Photo courtesy of Grant Dever and Melissa Holloway

Similarly passionate about their commitment to UR students, the two tickets for Students’ Association (SA) president and vice president arrived at their decision to run in radically different ways.

SA presidential candidate and junior Ethan Bidna indicated his belief that SA has drifted from its purpose as a student-driven organization to one driven by the goals of Senators themselves, something he hopes to change in the upcoming year. He picked sophomore Erinmarie Byrnes as his running mate: “Erinmarie’s record […] speaks for itself,” he said, referring to the success of her experiential learning initiative.  The two, according to Bidna, are going into the electoral process “with the same goals, [the] same frustrations and [the] same solutions.”

“SA can be a force for good,” Bidna concluded.

On the other hand, presidential candidate and junior Grant Dever and vice presidential candidate and junior Melissa Holloway said that they only decided to run last week.

“I did a lot of soul-searching,” Dever said. “I definitely feel a sense of duty to the Rochester community.” Holloway joined the ticket because of their friendship and previous work in student government. The pair is planning to “be super progressive,” Holloway explained.

A clear vision, a long history of work with SA and a strong commitment to SA reform are key to the Bidna-Byrnes ticket, while knowledge of the SA system and a desire to communicate and empathize with the student body shine through in the Dever-Holloway ticket.

This year’s candidates are motivated, dedicated and enthusiastic about the prospects for the upcoming year, and the staff of the Campus Times carefully balanced our endorsement decision upon the substance of the candidates’ campaign platforms, their visions for the upcoming year, their experience in student government, their leadership abilities and, ultimately, our opinion on which candidates we want to represent us as students. While we were impressed with  Bidna and Byrnes’s plans to hold Senate accountable to the student body and their desire to focus on student initiatives, the personable and genuine attitudes of Dever and Holloway should make SA the accessible, welcoming place they promise it will be.

They emphasize a constantly evolving platform, something we trust them to firmly establish through student feedback; easy access to SA and a change in Senate culture.

“We want people to have more faith in the SA government,” Holloway said. Dever stressed the need to make SA a “better working environment for people.”

Ultimately, after our interviews with the two pairs, we are confident in the Dever-Holloway ticket and their ability to represent the interests of the student body, building initiatives that are based on student desires, maintaining quality relationships with administrators and representing student interests. They are a friendly and personable team, qualities we believe will serve them well in the role of president and vice president, as well as benefit us, the students at the University of Rochester.

That said, Bidna and Byrnes are not weak candidates. They have strong ideas, a clear understanding of SA’s weakness and a drive to change them.

“SA has a listening problem,” Bidna said early in their interview. “SA has moved away from its mission statement, which is helping students.” With that in mind, their platform emphasizes moving a wide range of student body-initiated issues through Senate. Bidna’s involvement in writing the new SA bylaws means that he has an intimate understanding of the way that the new structure will allow them to do their jobs. If elected, they plan to continue meeting with students, updating the IMPACT website and opening multiple channels of feedback.

Both teams emphasize outreach to diversify the number of students participating in SA. As Byrnes noted, a new nomination process for senators aims to provide a wide range of students “equal information and a fair chance.” Dever and Hollway, on the other hand, particularly discussed outreach to incoming freshman and international students.

“We want to reach out to students and make them […] feel like the University of Rochester is their home,” Dever said.

Both teams also discussed the need to set expectations for Senators to increase the variety of students with whom they interact.

“We need to [remove] those barriers between the [SA] government and students,” Dever said, speaking to the weak connection between Senators and their constituents.

The Bidna-Byrnes team expressed a similar concern.

“We have to push senators to go and collect feedback from people who aren’t in their usual circles,” Byrnes said.

The similarities in some aspects of their platforms aside, we believe that Dever and Holloway embody their goals for the upcoming year: they are accessible and approachable, exactly the qualities they expressed a desire to promote for next year’s SA, and exactly the qualities that we want our future representatives to have.

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