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DePaul SGA candidates gear up for contested election

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College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Senator Luke Kula (left) will challenge Executive Vice President for Student Affairs Vanessa Cadavillo for the president of SGA. Voting will take place May 18-22. (Photo courtesy of Student Government Association)

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Senator Luke Kula (left) will challenge Executive Vice President for Student Affairs Vanessa Cadavillo for the president of SGA. Voting will take place May 18-22. (Photo courtesy of Student Government Association)

After years of presidential candidates running unopposed, the upcoming Student Government Association elections will feature a contested race for president as well as competing slates seeking to control the organization’s executive branch.

This year, incumbent Executive Vice President for Student Affairs Vanessa Cadavillo is running against current Senator for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Luke Kula to be the official top representative of the student body.

Cadavillo is running on a ticket with vice presidential pick Ric Popp, and in alliance with a slate for cabinet consisting of Adriana Kemper (EVP of Operations), Patrick Pfohl (EVP of Student Affairs), Kristina Pouliot (EVP of Academic Affairs), and Damian Wille (Treasurer).

The opposing ticket, calling themselves Vincentians United, consists of Kula and vice presidential candidate Michelle An, as well as Cara Anderson (EVP of Student Affairs), Joseph Kerins (Treasurer), Lindsey Salter (EVP of Operations) and Tyler Solorio (EVP of Academic Affairs).

In the past few years, it has become commonplace for the presidential candidate to run unopposed. Both former President Casey Clemmons and incumbent Matthew von Nida did not have an opponent.

Last year, however, a coalition of student groups calling themselves One DePaul organized and ran candidates for positions in both the cabinet and senate. While there was some success in getting senators elected, the two coalition candidates running for cabinet lost to candidates, one of them being Cadavillo, supported by von Nida.

Michael Rance, the president of the DePaul Democrats and one of the leaders of One DePaul, said while Vincentians United and last year’s coalition probably would agree on most of the issues, there are some key differences.

“I think some of the difference is that a lot of the people we ran last year were outside of SGA,” Rance said. “And that’s kind of where our focus was because we didn’t only see a problem with some of the leaders on SGA, we saw a problem with a lot of the establishment with how the institution is ran.  So I think our idea was that we needed to pull student leaders from different parts of campus who have proven that they can effectively run an organization or any kind of thing like that on campus.”

Candidates for SGA (from left) Kristina Pouliot, Patrick Pfohl, Damian Wille and Adriana Kemper are running for cabinet positions alongside Presidential candidate Vanessa Cadavillo. (Photo courtesy of Wille, Pouliot, Kemper, Pfohl for SGA Cabinet 2015)

Candidates for SGA (from left) Kristina Pouliot, Patrick Pfohl, Damian Wille and Adriana Kemper are running for cabinet positions alongside Presidential candidate Vanessa Cadavillo. (Photo courtesy of Wille, Pouliot, Kemper, Pfohl for SGA Cabinet 2015)

This year, the tables have somewhat turned as of the four running for cabinet with Cadavillo and Popp, only Kemper, who is the Senator of First Year Students, serves in elected SGA office. Pouliot is a leader in Honors Student Government (and also the an SGA liaison for the group), Pfohl is the vice president of Act Out DePaul as well as their liaison to SGA, and Wille serves in Alpha Phi Omega, a service fraternity.

Pouliot said these multiple perspectives give them an advantage.

“Sometimes you need to be willing to stay the course and really be dedicated and really be in things for the long haul to make real change happen, because a lot of things don’t happen overnight,” Pouliot said. “And I think that that’s a really important aspect of our leadership positions is that they test us in really different ways and being able to bring that perspective to a new organization is going to open up a lot more doors than maybe being in the status quo.”

While they did not know each other well prior, the group said they hit it off immediately once they started talking with each other and doing campaign events.

“After we all met each other for the first time, it feels like we’ve known each other for so long,” Kemper said. “We all have different perspectives and we all come from different organizations, so I feel like we’re able to represent all different groups of people.”

For Vincentians United, it was the identification of similar problems and the desire for a change in SGA leadership that brought them together.

“We’re all friends, we all tend to be a similar voting bloc, but then it was like when we realized there needed to be an elective change in the leadership is when we knew we had a better chance running all together than as any individual,” Solorio said.

Solorio said the group chose the name VU because they believe it is the, “one unifying thing and the most representative thing about DePaul University.”

The slate believes their diverse backgrounds also give them an advantage. Solorio is an army veteran and board member on the Illinois Board of Higher Education, Kerins is the president of Unicef DePaul, Anderson is an affiliate with the Black Student Union and other groups, and Salter volunteers with several community organizations.

Candidates for SGA cabinet (sitting from left) Tyler Solorio, Lindsey Salter, Cara Anderson, and Joseph Kerins are running on the Vincentians United slate with presidential candidate Luke Kula and vice presidential candidate Michelle An (standing from left) in the upcoming elections. (Photo courtesy of Vincentians United)

Candidates for SGA cabinet (sitting from left) Tyler Solorio, Lindsey Salter, Cara Anderson, and Joseph Kerins are running on the Vincentians United slate with presidential candidate Luke Kula and vice presidential candidate Michelle An (standing from left) in the upcoming elections. (Photo courtesy of Vincentians United)

“I think we bring a more holistic understanding of those dynamics and what needs to be done in order to bridge those gaps because student government is supposed to represent all of us,” Salter said.

One of the group’s big focuses is transparency and holding SGA officials accountable.

“We talk transparency, but it’s also about accessibility at the same time because while some of the stuff is out there, we need to be held accountable for every bit of it,” Solorio said. “But we don’t even publish minutes for our most basic of meetings. That should be an absolute bare minimum requirement.”

While inter-SGA tensions have flared up over the past few years, Pfohl believes his slate will turn the page.

“SGA has had those critiques in the past about having that tension in-house and all that,” he said. “What I think is nice about the four of us is that since we are fresh faces, I don’t care what has happened in the past years, I want to make actual change for students.”

The candidates running for each position will participate in head-to-head debates in front of the DePaulia editorial board this Thursday and Friday. More details will be released in the coming days.

“More than anything, it’s good that students have a choice this year for president,” Rance said.

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DePaul SGA candidates gear up for contested election