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Three candidates running for SA President

(Left to right) Hunter Koch, Denver Miliam and Ryan Silvestri are running for SA president for the 2019-2020 year. Vanguard Photos | Kyle Will

SVSU students will have three candidates to choose from for the upcoming SA presidential elections. Last year, current president Caitlin Coulter ran unopposed.

Polls open Monday, April 1 and close Thursday, April 4. Results will be announced immediately after polls close in Doan 103.

The three candidates this year are Hunter Koch, Denver Milam and Ryan Silvestri.

Koch, a master of public administration major, has been in SA for two years. He believes this gives him an advantage over the other candidates.

“I have been in SA a while, which is why I am so dedicated,” he said. “I have seen a dramatic cultural change in SA. I want to use that culture to better SVSU.”

Milam, an elementary education sophomore, joined SA in Fall 2018. He believes his campaign is unique because he is the only candidate running an eco-friendly campaign, such as not printing fliers.

“One thing that is on my platform is to … find alternatives of some of the things that aren’t as sustainable as they can be, and adding more recycling bins to classrooms,” he said.

Silvestri, an economics senior who joined SA this January, wants to run for SA president to create a greater sense of community on campus. Part of his platform focuses on improving campus safety.

“Campus safety is a huge issue,” he said. “You have people getting attacked, robbed, broken into. In my opinion, campus safety needs to be worked on.”

Each candidate discussed their plans for Battle of the Valleys (BOV) since Grand Valley State University (GVSU) is pulling out of the charity competition.

Koch suggested a three-step solution for SA moving forward.

“First, since benefactor applications are already open, my administration would work with the philanthropy chair to select another highly deserving benefactor,” he said. The second step would be to raise funds for that charity in the fall. “Regardless of what the climate is, I am committed to making sure SA runs an event that is equivalent to Battle of the Valleys,” he said.

Koch said the experiences he gained through the public administration program and being in SA for two years would help him finish the final step.

“The third step is using the ties I have with other universities and the skills that I’ve gained through that negotiation to hopefully find a new university to compete against in the fall 2020 semester,” he said.

Milam believes the fate of BOV will depend on what SA and SVSU students want to do.

“My (first) thought is to do something with Northwood,” he said. “Grand Valley was so far away that people either wouldn’t go when we were away, or Grand Valley wouldn’t come when it was here. Northwood is an hour down the road. Most people have a way to get there. … I think having two schools so close together will increase the competition.”

He would hope to establish a competition with Northwood by Fall 2019.

“That would come down to SA voting on Northwood and Northwood saying, “‘Yes, I would like to join this,’” he said. “That is the goal, though, to push for Northwood to become the new competitor.”

Silvestri hopes to see BOV continue with a new university competitor.

“We still need to do something,” Silvestri said. “We just can’t let that tradition fail. In my opinion, we should change that to the Northwood game. That’s another huge event with the Axe Bowl, (and we can investigate) changing the BOV trophy to that. That way, we are still doing something worthwhile, and it’s with another university that makes sense.”

Silvestri would want the new partnership to begin during the Fall 2019 semester.

“I would like to make that immediately, so this next school year,” he said. “That’s something we would have to work together with Northwood on. I think the thing that makes it more enticing is that Grand Valley has twice as many students as us, and we were still able to compete with them. We have roughly twice as many students as Northwood. To me, that shows them they can still compete.”

Each candidate plans on continuing SA’s commitment to Title IX advocacy, as SA unanimously on a house bill that reaffirmed SA’s commitment to Title IX on Monday, March 25.

Title IX is a federal law mandating that no one be discriminated against in the education system on the basis of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.

As president, Koch said he would also continue working on SA’s commitment to Title IX advocacy. Koch said he would prove through legislation that students want Title IX reform.

“I think (we need to have) a frank and open conversation with all stakeholders about the issue,” he said. “I think a lot of people come in and want to make Title IX changes on campus, but, if you don’t have those frank conversations with those stakeholders, you really don’t know what the situation is.”

As president, Milam would want to see SA continue and act on its commitment to Title IX.

“So far, we have passed a resolution and said, “This is what we support, this is what we want,’” he said. “Now it’s going to be seeing growth from people on campus, implementing what our ideas are and upholding and showing as a campus this is what we believe in.”

Milam would be flexible with how SA and other SVSU students advocated for Title IX going forward.

“It’s going to come down to time,” he said. “Knowing exact steps isn’t always the best thing. … We need to have time to see how things are changing and moving forward if we need to do something else in that same amount of time. I don’t have any specifics besides just seeing where we can go and how we can evolve ourselves and our thinking.”

Silvestri believes SA needs to continue advocating for Title IX.

“Passing a resolution alone doesn’t really do anything. It’s the action you get after it that matters,” he said. “The house bill that was just passed puts pressure on the university to act on it. As president, I would work with administration … to identify these kinds of problems and make corrections as they see fit.”

Silvestri said he would more easily be able to help advocate for Title IX if he were appointed president.

“As president, you have a little bit more ability to do that than if you were just a regular member of SA,” he said. “That really is the biggest thing – just working together with administration to correct these problems.”

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