After two years with just two campaigns up for election, this year’s Undergraduate Student Government campaigns kicked off Sunday evening with three groups officially on the ballot.

Sophie Ruttenberg and Ethan Wolf, Roaya Higazi and Caleb Hineman, and Nicole Espinoza De Montreuil and Edward Donis Madison will be running for president and vice president, respectively. 

Ruttenberg and Wolf

Sophie Ruttenberg and Ethan Wolf are running for Undergraduate Student Government. Credit: Courtesy of Sophie Ruttenberg

Ruttenberg, a third-year in public management and current senator in USG’s General Assembly, and Wolf, a second-year in public management and a governmental relations committee representative in USG, said they have focused their campaign on doing things differently than how they have been done in years past, making outreach a top priority, which is embodied in their slogan, “Branching out, building us.”

“I think the structure of our campaign is inherently one that is meant for the introduction of new voices, different people and different perspectives,” Wolf said. “We’ve done things a little bit differently in the sense of the creation of the way that we have structured it … We have an engagement side and a strategy side.”

Wolf said the engagement side has been put together with more than 10 people who are experienced in particular areas on campus to help reach different students.

“Our engagement side doesn’t just have like three people that are meant to go collect votes. We have an engagement director and underneath that, we have 15 to 16 different chairs and these 15 to 16 chairs represent about the 15 to 16 communities that exist on this campus,” Wolf said.

Ruttenberg and Wolf said one of their campaign goals is to change the way USG interacts with students, particularly by meeting students in their spaces instead of asking students to come to them.

“Students come up, and they say, ‘You know, I feel like you didn’t hear me. You didn’t listen to me. You didn’t recognize my concerns — my student experience,’” Ruttenberg said. “And that’s because as an organization, for years, USG has put on an approach where they put on programming and they reach out to student orgs and students and say, ‘You come to us. We have this really incredible program,’ but it needs to be flipped.” 

Making people feel supported at Ohio State is a campaign priority and why Ruttenberg and Wolf said they feel confident in their approach.

“This idea, this plan that we have, it is so much bigger than the two of us,” Wolf said. “It is not about the two of us, and it’s about finding ways that we can make people comfortable — make people feel at home inside this campus.” 

Higazi and Hineman

Roaya Higazi and Caleb Hineman are running for Undergraduate Student Government. Credit: Courtesy of Roaya Higazi

There are three main themes for the Higazi and Hineman campaign: Access and affordability, excellence and equity, and student empowerment, Higazi, a third-year in city and regional planning and current vice chair of diversity and inclusion in Shared Governance as a party of USG’s Collaborative Leadership team, said, which inspired their slogan, “#PowerOfStudents.”

“Those three themes really come from things that me and Caleb are personally passionate about, not just within USG, but the other things that we are involved in on campus,” Higazi said.

Transparency is another important piece of the campaign in making sure everyone is aware of how they can use USG to best support them, Higazi said.

“Right now, USG has really strong relationships with specific organizations on campus, but there are some organizations that don’t know USG can fund them and fund them regularly,” Higazi said. “So making sure we’re transparent in what USG as a service can be for other student orgs so that they can further their missions in a way that they feel is efficient and true to the work that they do.”

Transparency within the financial side of college is also something this administration will pursue, Higazi said.

“One of our last points is on the financial side, so we realize that there is a lack of transparency within our financial aid system at Ohio State,” Higazi said. “Oftentimes with verification selection, and just the nuances of the FAFSA, students are put in stressful situations where they are at risk of being dropped from their classes or they are not receiving the proper amount of aid that they are supposed to — especially a lot of low-income and first-generation students.”

Like Ruttenberg and Wolf, Hineman, a third-year in natural resource management and current parliamentarian for GA, noted outreach as something that should be a priority within USG.

“I think one of the main things we do right now is we have forums and we also have office hours,” Hineman said. “Office hours, I think I can be very critical of the way that they are ran and that they are just held in the USG office, so you have to first know that you trust USG, that you can go to USG, that you have any clue who those people are.”

Within diversity and inclusion, expanding the current administration’s efforts is something Higazi and Hineman look to do in office, Hineman said.

“I think expanding what we are doing in diversity and inclusion is something that — you’re right — it is being evoked more, especially after the most recent show up for public forum, but I think a huge piece of that is just going to continue to work with students on any level,” Hineman said. 

Espinoza De Montreuil and Donis Madison

Nicole Espinoza De Montreuil and Edward A. Donis Madison are running for Undergraduate Student Government. Credit: Courtesy of Nicole Espinoza De Montreuil

Next week, as a part of their campaign, Espinoza De Montreuil, a third-year in marketing and former president of USG at Ohio State’s Newark campus, and Donis Madison, a second-year in science, technology and environment exploration, will be wearing different colors to represent different themes of their campaign, Espinoza De Montreuil said.

They will kick off the campaign wearing green Monday to promote their goal of an environmentally friendly campus, Espinoza De Montreuil said. To bring awareness to Buckeye Food Alliance’s food pantries on campus, they will wear yellow Tuesday. On Wednesday, they’ll wear black, representing the campaign’s goal to make parking on campus more affordable for both students and faculty. Blue, signifying campus safety, and red, for the inclusion of transfer students, will finish out the week Thursday and Friday, respectively.

Environmental issues and more affordability within Ohio State were highlighted most by Espinoza De Montreuil and Donis Madison as issues they would tackle if selected to be president and vice president of USG.

“Some of the more pressing matters would probably be our parking and an environmentally friendly campus because obviously we care about the environment a lot. It’s a big issue,” Donis Madison said.

Trying to make campus plastic free is something Espinoza De Montreuil said she would like to bring over from her job at Nationwide Children’s Hospital to Ohio State.

“What Nationwide does is the stuff that they use is not plastic. So basically what we are trying to do is trying to get a meeting with the people that oversee all of that to see the problems they went through so we can do something like that at OSU,” she said. 

To improve the affordability of parking, the campaign aims to include it in tuition.

“We were thinking something that maybe could be included in tuition kind of thing — a flat rate for everyone,” Donis Madison said.

Voting for the USG election opens March 2 and closes March 4.