The first time presidential candidate Dakota Hileman applied to be a senator for the Associated Students of the University of Montana was Aug. 29, 2018, three days into his freshman year. He applied and interviewed for the position a total of three times this school year, according to current ASUM Vice President Mariah Welch.
ASUM started with 24 of the 26 senate seats filled after the ASUM election last April. Since then, 17 senators resigned, leaving their seats to be filled. The Interview Committee met for four different sessions to interview and choose students interested in becoming senators, Welch said.
Hileman applied and interviewed during the first three sessions in August, October and December.
This year is a somewhat quiet election season for ASUM. In contrast to last year’s elections, which had three presidential teams, two business…
Abbigail Belcher, who is running for ASUM president against Hileman, served as the chair of the Interview Committee. As the chair, Belcher did not have voting power to determine which students were chosen to be senators. Belcher said her role was to make sure the committee was doing its work and to keep the committee organized.
“The interview committee was disappointed that the quality of his interviews declined each time he interviewed, rather than improving,” Belcher said. “Out of respect for him, I won’t go into detail, but in retrospect, he was one of the weaker candidates.”
Hileman said he is a strong candidate because of his experience as his high school student body president and his responsiveness to the needs of the voters during his campaign for the Montana House of Representatives in 2018.
“So in response to my inexperience that my opponent claims I have, look at my history, it says otherwise,” Hileman said.
The ASUM Interview Committee meets in between elections to fill open senate seats. Student applications to join the Senate are sent to the chair of the Interview Committee. Students meet with the committee for 30 minute routine interviews.
The committee asks each candidate the same six questions about available time, ideas they would bring to the Senate and how they would solve problems.
When the committee chooses the candidates it wants to be senators, it sends the list to the ASUM president and the Senate for approval. All the candidates the committee picked were approved, Welch said.
Although Hileman was not approved to be a senator, he took advantage of the opportunity to serve on ASUM committees as a student-at-large. This year, he sat on the Board of Budget and Finance, Relations and Affairs Committee and Sustainability Committee.
“When I looked at colleges, I always looked at the different student governments. They do so much more than the student governments in high school,” Hileman said. “My passion is representing students, and I was determined to serve on the student government here.”
Hileman said he is glad he didn’t make it onto Senate because his current position gives him an opportunity to become a better ASUM president, if elected.
“I think of it as an advantage because I can give an outside perspective,” Hileman said.