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Five vie for Senate vice president seat following rules suspension

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A suspension of Student Senate’s rules Wednesday night led to the self-nomination of five candidates for the now-vacant vice president position on the body’s executive board.

Following the Christmas Eve resignation of former Student Senate President Nick Southall, Acting President Anna Morton pushed for a suspension of the rules that would allow non-senate members to nominate themselves for consideration.

“I made the decision and am pushing for it because I think our body needs to make the change to be completely transparent and open to all students,” Morton said in a previous statement to The New Political. “If some students are dissatisfied with Senate I want to make any gesture possible to help the student body. Student Senate is the voice for students and we should not limit who wants their voice heard.”

Morton’s push for the suspension of such rules allowed Senior Budget Committee Chair Adam Brown, Honors Tutorial College Senator Allie Erwin, Veterans Affairs and Senator-at-Large Tyler Daniels, former Resident Life Commissioner Mary Kate Gallagher and former Student Senate member Jacob Chaffin to nominate themselves as candidates for vice president during the Wednesday night Student Senate meeting.

Each candidate was given five minutes to present themselves to Senate before 10 minutes of accepting questions from both Senate members and others in attendance.

Brown threw his name into consideration on the platform on the grounds that his experience with Senate qualified him for the position.

“I don’t really want to be a salesperson — but a spokesperson — for this position. There is not really a wrong choice,” Brown said. “Whoever is holistically right for this body, and whomever people are most comfortable with, is who they should vote for.”

Brown said his main goal as vice president would be establishing stronger communication between different parts of Senate and with outside student groups. He also said that his “political neutrality,” which he defined as not being nominated through a general party election, would contribute to his ability to serve Senate.

In her nomination, Erwin quickly set herself apart from other candidates by arguing against the “comfort” Brown offered, calling the body complacent and unwilling to challenge the status quo.

“A lot of the ways that we often spend time together can be very destructive. I think we need to show the student body that we’re willing to do something different,” Erwin said. “A lot of us spend too much time in the Student Senate office and not enough time with our constituents.”

Erwin, who has been highly involved in activism against sexual violence in the organization f*ckrapeculture, was challenged by senators that her outside activism would detract from her role as vice president. Erwin said that her activism is proof of her collaboration with her constituents and that as vice president, her senate roles would take precedence.

Daniels offered his Army discipline and experience serving on Senate as reason for his election to vice president. Last fall, Daniels drafted a leadership-philosophies pledge for fellow senators to sign. He echoed the sentiment that Senate needed to reach out more to its constituents.

“Many students don’t know that Student Senate exists on campus,” Daniels said. “Last semester, I was sitting out at the top and bottom of Baker reaching out to students. I feel that everyone should have to spend two hours tabling with a big sign that says hey, come talk to me. Senators must make themselves available.”

Daniels was insistent that before Senate could make any strides toward new programming, they must fix the cultural problems within the body.

“Projects are nice, but there has to be a lot of things inside Senate that are much more important,” he said. “We have a culture that needs changed. It’s hard to talk about the holes in the ceiling until we fix the cracks in the foundation.”

Gallagher offered her return to Senate in a bid to become vice president. In her presentation, she stressed education and leadership as her main selling points for her election. She implored Senate to refocus on students, saying its success is dependent on the success of Ohio University’s students.

Gallagher resigned last September after several public incidents on behalf of Southall. She said while she was angry at the body, her decision to leave Senate and spend time refining her own skills was her own.

“I don’t think I think my leadership failed when I resigned,” Gallagher said. “The issue was not with Senate, it was with me.”

She said that as vice president, she would be a “positive enabler,” empowering senators and students to work hard to achieve their goals.

Jacob Chaffin, who previously served on Senate before running for vice president under the FUSS ticket last spring, argued his position as someone who has had conflicts with Senate in the past. He described his experiences campaigning against S.B. 5 and tuition hikes.

As part of the Ohio University Student Union, Chaffin butts heads with many positions of Senate, most notably over his stance against the guaranteed-tuition model. Chaffin said that, as vice president, he would strive to be more receptive of students’ concerns and challenge the status quo.

“I think a big problem that we have is that we hold each other above the average student. It intimidates them. One way to do that is to fight for real issues,” Chaffin said. “What is bothering you with this university? What would you do? What would you change?”

Chaffin defended his activist past and “push the envelope” personality by saying that his stance was necessary for real change. He affirmed his belief that Senate needed to change from the inside, not from the outside.

“I care a lot. This is what I love — coming to people with a lot of passion and energy and displaying that to them,” Chaffin said. “I’m about giving a sh*t. Showing up, and fighting for it.”

Senate will decide who will fill the vacant vice president role at its next general body meeting on Jan. 22.

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