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UMSG Executive Election Debate prepares for upcoming election on Wednesday

Polls for the University of Maine’s Student Government (UMSG) election are to open on March 22, 2023, through a link that can be accessed via your UMaine email.

The current candidate for president is Michael Delorge, who is running alongside Kaitlyn Sterner, his prospective vice president. The three other candidates running for VP are as follows: Yeshayahou Kuptchik, Kyle Ricker and Keegan Tripp.

The UMSG Executive Election Debate took place on Monday, March 6 at the Memorial Union. It was run and moderated by Camden Olson. All candidates were given three minutes for an opening statement as well as time to respond to a series of questions asked by UMaine students.

Current UMSG vice president Michael Delorge is running unopposed. He is a third-year student of political science and biology and a member of student government. He has served as senator, chair of various senate committees, vice president for student leadership and president pro-tempore.

Delorge has been a student researcher working on substance use policy. His current focus involves enhancing student government recruitment as well as organizing school-wide initiatives to increase student body involvement.

Student Comparative Alliance Council encompasses a wide group of students of different backgrounds. There is representation from international students and athletic groups. Delorge plans to continue his participation in the organization next year.

Delorge has also agreed to broadcast student Maine Day opinions, whether sympathetic or negative towards the decision. As a leader in student government, he would like to work closely with administration to help plan events for the week and push for the continuation of the tradition.

“We could use social media to our advantage, to talk about the reports and what is said in those meetings with administrators and develop leadership within the student body,” Delorge said.

He is also a participant in the Bandana Project, a non-profit mental health resource. The organization comes to campus to train students to be peer supporters. After the training is completed, they are given a green bandana to put on their backpacks which designates them as mental health allies.

Running alongside Delorge for VP is third-year biomedical engineering student Kaitlyn Sterner. She has served as a representative of UMSG for the last three semesters and is an active member of Greek life.

She believes in supporting and promoting inclusive clubs on campus. Sterner also recognizes how the Maine Day decision impacted school spirit. Though it will be a tough change and some felt they were completely uninformed, she intends to reinstate the spirit.

Since every chapter is expected to engage in service, Sterner is a part of the large community which was participating and utilizing Maine Day for its original values. She intends to be a voice for those who do focus on volunteering.

“I do believe that a lot of students felt like they were uninformed of the situation and felt robbed of their voice in the decision,” Sterner said.

Yeshayahou Kuptchik is a second-year history student. He has been involved in both UMSG and the Franco-American resource opportunity group. Kuptchik has served as a full-time active-duty military member. He intends to use his position to encourage further involvement as well as create a safer, friendlier and more inclusive environment on campus.

Coming from a diverse background, Kuptchik prioritizes the inclusion of students whose cultural narratives may not fall into majority cultural groups. Though UMaine is 90% white, that margin doesn’t account for students of all origins. For example, the U.S. census may consider students to be white regardless of national background.

“There are many different types of students with many different issues. We need to listen to them and we need to take action so there can be actual discourse and change within this university,” Kuptchik said.

He also believes there should be more discourse within the senate, rather than simply passing or not passing motions as a result of a clear majority. One way to do so would be by encouraging the opinions and displaying the voices of marginalized groups.

Kuptchik also has a unique perspective after having served in the military and being made aware of the cultural stigma around mental health. Throughout the last few years, many, including Kuptchik himself, have made it a priority to diminish that stigma by opening conversations with social workers and counselors.

Second-year education student Kyle Ricker has also served on UMSG for two years. Ricker intends to ultimately increase transparency as well as extend the add/drop period for classes by two weeks.

As for Maine Day, Ricker recognizes the safety issues but also feels that the administration must be more transparent and direct about the results of their decisions.

He also suggests that UMSG develop a spreadsheet of each club and its prospective contact information. That way, there is more clarity and simplicity in terms of getting involved and creating a stable support system for oneself.

“Taking advantage of these meetings that are already recorded and publicizing them on Youtube is one way to give students a direct line of sight into decisions that may affect them on a daily basis,” Ricker said.

Keegan Tripp is a first-year political science student who joined the senate almost immediately upon coming to UMaine. His campaign is centered around community and communication.

Not only does Tripp advocate for more transparency from faculty and administration, but he also works to improve the connection between the work of UMSG and the student body.

One potential way to increase involvement on campus is to work closely with organizations and clubs. In terms of transparency, Tripp believes there are two important steps,the first of which is asking the student body what they need from representatives. The second, and most pivotal, is following through on those requests.

It all begins with a conversation, and Tripp encourages people to come to the senate with issues, and use the UMSG platform as needed. The main goal is to be a voice for students.

In the confusion concerning the fate of Maine Day, many felt unheard and pushed aside. The task force tried to do damage control, but there was a vast lack of communication from administration.

Tripp suggests the implementation of town hall style meetings with the UMSG president and VP along with Dean Dana, President Ferrini-Mundy and cabinet members where they could sit down and discuss the important issues that will inevitably affect everyone on campus.

“Communication needs to be a two-way street; we shouldn’t be hearing things from the grapevine or finding out decisions were made weeks and weeks later. If I am elected vice president, I would like to invite administrators to come and justify those decisions to students,” Tripp said.

Tripp also feels strongly about using the government as a resource for connections. If elected, he intends to open the senate up for not only school-related matters, but also friendly conversation and advice from our student leaders.

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