Student Government Association’s Secretary of Finance Timothy Conceison and Senator Jake Binnall are campaigning together for the 2018-2019 school year. Conceison is running for President while Binnall will be running for Vice-President. In the past both candidates have worked on the SGA Ways and Means committee and plan to use their experience to tackle the cost of student fees and tuition at the University of Massachusetts.
We ran a poll on the Massachusetts Daily Collegian website, showing the majority of our audience finds college affordability is one of the biggest issues on campus. As a presidential candidate what would you do to assure the anxiety of the rising price of college tuition?
Timothy Conceison: Jake an I have both sat on the Ways and Means committee, what we really worked on there is controlling and overseeing the only student-controlled fee on campus, the student activities fee, and in both of those years we were able to not raise that fee and keep it as low as possible. While allocating record amounts of funding to organizations on this campus, in terms of collaborating on other potential fee increases, and other policies that the University has tried to make up for in the short fall, that the commonwealth has provided as a result in budget cuts. I’ve been meeting with the Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance Andrew Mangles at every single one of these advisory board meetings, I’ve been the only candidate in this race to be meeting and collaborating with him. At every single one of those meetings when any type of fee structure has come up I have advocated against them on the behalf of all students.
Jake Binnall, as someone who has worked on the Ways and Means committee can you describe to me how you will be able to bring that experience to your position as Vice-President?
Jake Binnall: The reason why I did Ways and Means in the first place is because it was the only committee that gave me the ability to interact with all the clubs on campus. It was able to give me a way to go about all my projects, so Ways and Means was very intense; it was a lot of hours. I would not have described myself as a money guy, because the reason why I did it wasn’t because I was a finance major, the reason why I did it was because I liked to see other groups on campus do on-the-ground advocacy. And then on finance committee the reason why I switched over to that was because I could meet with different groups, I get to meet with different student groups every day and that’s my favorite thing and we get to fund groups that go to national conferences and its’s cool to see our students succeeding. Both of these things gave me insight on how to support those groups and how we can better support them, I think there’s a lot of issues on how to interact with our students and that falls directly under the roll of vice president and that’s one of those reasons why I am running. Because I identified those rolls in my current position, but the Chair of Finance doesn’t oversee student organizations or student businesses that much so I think that I’ve been able to see the issues and I want to run as vice president so I able to act on them.
As we look into the demographics of this campus we are seeing that less and less students of color are being represented at this campus, how would the presidential and vice-presidential ticket be able to handle that lack of diversity?
JB: That is one thing that I want to be able to work on, because as vice president there is a relationship between organizations such as Student Bridges. I feel like people don’t understand how amazing the work that they are doing is and the SGA relationship with them has been horrible. I’ve been in a few meetings with Student Bridges and they’ve felt as if the SGA does not care about them in a real way. That is something that I really would like to work on just because it’s sad and it’s not really helping anyone, so I really do want to foster conversations about what is wrong, why the SGA is viewed the way it is. Because I really do feel like SGA is viewed as an organization that does not represent all these groups is because if you go to a meeting on Monday, the demographics there are not very reflective of the campus or UMass itself. And I think that starts with us as the leaders of this organization to tackle that the right away, make large pushes to work with groups of underrepresented minorities on campus.
What do you think will be the biggest barrier with your ticket in terms of your relationship with the administration?
TC: It’s going to be turn over, a lot of these administrators are used to seeing Anthony Vitale, they’ve been working with him for the last two years. So it’s turn over, I’ve worked a lot with Enku Gelaye, with Andrew Mangles, those are my most contacted chancellors, but for the rest of them maybe I’ve sat down with them a couple of times, maybe they know my name, but not much about me. On the contrary, they probably know everything about me and not much about Anthony so that transition is going to take a little time, however in my experience starting with Ways and Means and finance and hopefully if all goes well secretary of finance, I’ve kind of looked up to Anthony, he’s kind of helped me make these transitions. In a full month-long transition period that’s something we’re going to be able to utilize. I’ve talked to the current student trustee Derek Dunlea and he’s said his plan after these elections is to get the newly elected president and vice president together and put especially a workshop on to transition. So to get us suited on day one and that’s something we’re both absolutely confident that we can do.
How would your relationship between students on the day-to-day basis on campus be as president and vice president?
JB: I don’t think our current senate structure is creating a space where students’ voices can be heard. Right now you can come and make announcements, but if you are not elected you have to come and get recognized, so there’s not a space where people can come and give their opinions so I think students don’t think it’s an approachable organization, because you come into this room where it’s very intimidating, you have to speak a certain way; there used to be a dress code. These kinds of things push people away and make us very unapproachable, so I think looking at other University structures for SGA meetings and creating spaces for problems on campus to be addressed anonymously. Simply, ways for people to interact with us, other than coming to a meeting on Monday night, I mean who wants to do that?
What do you believe that your presidential ticket would be able to offer the UMass campus that the Vitale/Wallace ticket has not already?
TC: We’re not afraid to step on toes, and I’m going to elaborate on that. Anthony as president and Lily for the last years as Vice-President, they have done a phenomenal job in representing the student body, getting this whole Student Union renovation off the ground and really operating in a lot of ways that students really need to succeed on this campus. Fortunately for us Anthony is graduating, Lily is graduating; there has to be this change. We have a very strained relationship on campus with several of our agencies, we have an even more strained relationship with several of our student businesses who with this renovation have even more questions such as “Where are we going to go? Who are we going to be provided for? How is that business going to stay afloat?” So one of things we are very confident about that we are able to do better than the administration and better than any other ticket right now is working directly with those organizations hearing their requests and acting on them. Anthony and Lily really worked to get this building project going and it is now going to fall on whoever is here next year to make it happen, so we talked about Student Bridges, their office is right there, and the SGA office is right over there. There are a lot of agencies that do not have room in this building that is one of the needs of this project to begin with. But it’s about getting all those agencies in the room with SGA leadership with our architectural agency firm and creating a task force which Jake has been able to sit in on these conversations on layout. ‘What are your needs for now, the interim period and for 20 to 40 years down the line?’
How confident are you that you will be able to take the presidential and vice presidential seat this 2018-2019 school year?
TC: We’re extremely confident, however with that, that’s contingent on us putting in hours and hours of work, in long time preparation for this. I can tell you right now it’s been a lot of late nights or early mornings in this case, to 2 or 3 a.m. We’ve been trying outreach to every single student on campus right now, to explain who we are and what we are trying to do if we stop working whether it be through the duration of campaigning and voting or through the duration of our term if all goes well we are wasting everyone’s time and resources. We are very confident that we are going to take this because we have the most experience, we have the most passion and we are here for the right reasons. Actions speak louder than words, we are not here for the title we are not here for recognition, we are here for what is going to improve this undergraduate experience and we are extremely hopeful that our constituents will be able to realize that coming out on Friday and we will be able to work to earn their vote for the next year forward.