Student Govt. hosts open gallery speakers and elects next vice president

President Summer Vogl
President Summer Vogl talks with St. Cloud State President Earl Potter III and Vice President for Student Life and Development Wanda Overland before Student Governments weekly meeting on Nov. 12, 2015. Photo by Alec Kasper-Olson.

Before addressing Student Government, President Earl H. Potter III showed a video that talked about what the university plans do to around incidents like the one between a St. Cloud State student and John Fillah, known as the “St. Cloud Superman,” and his personal thoughts about Fillah bringing the Confederate Flag near campus.

The video was of a one-on-one interview with the president. During the video, Potter talked about what the university is pursuing and possible options that St. Cloud State has, including the potential gain of city streets, before moving into his thoughts around the incident.

“I can’t have the same personal reaction,” Potter said in the video in reference to the Confederate Flag. He explained that the flag affects people differently, specifically African Americans in the US. “It was an assault on our culture, on our community.”

“It’s important for me to hear,” he says, talking about the thoughts of others in reference to the flag. “Leaders of the university need to put themselves in a position where they’re vulnerable and willing to listen,” he says in the video, explaining that Fillah’s presence on campus was “offensive” and that he doesn’t deserve the attention he’s been getting.

The room was quiet during the video. Members of the student government body and others attending the meeting watched intently as the video continued. The interview with Potter ended after he gave his opinion about Fillah and what he thinks the university should do moving forward.

“He does not deserve my attention, he does not deserve our attention,” he says. A full-length documentary around the issue is coming out in the future.

As the video ended, Potter came to the podium to update the body about the future plans for Charting the Future. Last week, he began, members of the Charting the Future forum introduced the first of several public meetings happening every other month. After the meeting is done, a recap and update will be sent out via email, describing the progress of the project.

Six tasks have been assigned and are planned to be worked on and completed throughout the year, four dealing with “student success,” Potter explained.

“One of the things students want is a common experience across campus,” he said. Some of the areas being worked on throughout the year include technology, diversity, financial literacy and counseling.

More information can be found at the Charting the Future website here.

However, Potter explained this project is going to take some time before completion—about four to seven years.

“The work has begun,” he said, explaining that it’s not moving at a fast pace. Potter said enrollment and the budget for 2016 are on track, though, while work still needs to be done around the budget for 2017.

After ending the brief address, Potter left the meeting. Coming to the podium, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Ashish K. Vaidya followed up briefly about the conversation around Charting the Future last week.

“It has a lot to do with student success,” he said. Vaidya talked about the questions that circled around during a faculty and staff meeting a few weeks ago. The questions at the meeting were framed around four central ideas, he said.

The first, “What would it look like if we graduated 80 percent of first new entering students in six years and transfers in three years, or less?” he said.

“That’s a pretty ambitious benchmark…What would that look like?” he said, asking rhetorically what changes need to be made in order for that to happen.

“I think it’s a bold vision,” he said. Vaidya continued talking through the second, third and fourth questions. The questions were focusing on the future outlook for St. Cloud State, forming and posing the questions around what the next step is for the university, including where students are ending up after graduation.

“We need to approach this in meaningful ways to make this happen,” he said before closing his brief address to the body.

Women’s Center

Members from the Women’s Center followed after Vaidya left the meeting. Lee LaDue, assistant director and coordinator of the Gender Violence Prevention Program, passed out a sheet of paper to each member of Student Government. The sheet detailed the amount of people attending events and workshops put on by the Women’s Center last year.

LaDue said about 3,886 students were present for various events and workshops. “We did about 1,400 primary prevention programs, getting at cultural issues around sexual violence,” she said.

Other prevention programs and events, like Take Back the Night, saw upwards of 1,000 students in attendance, she said. Along with the programs, she said there are training sessions with Public Safety and the Community Advisers (CA) that teach people how to respond to issues like gender violence. Around 7,000 people attended events, as in national speakers or Women on Wednesdays (WOW), she said.

This semester, there have been 21 bystander programs, which is more than all of last year, she explained, attributing much of the increase in program turnout to having more people working for the Women’s Center.

Vice President Elections

Academic Affairs Chair Benjamen Uecker and Executive Assistant Mikaela Johnson were in the running for Student Government vice president. One at a time, candidates were given 10 minutes to speak about themselves and about what being the vice president of Student Government means to them. Uecker went first. Johnson waited outside.

Academic Affairs Chair Bejamen Uecker
Academic Affairs Chair Bejamen Uecker speaks about his experience working in Student Government and what being the vice president means to him Nov. 12, 2015. Photo by Alec Kasper-Olson.

Uecker has been with Student Government for three years. He’s familiar with the different procedures and policies that go into the organization, he explained. During his time, he’s worked with the student constitution committee and written bills, mentioning he’s written three or four this semester, and said he’s been able to get to know many faculty members around campus.

“I just try to be an upfront individual and a bit of a go-getter,” he said.

Uecker expects to graduate in 2017 or 2018. While at St. Cloud State, he has participated in a number of student organizations. “I enjoy being involved,” he said. Uecker listed off the clubs he’s been a part of during his time at college and told the body that he’d have to cut back quite a bit, saying he’d give priority to Student Government.

When asked about shortcomings that the organization has, he said some members don’t always communicate as much as they potentially could with faculty or staff during situations where it might be most beneficial, like bill writing, he explained.

As far as what being the vice president means, Uecker said it comes down to helping the organization run smoothly, while also saying, “To me, it’s an opportunity for me to become a better leader and help students,” he continued. “It’s an opportunity to be a part of campus.”

After Uecker’s time was up, Johnson came into the room. She passed out folders containing her resume and a cover letter to each member of the body.

Executive Assistant Mikaela Johnson
Executive Assistant Mikaela Johnson spoke about her involvement on campus and knowledge of campus events during her 10 minute presentation for vice president elections Nov. 12, 2015. Photo by Alec Kasper-Olson.

Student Constitution Chair Blaze Drinkwine nominated Johnson for the position. During her time with Student Government, she’s worked closely with President Vogl. Johnson transferred to St. Cloud State and is in her third year as a graphic design major.

Like Chair Uecker, Johnson has been involved with a number of student organizations, while also spending time working in the community. She’s a community adviser on campus, she explained, and she’s an organizing intern with MSUSA, holding events and advocating for better higher education.

“It’s been very exciting for me to work with student government over the years,” she said. “I would love filling this position. I’ve really applied myself this semester.”

In the 10 minutes of describing her work experience and hopes for the organization, Johnson kept the mood light, bringing a rustle of laughs out of the members. In doing so, she explained that in her work as a community adviser, she’s had practice being direct and able to mediate situations.

For her address, Johnson took time to walk through her current positions on campus, her time with other student organizations in the past, and she also went through a list of various occurrences around campus. Some members of the body said this showed Johnson’s understanding and awareness of events happening on campus.

Describing a possible shortcoming of the student organization, Johnson said she hasn’t been able to communicate with all the members, saying it’s a big organization and a busy schedule doesn’t always allow the time. She hopes to be able to get to know members of the body during her time with student government, she said.

Members of the body asked questions for a short time. The question-answer period was shorter for Johnson than Uecker. As the period ended, Johnson was asked to wait in the hall with Uecker, while the body discussed their thoughts about each candidate.

It was split for a time between various members of the body, as people brought in strengths of each candidate. Some prided Johnson on her knowledge of events going on around campus and her attitude towards others, while people touted Uecker for his experience with the organization and drive to get others involved.

After the body had time to discuss, both candidates were asked back into the room. Johnson was named Student Government’s next vice president.

Financial hearings

Right after the elections, the student government body went into the financial hearings. Voting for the hearings went into a white ballot, passing all of the hearings.

Amount Requested: $1,000
Recommended Allocation: $709
The amount is to be used for equipment for the operation of organization.

Woman’s Lacrosse
Amount Requested: $750
Recommended Allocation: $750
The amount is to be used for league and membership dues.

Graduate Clinical Counseling Association
Amount Requested: $800
Recommended Allocation: $800
The amount is to be used for speaker coming to campus.

Korean Students Association
Amount Requested: $1,852
Recommended Allocation: $1,852
The amount is to be used for cultural night expenses.

Dance Team
Amount Requested: $3,000
Recommended Allocation: $3,000
The amount is to be used for lodging and the entry fee to competition.

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