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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Representing students

Overly enthusiastic campaigners, giant signs blocking major intersections on campus and a tidal wave of Facebook messages may cause some Aggies to despise student body elections. At face value, campus elections may seem like a popularity contest in which the candidate who evokes the most hype with the catchiest slogans reaps the reward. Some students consider the office of student body president to be an obligatory nod, representing social affluence and nothing more.
Sadly, that thought process is terribly misguided. Campuswide elections serve one purpose; selecting the leaders who will represent more than 48,000 students to the administration, community and the greater family of the Aggie network. Though the qualifications for each position differ, the position of student body president is remarkably more significant to the student body than my colleague believes.
The position of president is a real job, without pay of course, and the workload is intense. Kolin Loveless, this year’s president, regularly expects at least a 40-hour week serving the student body, and he must balance classes on top of that. Loveless said he spent 59 work-related hours during Bonfire Remembrance Week —attending meetings with administrative officials, presenting speeches at ceremonies to remember fallen Aggies and replying to e-mails from concerned students and other stakeholders of the University. He recalled heading off to bed at 4:30 a.m. after attending the Bonfire Remembrance Ceremony, only to wake up two hours later to talk to media from around the state regarding Bonfire’s 10-year anniversary. This is the type of dedication the position entails.
I have no doubt President R. Bowen Loftin and other administrative decision-makers would love to speak with every Aggie about making the quality of experience at this University better. But the reality is this feat would be impossible. Instead, there is the systematic means of appointing one student to represent the needs of thousands. The student body president is that one, who appoints an executive team to branch out and capture the best ideas from the student body.
Jacob Lopez, a senior political science major and election commissioner said, “The student body president is the link between administrators and students, student groups and other students, Student Government Association and students. The point is, because they are elected, one person has to be in the middle of 48,000 students plus advisors, plus faculty and the administration, and the SBP is the mediator between all of those.”
Loveless said within any given week he may interact with the chancellor of the A&M System, the Board of Regents, the chairperson of the Association of Former Students and the president of A&M. But student body presidents do not attend meetings just to take orders or listen; they are in a position to provide input and suggestions that reflect the needs of the student body. One example is how the president advocates for students with a shortened budget.
“The budget reduction is a $28 million ordeal, and the SBP’s job is to analyze that data and make sure none of those reductions are going to hurt students,” Loveless said.
Lopez said part of the job description is being accessible. “They are the ultimate figurehead for students to go to. Students don’t always know who to talk to about an issue. It’s the ultimate resource for students,” he said. Loveless said the student body president can then connect the student with the appropriate University official to further address any concerns.
Loveless gave a simple example of how the student body president can make positive change instantly. A student contacted Loveless about the spotty wireless Internet access in Rudder Tower, and noted the increased student use of that location with the closure of the Memorial Student Center. A few quick e-mails from Loveless to the right people, and Rudder had quality Internet. Loveless and his team have responded to student needs in other noticeable ways as well, including advocating for late night dining options to be extended longer (hence Bernie’s is open an hour later), diversifying on-campus dining options (an Asian-style food option is set to open on the south side of campus) and advocating for the eastbound lanes of Joe Routt Boulevard to open (this decision is slated to be announced soon).
Loveless said next year’s president will have as important a task as any, as he will be creating plans and preparations to move back into the MSC. Also, the State Legislature will be evaluating the costs of higher education. Loveless predicts the future president will be called upon to testify before the Higher Education Committee.
“The next SBP will be in Austin next session, almost on a weekly basis, talking to legislators about tuition in higher education,” Loveless said.
Regardless of who has the flashiest colors and catchiest slogan in this year’s presidential race, do your homework. Look at the experience and value that each candidate will add to the student experience at A&M. Find out what matters to you, take a stand for what you believe, and then run with the candidate of your choosing and vote.
Stephen Humeniuk is a senior political science major and an off-campus student senator.

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