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Undergraduate Student Government campaigns set to begin at Ohio State

Undergraduate Student Government’s campaign season will officially begin at 8 p.m. Sunday and two pairs of candidates for president and vice president are on this year’s ballot.

One campaign, consisting of second-years Jeremy Cronig and Ezequiel Herrera, ended its campaign Wednesday night before the official season kicked off.  

“It comes as a bitter-sweet sadness to say that Jeremy and I will be suspending our campaign effective immediately,” Herrera said in an email. “In short, it all comes down again to why we started, our mission, and making sure that our values and choices are aligning. We want to represent the students … in doing so we felt like we had more groups to reach out to before we felt truly comfortable representing the university and the awe-inspiring students within it.”

Voting will begin March 5 at noon and end March 7 at 11:59 p.m. A presidential and vice presidential candidate debate will be held at 7 p.m. March 4 in the U.S. Bank Theater in the Ohio Union.

The two presidential campaigns come from different backgrounds and experiences, but they all seem to have one similar vision: to give the voice of student government back to the students.

Reese Brooks and Reagan Brooks

USG presidential candidate Reese Brooks (right) and vice-presidential candidate Reagan Brooks (left). Credit: Courtesy of the Brooks Campaign

Reese and Reagan Brooks, both third-years in marketing, will be running their second campaign they say is based on the perspective of students who are outside USG. Their main focus, like last year’s, is cutting USG funding to provide more for student organizations and emphasizing free speech on campus.

“Funding towards [USG] has increased by 10 percent [since last year], while funding towards student organizations has gone down by 5 percent, and we are not fans of that at all,” said presidential candidate Reese Brooks. “Increasing funding toward student [organizations] is a huge issue for us.”

The Brooks brothers said a big motivation for running again came from the outcome of the divestment resolution that was passed in a secret vote in January.

“The idea that student government can automatically turn political, and then vote, basically, secretly on divestment; we just thought it was absolutely ridiculous,” said vice-presidential candidate Reagan Brooks.

Reese Brooks said the brothers want to remove the clause in USG’s standing rules that prevent individual senators’ votes from being public record.

“I think if students elect these officials to represent them in USG, they should have the ability to see that senator’s voting record and see how they voted on it since they are supposed to represent them,” Reese Brooks said.

The brothers said USG has become politically minded, losing its focus on the students.

“Especially last semester and this semester, USG has become very political,” Reese Brooks said. “We feel like it is time to bring in outsiders to shake things up in USG and make it more about the students and less about political matters.”

 

Shamina Merchant and Shawn Semmler

USG presidential candidate Shamina Merchant and vice-presidential candidate Shawn Semmler. Credit: Courtesy of the Merchant-Semmler Campaign

Presidential candidate Shamina Merchant, a third-year in information systems, and vice-presidential candidate Shawn Semmler, a third-year in finance, will center their campaign on physical and mental health, affordability and inclusion, with their focus on catering to students’ needs.

“We feel like USG can always be doing a much better job of actually listening to the students and listening to their voices,” Merchant said. “That was the most important thing we set out to do, making sure that we are actually listening to students’ stories from the very beginning and using the opportunity to reach out to people we haven’t talked to before, and listen, and use that to shape our policy.”

The running mates each have previous USG experience. Merchant is currently serving as the deputy chief of staff and liaison to other Big Ten universities. Semmler has previously served as the deputy director for the Government Relations Committee.

Merchant and Semmler said they are striving to have a more open conversation with the students and to reach the groups USG has not.

“USG is one operation and one group of students, but we are not the whole spectrum of students,” Semmler said. “Our number one goal with doing this is, ‘Hey let’s listen first and then lead.’”

Eliminating some of the course fees for students is one of the issues they want to tackle if the two are elected.

Merchant said she wants more transparency with USG — a promise the current administration campaigned for during its presidential run. The duo wants the student body to believe in USG again, she said.

“I think our approach hasn’t just been ‘Can we run this USG campaign?’” Merchant said. “But ‘With this campaign can we re-instill faith in USG?’ Because, frankly, students don’t have that right now. And it’s unfortunate, and we really need to be asking ourselves how we can try and start to rebuild that trust.”

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