Smardz and Owens elected: “Everyone talks about student apathy, but no one wants to do anything about it.”

Staff Report

Current Undergraduate Student Association vice president for marketing and public relations, Matthew Smardz ‘19, won the USA presidential election over fellow candidate Dylan Huston ‘20.

Smardz explained his top priority going into next year saying,”in the beginning I really want to focus on increasing USA’s visibility. I really want to focus on getting our senators out there and getting people familiar with who’s in USA and who they can contact for help.”

He wants to encourage his senators to stay active on-campus and have a presence at campus events. This year USA senators have been attending Canisius sporting events and Smardz wants this to continue next year.

Smardz also wants USA to better familiarize students to their representatives. He wants to have more than the one USA meet and greet event during Welcome Week, saying, “First year students may not even go, and their representatives aren’t even elected yet.”

Smardz plans to continue to allow class senators to email their class to continue to increase the communication between USA and the student body. He believes that it is a vital source of electronic communication that students can rely on.

In regards to increasing communication with both large and small clubs, Smardz hopes to have open and more in-person communication with club leaders. He also wants to help ensure the success of new clubs that will be beginning next year by establishing support for the club leaders. Smardz explains that, “during the club sumit that would be a great opportunity to network with club leaders.”

Smardz recalls the sense of community that was present on-campus during freshman year and he wants to bring a strong community back to campus. He explains that he doesn’t have official plans yet, however, he has been working with other members of USA to discuss possible resolutions. “To cultivate that environment again we want to encourage club leaders to collaborate on events and projects… maybe not so much frequency but quality of events to bring more people and groups together,” Smardz explained.

The current issue of the Today@Canisius email was also addressed by Smardz, saying, “I know a lot of complaints about Today@Canisius is that people don’t know what’s going on, but ultimately I think it’s a cultural change and eventually we’ll get to the point where it’s part of our daily routine… for now I just want to continue to encourage students to use it.” He discussed the possibility of incentivizing the posts by posting riddles and ways to win prizes so that students are encouraged to open the links. He says, “It’s a good idea in theory, we just have to put it into practice.”

Smardz also plans to keep the newly created USA school spirit committee, saying, “That’s something I’ll want to continue and if it’s not a formalized committee, still keep that as one our main focuses.”

Smardz plans to use his position to “work with administration and I want to represent us on our behalf.” He explained that he wants to relay information that he is provided with by administration to students and ensure that he has complete answers for students. He also wants to convey the students’ opinions and perspective to administration “in a way that is respectful and is productive to what we want to get done.”

Smardz is hopeful for the coming year and appreciative for his appointment, saying, “I just want to thank everyone for the support and giving me the chance to run for USA president and I hope to do everything that everyone wants and I really want to make next year the best it can possibly be and serve the student body as well as I can.”

Current junior senator, Olivia Owens ‘19, beat out Ryan Boorum ‘20 for executive vice president of USA.

Owens expressed why she ran, saying, “There’s just a lot that needs to change on this campus and everyone talks about student apathy but no one is really doing anything about it.”

Owens remembers the enjoyment and community of her freshman and sophomore year, and wants to create that for other Canisius students. She explains, “I just want to make it how it was for me so others can enjoy their time here.”

Though the constitution describes the executive vice president position as mainly administrative work and ensuring the proper operation of USA, Owens says, “I also have a lot of ideas that I want to do… ideas that some others may not want to plan, but I do.”

Owens has brainstormed multiple ideas to help promote community on campus; however, she says, “I’m going to plan the hell out of events, but also ask what people want first.” She is receptive to the fact that all students have opinions of what they want in a campus event, and she wants to make sure the events are tailored to students’ interests.  

Owens recognizes a lack in communication between USA and both large and small clubs. She believes that the vp of marketing and public relations can spearhead this issue and hopes to help in anyway. She also believes that communication between USA and the general student body could be improved.

Currently, the senators send out emails to their class once a month, and she feels that senators should email the student body more frequently. Her overall goal is to increase the transparency of USA and make sure they are accessible.

Owens hopes the senators will be active representatives on campus and that students will be familiar with their representatives. She believes that senators should be held accountable because they’re elected for their position and they make decisions that affect their entire class.

Owens also spoke on the racial diversity of next years USA E-board. She acknowledges the significance of racial diversity in campus representation. She hopes that she will be able to support clubs of diversity and provide representation for students of all backgrounds. Owens explained, “Everybody needs to be represented and no group can be held higher than another… I’m really happy that there’s two people of color on the E-board.”

Owens campaigned on the slogan, “Voice of the voiceless” and she plans to continue with that promise to students during her time as executive vice president. She says, “If anyone has a problem or is uncomfortable they can come talk to me. I really do care about every single person I meet, so I’ll be there for anyone who needs me.”

Cameron Rosenecker ‘19 is currently a junior senator and portfolio manager on the Finance Board, and won the title of vice president for business and finance against Luke McCoy ‘19.

“I think a lot of what I plan on doing is being more fiscally responsible,” said Rosenecker. “The purpose of that being so that we can use kind of like funds that have been deemed almost wasted towards solving the student apathy problem.”

He described a fictitious example in which a club might continually host pizza parties for the same group of people without progressing their club in any way.  “We might say [to them] ‘okay, next year your budget might be reduced, feel free to come back and appeal, we want you to show that you’re going to put in the effort to plan an event and then we’ll give you the money,’” said Rosenecker.

He hopes that with clubs having to make more of an effort to get funds that they will work harder on recruiting more students to their events in order to grow their organization.

Rosenecker explained that another project he will be focusing on is finding ways to save more money when it comes to student transportation costs, especially in regards to the NFTA-Metro CRAM passes.

“I know that a lot of students don’t even pick up their CRAM passes and yet we pay for them,” Rosenecker said. “The payment for those CRAM passes takes up a large portion of the USA budget… Even if it’s just saving a hundred dollars on the contract, [we] could use that and that could go a long way at a small college. I know NFTA doesn’t necessarily care about that but we certainly do.”

He proposed an idea in which students fill out an application to then receive a free CRAM pass, rather than automatically supplying them to every undergraduate student. “If you’re not going to even put in enough effort to pick it up, then why should we be buying them for all [undergraduates],” Rosenecker said.

Rosenecker explained that his overarching goal is to “find ways to cut sunk costs,” which he described as “costs that we’re spending money on that we can’t recover, and we’re not generating revenue on as a college.”

He hopes that the money he is looking to save would be used to help solve apathy by creating more experiences beneficial to all students. “If you’re not involved in a club on campus, you might often wonder ‘where are my student tax dollars going?,’” Rosenecker said.

To coincide with this, Rosenecker hopes to send students on more school-sponsored trips. “I think that one day when we look back on our experiences at college, we’re going to remember if we went on a trip what trips we went on,” he said. “I think that is a great way to spread the college’s mission, as well, and to spread the college’s name [to places we wouldn’t advertise otherwise].”

He continued, “Certain clubs go to conferences that have a very dynamic purpose to them, they compete in competitions, and they spread Canisius’ name and they win awards for the college and I fully support trips that have the purpose because, in all honesty, the students that are going on these trips, might have come to Canisius for that reason, to be able to go on that trip.”

Rosenecker explained that this would ideally include the implementation of a class trip for all students to have the option to attend. “You would pay X amount of dollars and you get a seat on a bus to a northeastern American city… You can bond with your classmates,” Rosenecker said.

He further explained that using this spending towards a more directed, goal-oriented cost would create more opportunities for the majority of students to benefit from. “If you’re one of those students that goes to school and goes home, and your also paying that fee then a CRAM pass might not be the full benefit of what your dollars are paying,” Rosenecker said. “So it might be better to find ways to give you the opportunity to go on a trip with your class or a trip with a club, even if you’re not a part of that club.”

Rosenecker hopes that new ideas, such as a class trip, could help to benefit more students on campus and provide more experiences to students not heavily involved in clubs. “If we can spend money that could affect all students, as opposed to just the ones that are involved in certain clubs or sports, [we could] build a more holistic campus,” he stated.

“If I’m allowed to do some of these ideas, I think we might be able to see a turn in the right direction,” he concluded. “We have the opportunity to give [students] an experience that will make them for lack of a better word, happy.

Jakai Harrison ‘19, currently a junior senator, ran in this year’s election unopposed for vice president of public relations and marketing. This position is in command of USA’s public relationship with the student body as well as advertising events across campus and online about events and changes. He explained that, with this newly elected position, he hopes to create a better image for USA.

Given the apathy plaguing the campus for the past two years, many student leaders have gotten frustrated by the lack of involvement in their clubs and events, especially from USA senators. “[Apathy] touches all of us here,” Harrison said. “[USA] needs to make sure that we market these events, because clubs are putting on great events, they do great things for the community, and [we want] students to know, and faculty and staff want to know about things, as well.”

Harrison explained that he hopes to see the campus culture return to that of one before apathy, and cited 2016 as an example. “I’m an optimist,” he said. “I can’t change culture, it’s hard to change culture, but I feel like it changed quickly, because I remember my freshman year, everyone went to events.” He continued, “I don’t know how in those two years it switched so fast.. maybe we can turn the tide, make everyone feel the school spirit, and the togetherness.”

Harrison intends to dedicate much of his time in this role to promoting not only USA events, but also other clubs, and cited the current “Spirit Week” USA has been posting on Instagram as an example of what he hopes to do more of next year.

He plans to use the traditional means of advertising on campus as his methods, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Today @ Canisius, and the Stall Street Journal.

“Clubs on campus do a lot of great stuff, a lot of great events and I think we should do what we can to get to those events,” Harrison stated.

In addition to this, he hopes to illustrate a clearer picture on what USA is actually capable of accomplishing on campus and has power over. He explained that a lot of problems that students come to USA with, such as buildings in disrepair, are items that they can bring to administration’s attention, but don’t have the power to change. He hopes to clear any confusion on the actual jurisdiction of USA’s reach on campus.

The 2018-2019 USA E-board will come into office with many issues to resolve. The student body is collectively voicing their opinions on the lack of community and pressing negativity on-campus. The issues are complex and will take collaboration from the entire student body. The E-board will need cohesive planning and active leadership to ensure USA steps up as college leaders to ensure that a positive community is restored to the campus.

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