Emily Thayer, a junior politial science and communication studies major, and Sean Tessmer, a junior political science and religion studies major, have been elected Student Senate Co-Presidents for the 2010-2011 school year. The election took place last Monday following a race between the Thayer-Tessmer pair and the other campaigning pair of Junior Phil Cleary and Junior Environmental Studies Major Katie Winkelman.
Thayer and Tessmer will assume their new Student Senate positions next fall after the current Co-Presidents Senior Economics major Matt Olson and Senior Mangement Major Derek Holm conclude their term.
Tessmer and Thayer formed a team after each had run with a different partner in the previous election.
The final results of the election showed Tessmer and Thayer gaining 81 percent of the vote, while 15.3 percent went to Winkelman and Cleary, with an additional 3.7 percent going to write-ins.
In addition to the election of Thayer and Tessmer, students also voted to pass a referendum on a change in the Student Activities Fee. Over the past five years, the Student Activity Fee has been raised from $130 to $150, and each time the raise had to be approved by a student vote. The referendum that passed last Monday will convert the Student Activity Fee from a flat rate to a percentage of the annual tuition. This change is not intended to increase fees but to reflect the steady change that was already happening and avoid having had a each year.
The co-presidential race for 2010-2011 was filled with hot issues. Both pairs running for the seats were pressed with difficult question at the candidates’ pair debate on Feb 24, 2010. Among the most common issues were the qualifications of the candidates themselves, communication between the Student Senate and the student body and the potential for a student seat on the Board of Trustees.
Cleary and Winkelman both cited their experience in student organizations during their campaign. At the debate, Cleary recognized his leadership potential though his work with student organizaions. “My 36 months of executive experience on the campus as co-president, president, vice-chair and treasurer of organizations I think demonstrates that I have been able to set an agenda and help get people on board,” Cleary said.
Cleary and Winkelman brought up their disapproval of the change in the Student Activity Fee as a main issue, along with the absence of the Gustavus, Minnesota and United States flags in the cafeteria.
Tessmer and Thayer touted their experience within the Student Senate during the debate. Tessmer is the current financial chair and has also served as representative for Rundstrom Hall. Thayer has served as the Student Senate’s academic affairs and Student life chair, public relations chair, representative of North and Pittman Halls and is currently parliamentarian.
Communication between the Student Senate and the student body has been a lasting issue, and the future co-presidents addressed the concern in their time at the debate.
“We’re just a vehicle for the students,” Thayer said. “We’re here to represent the students, and that’s what we want to do.” Thayer and Tessmer are considering working with incoming first-year students through the Peer Assistants and the Gustie Greeters to inform the new students about how the Senate works and who to contact with their concerns. They also would like to utilize GACSpot and even Facebook to better communicate with the student body.
“We want to try to make the Senate office more open and increase communication with current students as well,” Tessmer said.
Talk of creating a student seat on the Board of Trustees has been an issue that has floated around Student Senate in recent years.
“I think that Jim [Gale, chair of the Board of Trustees], myself and Emily would all like to see [meetings] continue into the future and perhaps even open up those avenues of communication between the Board of Trustees and the student body as a whole,” Tessmer said. Current Co-Presidents Matt Olson and Derek Holm have been working to create a non-voting student position on the Board during their term in Senate. “Matt and Derek have worked really hard to promote this and get this accomnplished, and actually we are basically in the process of getting this done this year,” Thayer said.
“We hope that in the April Board of Trustees meeting the Board will approve [the student position],” Tessmer said.
Besides these important topics, each of the future co-presidents gave his or her opinion on what his or her priorities would be upon taking office. Thayer is committed to delivering on the issues listed in the pair’s platform (which can be found on their Facebook page) including student representation on the budget committee, keeping the Gus Bus sustainable, hosting a co-Presidential senate forum each month and more.
“The platform that we’ve established is one that we can really deliver,” Thayer said. Tessmer kept his priorities in the immediate future, commenting on his commitment to recruit new members for the Senate from a variety of groups on campus, including first-year students, the Diversity leadership Council and others.
“I would have to say that recruitment … would have to be the highest priority because we’d be doing that even before we were handed the gavel,” Tessmer said.
The change in co-presidency will take place the last Monday of Spring Semester classes.
“We’re excited,” Tessmer and Thayer said.