know what it’s like to be a first-generation student, an immigrant. It is really important for me and Payton to either work with counseling to diversify their counselors or better the diversity training there so those students can also be helped.”
A full recording of the debate is available through the SGA YouTube channel. The general election for student body president opens Feb. 22-23. Students will receive a message in Canvas directing them to the voting page.