North Texas Daily

SGA presidential election voting closes, candidates delve into their campaigns

SGA presidential election voting closes, candidates delve into their campaigns

SGA presidential election voting closes, candidates delve into their campaigns
April 08
08:00 2021

Note from the Editor-in-Chief:

As we continue our coverage of this year’s Student Government Association election, the North Texas Daily, in the pursuit of full transparency, would like to disclose the possible conflicts of interest with individuals involved in the election. Presidential candidate Jackson Sweet is a current opinion writer for the Daily. The campaign manager for Devon Skinner’s campaign, Casey Jimenez, is a personal friend of the Daily’s current editor-in-chief. Skinner’s communications director, Noah Hutchinson, is a former Dose and opinion writer for the Daily

The two competing campaigns for the Student Government Association’s presidency shared more of their visions for the organization as voting runs Monday through Thursday.

Jackson Sweet, former chairman of the North Texas College Republicans and political science major at UNT, is running for president with choral music education junior Noah Wyckoff as vice president. Sweet did not respond to several attempts to contact him for an interview. The pair’s platform promotes making UNT safe and more supportive and inclusive, according to the meangreensweet Instagram page.

The “This Starts Now” campaign is headed by Devon Skinner, a former SGA sergeant-at-arms and senator for the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and political science senior, whose running mate is David Muñoz-Sarabia, the senator for the College of Merchandising and a hospitality and tourism and political science junior. Their campaign seeks to combat COVID-19 at UNT, make SGA more accessible to students and address transportation concerns, according to the This Starts Now Twitter account.

Both candidates and their choices for vice president participated in last week’s SGA debate.

Candidates from both campaigns spoke further to the North Texas Daily about their goals for SGA. Skinner provided the majority of answers from “This Starts Now,” while Wyckoff spoke for his and Sweet’s campaign, as Sweet did not reciprocate any attempts by the Daily to communicate.

Skinner said he had a number of previous positions that allowed him to develop his leadership skills and understand other perspectives. Skinner has served as the president for one year and as an inducted member for three years of the National Society for Leadership and Success, a member of the Eagle’s Nest Committee for two years, intern of SGA for one year and as a senator and sergeant-at-arms of the Senate for one year.

Vice presidential candidate Muñoz-Sarabia said his career as an SGA senator gave him a “better outlook of what is working and isn’t.”

“I currently have the privilege and honor of serving my constituents as Senator of the College for Merchandising, Hospitality, and Tourism (previously I represented the College of Science),” Muñoz-Sarabia said. “I have also either held or currently hold other Senate assignments like secretary, chairperson of the Senate Bylaws/Constitution Committee, and Co-Chairperson of the Internal Senate Committee. Outside of the Senate, I served on the Queer, Trans, BIPOC Advocacy Group Committee and as Co-Chairperson of the Disability Inclusion External Committee.

From the Sweet/Wyckoff campaign, vice president candidate Wyckoff said he was “compassionate by nature.”

“As far as practical experience, I have experience as vice president and president of organizations while I was in high school, and at the College of Music,” Wyckoff said. “I arranged and supervised the audition process of incoming freshmen, helping them become situated, have places to be and making them feel welcomed. Positions like these have provided me with a lot of administrative experience and have strengthened the virtues necessary for a leader in me.”

Speaking on his running mate, Wyckoff said Sweet was “one of the most intelligent people [he has] ever met.”

“He’s very passionate about people and in doing the right thing,” Wyckoff said. “He takes justice very, very seriously, and believes everybody deserves an advocate. Jackson’s intelligence is surpassed only by his zeal for the true, the good and the beautiful.”

In their vision for SGA, Skinner said both he and Muñoz-Sarabia found the organization to be “inefficient in its obligation to the student body.”

“Our platform is centered around […] ensuring an inclusive environment for the student body, addressing the transportation concerns which we face daily […], being more purposeful with a proactive representation of the student body, coming together as a community to leave COVID-19 in the past,” Skinner said.

His list also included prioritizing mental health, making information more readily accessible in and out of SGA and reaching out to the Texas Student Government Coalition.

Wyckoff described his and Sweet’s platform as “bringing SGA under [student] control,” and becoming a “real advocate” for students to the university administration.

“As far as specifics, we want to establish an open-door policy in the SGA office, do in-person canvassing of the student body, create liaisons to all campus organizations, work to build relationships between UNTPD and BIPOC communities,” Wyckoff said. “Raise the minimum wage of student workers, fight tuition hikes, lower the cost of textbooks, fight sexual assault with more lighting, more emergency stations and free self-defense classes, expand mental health resources, lengthen Thanksgiving Break, give students a “dead week” instead of just one day to study before finals, combat student hunger with a swipe out hunger program and safely reopen campus next fall. “

Reflecting on decreased student participation in the organization, Skinner said SGA needed to play a role in revitalizing the student body if it wanted to see membership climb back up.

“First and foremost, we must adhere to the mantra that the SGA must go to the student body before we ask them to come to us,” Skinner said. “We must become more innovative in our interactions with the student body when it comes to social media usage and person-to-person interaction. We should be going to classrooms with permission from professors, university events such as First Flight Week and Orientations, and implement UNT dorm town halls, where the SGA goes to dorms and listens to student concerns. “

Wyckoff said SGA needed to demonstrate increased activity and cooperation with student organizations.

“This starts with liaisons to each student organization, advocating for their interests — it increases SGA’s presence and encourages people to want to get involved,” Wyckoff said. “People want to be a part of change — of something bigger than themselves —but nobody wants to be the first one. They want to know that they’re not wasting their time.”

Skinner said the COVID-19 pandemic had exposed “fundamental flaws in accessibility when it comes to the SGA.”

“We should make participation in Senate meetings for students available through electronic mediums,” Skinner said. “Provide closed captions for our recordings, build a table of contents for our videos (so there’s the ease of access to specific parts of videos), being purposeful about keeping the SGA office staffed, and ensuring sign language interpreters are available when needed.”

Wyckoff said his campaign’s strategies are meant to “bring SGA to the students” when describing previous administrations as having students come to them.

“Echoing what I said before, we strongly believe in open-door policies, in-person canvassing, email hotlines, and liaisons to each student organization,” Wyckoff said.

As for how either will advocate for students directly to the administration, Skinner said his administration “will communicate with respect and prioritize the student body.”

“We will have frequent and blunt conversations with decision-makers at UNT,” Skinner said. “While good working relationships with UNT Administration are important, we must not sacrifice the needs of the student body when the two are at odds. As your next SGA President and Vice-President, we will be purposeful in our interaction with faculty and administration by making student interests the priority.”

Wyckoff said he and Sweet were already speaking with the university administration regarding their platform

“We will treat them with respect,” Wyckoff said. “But as partners at the table, rather than subordinates — students need advocates that will fight for them, not a ‘yes man’. That being said, we do believe the administration is filled with good people that want to help students, and they’ve told us they’d absolutely be willing to help us make our platform become a reality.”

Skinner said he and Muñoz-Sarabia would be focused on making students their priority.

“We see this election as not about ourselves or our opponents,” Skinner said. “But rather how the student body can be best served.”

Wyckoff said he liked Skinner and Muñoz-Sarabia and that they both wanted what was best for the university.

“I just simply believe me and my running mate are more qualified than they are and filled with more zeal,” Wyckoff said.

While outgoing SGA President Michael Luecke said he could not comment on the candidates, he did offer some advice to them: to prioritize their health.

“This job is very stressful and time-consuming,” Luecke said. “If you do not take the time to get the rest you need and to take care of yourself, you are going to burn out and students need someone to be an advocate for them all year round.”

Voting will run from Monday to Thursday and students can access the ballot through a link sent out on the SGA Twitter account.

Featured Image: Presidential candidate Jackson Sweet answers a question during the debate on March 31, 2021. Image by John Anderson

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Will Tarpley

Will Tarpley

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