Candidates emphasize campus transparency

Amanda Monthei

The three ASNMU presidential candidates have been addressing past issues, establishing goals for the future and finding ways to relay those goals to students in preparation for the ASNMU elections, which will begin on Monday, April 1 at 8 p.m. and run through Wednesday, April 3 at noon, according to the ASNMU website.

Brandon Zanon, a junior biology and pre-med major, said the biggest obstacle he has experienced so far in his campaign has been just that — getting his message to students.

“The biggest obstacle is reaching out to students,” Zanon said. “Too often, you find when you ask a student ‘What do you want to see happen with ASNMU?’, they turn around and look at you and go ‘what is ASNMU?’ So that’s something that we’ve been trying really hard with our campaign to change — even if students choose not to vote for us, we want them to get out there and vote because student opinion is what matters most. We are your student government and we want to make sure that every student puts in their voice.”

Three candidates — Zanon, Amber Lopota and current ASNMU President Ben Stanley — will by vying for the presidential position in the three others — John Brady, Abby Roche and Wesley Reiber — will be contending for the vice presidential position.

Because of the lack of face-to-face interaction with students over past semesters, both the presidential and vice presidential candidates are unanimously campaigning for ASNMU to establish a greater presence within the NMU student body.

“We want to make sure that line of communication opens back up,” Zanon said. “If we can’t communicate, we can’t get anything done. I can have all the resources in the world, but if I don’t communicate with somebody, I’m not going to get a project accomplished within ASNMU.”

Among the similar goals outlined by Lopota, a senior with a double major in an individually created program and public relations, becoming more present and transparent not only amongst themselves but also within the greater university community, are the most significant.

“The placement of ASNMU throughout campus is a huge (goal) for me,” Lopota said. “Being present, being everywhere, having a representative present at every hall government [are some of our goals]. We should have someone available to be a resource for ever hall government meeting.”

Additionally, Zanon said ease of communication needs to be addressed between the assembly and students.

“If you go to our website, you can leave comments, questions, concerns, but there’s nothing asking you to put an email or anything like that,” Zanon said. “There is no way to get back to you, there’s no way to make sure we’re opening a line of communication.”

In terms of their respective campaigns, both Lopota and Zanon have made efforts to reach out to as many students as possible by way of campaign t-shirts, posters, handouts and informative table.

Stanley, who has also been campaigning for his second term in the presidential position, declined to comment for this story.

All three candidates have also been using social media to relay their ideas, goals and other important information to students via Facebook and Instagram.

“We’re using social media to the fullest extent that we can,” Zanon said. “We’ve also been doing a lot of footwork, we’ve been going around the dorms, we’ve been going to hall meetings, house meetings, things like that. We’ve been basically talking to everyone we can.”

According to Lopota, she has been using similar means to get the word out about her campaign and goals for her presidency.

“I have been using Facebook to promote my platform points and encourage students to vote,” she said. “More than anything I am trying to get students to inform themselves.”

According to Stanley’s Facebook page “Stanley/Reiber 2013,” Stanley’s goals include working towards getting a PEIF pass included in tuition, having Red-box movie rental kiosks on campus and revamping WinterFest for the winter 2014 semester.

Both Zanon and Lopota agree that simply getting students informed and encouraging them to vote, regardless of who for, has been a common theme throughout their campaigns.

Furthermore, both Zanon and Lopota have attainable goals for the organization in general, regardless of who will be in the president’s seat.

Zanon said he hopes ASNMU can become the organization on campus that will be used as a resource for other student organizations that are attempting to get off the ground.

He cited that a large number of NMU students are involved in these organizations, and creating a greater connection between them and ASNMU could be a mutually beneficial relationship.

Lopota said revamping the advising system — so less students will be surprised in their junior year to hear they won’t be graduating within their expected timeframe — is one of her top goals.

She also said finding a way to hear off-campus students’ concerns, via an off-campus forum or meeting, could give a large amount of students a voice that don’t currently have one.

Both candidates’ goals correlate with perhaps the strongest message that can be seen in both campaigns — a desire to inform, educate and empower students with a stronger ASNMU presence, unrestricted communication and a transparent way of going about things.

“We need to be present — I think we should be out there in the Academic Mall, speakers booming, yelling ‘Hey, this is what’s going on: ASNMU is going to be (meeting) on Friday, please come join us,’” Lopota said. “It should be about involving more people, it shouldn’t be about us here in a room on Monday nights making hush decisions.

“I don’t like that. I am not comfortable with that. I would love to see people on board and making decisions together.”

According to Chelsea Parrish, off-campus representative and director of public relations in ASNMU, candidates who are not elected to the positions they applied for in the election will not be able to hold an elected position.

However, Parrish said they would have to fill out an application and be recommended to the assembly and approved by the board for any open positions.

“That’s how the majority of the current board was placed on the assembly,” Parrish said.

Click here for ASNMU Candidate Bios.