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ISSUE 119 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 3/3/2006

Platforms garner little attention

By Emelie Heltsley
News Editor

Friday, March 3, 2006

With elections today, candidates for Student Government Association (SGA) executive positions are putting up their last signs, addressing the student body at informational forums and hoping for the votes to swing their way. The student body, however, seems to be less aware of and less enthusiastic about the upcoming SGA election than they were in past years.

Upperclassmen may remember campaigns of previous candidates, which included extensive "dorm raids," tabling, chalking and free gifts.

Many of the candidates and current SGA executives agree that the level of campaigning is low. Rachel Erickson '06, current vice president of SGA, placed the majority of the responsibility on the candidates themselves.

"At this stage, the candidates are responsible for energizing the campus, publicizing themselves and the elections," she said.

Other candidates agreed that this year has seen less campaigning than usual.

"I think this year's race is a little quieter because there are only three positions that are being contested," said Dave Mahnken '07, a candidate for Pause co-coordinator.

Krista Siems '07, a candidate for the Political Awareness Committee (PAC) coordinator, said that while she saw less campaigning and less interest on behalf of the student body, all responses should be respected.

"I know what a pain it is to be bombarded by people campaigning to an excessive extent," she said. "[But] it is my responsibility to know when elections are and who to vote for. If I choose not to care, then that is my decision."

Vanessa Witt '07, a candidate for SGA president, has not seen a lack of publicity as a problem in this year's election. She noted how she and her running-mate, Evan Klefsaas '07, have already talked to over 400 students in their residence halls.

"We're really trying to get out there," Witt said, noting accessibility as a main part of her platform.

Only three of the 11 SGA races are contested: PAC coordinator, the Pause co-coordinators and the SGA president and vice president. In an informational forum in Viking Theater on Tuesday, the candidates shared their tickets with the approximately 85 students in attendance.

Uncontested candidates were the first to share their goals with students. Candidates for contested positions spoke next, beginning with the PAC coordinator race between Chase Donaldson '07 and Siems.

As PAC coordinator, Donaldson said he hopes to bring structure and cohesiveness to the year and to PAC by giving each month of the school year an issue that the student body finds important.

"I'd like to start in the spring with a poll," Donaldson said.

Donaldson would organize monthly debates around each month's issue between political groups on campus. The formal debates would force political groups to "research the issues and provide facts," said Donaldson.

Krista Siems '07, also running for PAC coordinator, decided to step down from her role as vice-chair of the College Democrats.

"I'm done with party politics," Siems said.

As PAC coordinator, Siems hopes to "bring in speakers to get people talking about politics." She also hopes to get the Collegiate Readership Program back up to where it was at the beginning of the year, and work with all campus political organizations to diminish hostility between them.

The Pause co-coordinators took the stage next, beginning with Justin Heebsh '07 and a proxy for Mike Peabody '07.

"We would like to work with campus environmental groups," Heebsh said, mentioning organic vegetables and more ecologically-friendly containers for food.

They would also like to expand the current movie and DVD program in the Pause.

"We need to make it competitive with places in town," Heebsh said.

Candidates David Mahnken '07 and Brittany Shrimpton '07 spoke next, expressing their wishes for the pool room in the Pause.

"It's not an exciting place," Mahnken said, explaining how they would buy full-size pool tables, a jukebox, tables for large groups and real dart boards.

Shrimpton said that, if elected, they would work to improve the coffee selection at the Pause and work to bring in a wider variety of bands.

Last to present their tickets were the candidates for president and vice president of SGA. First to speak were Mike Vang '07 and Basil Vernon '07.

"There is not a tight link between SGA and the student body," Vernon said.

Both he and Vang said that, if elected, they would work to strengthen the link between SGA and the student body.

They would like to allow the student body to give SGA a "grade" at the middle of the year to allow students to express their approval or disapproval, and for SGA to know in what areas they need work.

Both centered their ticket around "creating a liberal arts education with a global perspective," as Vang said.

Witt and Klefsaas spoke last, expressing their wish to "uncap the potential of SGA," as Witt said.

They listed an increase in SGA publicity, the creation of an SGA alias and the increase of senators' responsibility to their constituents as goals of their presidency.

Witt and Klefsaas expressed their accessibility and willingness to work hard.

"We want to put in the work and the time," Witt said.

While Klefsaas has had less SGA experience than Witt and other candidates, he stressed the importance of St. Olaf for him and the unique approach he would bring.

"Where St. Olaf and its students go from here is very important to me," he said. "I can bring fresh ideas and a perspective that hasn't been used up."

As election day gets closer, all of the candidates as wellas the current SGA executives urge students to get out and vote.

"SGA will be spending $450,000 of your tuition next year," Erickson said. "SGA has more of a far-reaching effect than students realize."

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