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Candidates VanBoxtel and Neidhardt pledge to include more voices in MUSG

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Marquette University Student Government elections are March 28, and campaign season is in full swing. The presidential race sees two competing tickets: current Legislative Vice President Drew Halunen with running mate Stephanie Marecki, an off-campus senator, and current Communications Vice President Arica VanBoxtel with running mate Bill Neidhardt, also an off-campus senator. In today’s issue, the Tribune sits down with Arica and Bill and on Thursday Drew and Stephanie will be profiled.

This week, the Tribune sits down with both pairs of candidates, to find out why they want to lead MUSG, and what their goals for student government’s future are.

Why run?

Neither VanBoxtel or Neidhardt are strangers to MUSG, but it took VanBoxtel time to decide to run for president.

“I started the beginning of the year as communications vice president, but I didn’t have a thought to run for president,” she said. “But as I really got into the organization, saw what it’s capable of, it grew on me. The seed was planted midsemester and took off right at the end of the semester. I saw Bill in Senate and saw how passionate he was, and we have similar perspectives.”

Neidhardt said he has become more involved in MUSG over the year as well.

“I worked in the Capitol (through the Les Aspin program) for nine months, and coming back to campus I thought, ‘What do I do next?,'” he said. “I tried MUSG and it clicked. You can do a lot to help students and reach so many student populations.”

VanBoxtel and Neidhardt’s platform focuses on a number of issues, including tuition, space on campus and increasing diversity.

The Platform: Tuition

VanBoxtel and Neidhardt acknowledge they cannot lower tuition. However, when talking with students, one of the main concerns discovered was the lack of transparency in where the money goes. Although VanBoxtel said she met with Chuck Lamb of the university’s Capital Planning Committee, most students only get information on tuition through university news briefs.

Yet in comparison to other Jesuit universities, Neidhardt said Marquette’s increases are steady.

“Tuition (usually) increases 4.5 percent — that’s lower than other Jesuit schools whose increases are 6 percent,” Neidhardt said. “Our goal is to show students where the money is going.”

To do that, Neidhardt and VanBoxtel have proposed a tuition receipt, detailing where exactly the money goes with loans and financial aid included.

“Tuition is complicated, but we’re all passionate about it,” Neidhardt said. “We need facts for it to become fluid and to have cooperation.”

VanBoxtel noted that transparency can have different meanings to different people.

“The information is out there, but Bill had to dig (for it),” she said.

The Platform: Student space

To address the influx of students and growing number of organizations, VanBoxtel and Neidhardt have proposed a space usage audit. The audit would re-evaluate all space on campus.

“While the removal of study lounges in residence halls is a plan, is it the most effective?” VanBoxtel said. “We have to decipher if the space is being used to the best of its ability and (whether) we need to build another building on campus.”

VanBoxtel and Neidhardt said meeting space is also an issue for Marquette’s 260 student organizations.

The Platform: Diversity

If elected, VanBoxtel and Neidhardt would continue MUSG’s diversity roundtable discussions. But they would also implement a diversity task force made up of individuals who would work with the president to turn ideas into action. VanBoxtel said the task force has been talked about for a while.

“We have had the conversation year after year, but not much action has been taken,” VanBoxtel said. “On campus, if you embrace (diversity), there is so much to celebrate and learn from. In college it’s also important to learn from a different perspective.”

The task force would also promote diversity through improving university course offerings, Neidhardt said.

“I’m taking Arabic, and the professor works to bring new courses to campus that show students the Middle Eastern culture,” he said. “It may be for students who are Middle Eastern but also for students like me who are Irish and German.”

Neidhardt said improving course offerings is an idea that came from a diversity roundtable and is an example of taking discussion and turning it into action. VanBoxtel added that the goal is attainable.

“With the right conversation with administrators in that area, that change isn’t that significant,” she said. “It’s making them see that from a student perspective, they could provide more.”

The student connection

VanBoxtel and Neidhardt chose their campaign slogan and official Twitter hashtag, #gotgov, as a play on the Got Milk? ad campaign. Yet it addresses their overall goal: to build a connection with students.

VanBoxtel and Neidhardt both said the slogan asks if students have a good connection with their government and when students use the hashtag, it is a way to hold MUSG accountable.

“It sets the tone of our campaign — you play like you practice,” Neidhardt said. “It’s how we want to have the conversation.”

While they are making use of social media, t-shirts and flyers,  VanBoxtel and Neidhardt, have also solicited student feedback. They  said they have discussed their platform with hundreds of students and sat down with faculty and administrators.

“We want to focus on the tone of the organization, open it up to all students,” Neidhardt said. “Every students is a part of MUSG when they pay their student activity fee, so we want to include as many student voices as possible.”

VanBoxtel said MUSG hasn’t made a memorable impact during Preview and Orientation week to those new to campus, and that is one area in which they would be more active.

On their opponents

VanBoxtel and Neidhardt said in their minds, they have already won against Halunen and Marecki.

“The experience we’ve had, they’ve had,” Neidhardt said. “But ours is a very strong, diverse experience.”

But VanBoxtel noted that this is still a very competitive election.

“We have spoken with them, about what we believe and where they are coming from,” VanBoxtel said. “May the best ticket win.”

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