ASUM Forum

In an effort to improve communication between ASUM and the student body, two candidates running for ASUM president and vice president proposed a “vent tent” for students during an online debate April 8. 

“To better evaluate what issues matter most to students, we plan to set up a vent tent where students can come and write down their issues,” ASUM presidential candidate Emma Kiefer said. 

All three pairs of candidates running for the ASUM president and vice president explained their platforms and discussed their plans for the upcoming Montana legislative meeting in November 2020. According to the Head of the Elections Committee Shane Stonge, policies regarding higher education in Montana will be discussed at the meeting. 

Candidates Morgan Hahn and Emma Kiefer said they wanted to advocate for lower tuition costs and enhance student services. They said introducing a vent tent will allow them to identify what students feel most passionate about, so they can address those issues at the legislative meeting. Hahn and Kiefer also said they will be advocating for Montana to adopt online voter registration.

“We have a lot of students that come from out of state...where they have maybe been able to register online in the past and we don’t have that capability...It is incredibly important to have that resource available,” Hahn said. 

Taylor Gregory and James Flanagan said that they will focus their efforts on student-led initiatives. They emphasized they advocated for the expansion of the music building during the Board of Regents meeting in the past. The team said the experience will serve as an example for how they will tackle the legislature.

“[We] will take that same passion with advocating for the expansion and renovation of the music union that we’ll wield toward higher education in the Montana legislature,” Gregory said.

Cierra Anderson and Christian Pfeifer centered their arguments around their intention to advocate for increased student funding. They also want the legislature to better understand what students are experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Anderson and Pfeifer said they will encourage representatives in the legislature to look at the data collected from the team’s future online polling program, Student Canvas. The team said they hope the legislature will identify problems students are dealing with by using the data.

“There’s a disconnect between what the legislation might be interested in doing for the average student and… the communication that students make in a time like this,” Pfeifer said. 

The importance of diversity on campus was also discussed during the debate. Hahn and Kiefer said multiculturalism is an essential part of campus life. 

“As leaders, we believe that we need to lift up the voices of those that are underrepresented. And I think that more cultural expression and representation… makes us a better candidate,” Hahn said. 

Gregory and Flanagan also reiterated that without diversity, campus life will not flourish, so they will try to support it in any way they can.

“I think that there is a lot of room for [ASUM] to explore options for funding…from the President’s Office or the UM Foundation, so that these multicultural student groups can get the support that they need and deserve,” Flanagan said. 

“I think that multiculturalism and diversity play a key point to the backbone that the student groups offer,” Flanagan said. 

Anderson and Pfeifer said multiculturalism on campus allows students to feel welcome at the University. 

“I think that every student, by being aware of the different multicultural offers and experiences, could maye find someone that they relate to and maybe they could find a home here as well,” Anderson said. 

The Business Manager candidate Ethan Hanley also discussed his platform. He explained his plans to make video guides for students about how to utilize ASUM. He also described his plan to create a seperate ASUM account for student group fundraisers. He said he wants to work on making ASUM funding more transparent to the student body.

Hanley said he would work on helping students meet their basic needs. He said he would address this by further promoting the student emergency fund created by Abbigail Belcher.

The nine candidates for senator positions debated during the online discussion. Vincent Tarallo, a current ASUM senator, said he is running to speak for the underrepresented. Jack Rinck, another current ASUM senator, said he would like to continue to serve in the senate to promote sustainability and to continue to serve the student body at large.

Brian Fulton, a standing ASUM senator, said he would like to continue to be a voice for transfer students. Nicholas Ververis stated that he would like to represent the business department in the senate, as well as the LGBTQIA community. 

Elizabeth Bowles said she wanted to help make a positive change on campus instead of watching other people make changes. Jonathan Karlen, the sixth person running for ASUM Senate, said he would like to join the senate on behalf of the College of Forestry. He said he also wants to help ASUM improve communication with student groups. 

Noah Durnell is also running for the senate and is a current ASUM senator. He would like to continue advocating for student services and improve transparency between student groups and ASUM. Tanner Leone and Matthew Hurley are also running for senator positions, but did not join the online Zoom debate.

Voting for the ASUM’s next president, vice president, business manager and senators is set to be held on April 22 and 23. Students can vote through the UMontana app, which can be downloaded on smart phones.