A new coalition led by Apramay Mishra, Student Senate Finance Committee Vice Chair, and Grant Daily, former Student Senate Government Relations Director, launched its campaign Thursday night.
Presidential candidate Mishra and vice presidential candidate Daily said the coalition will be focused on student engagement, mental health and sexual assault and prevention.
Mishra and Daily chose the coalition name “Free Staters” in honor of the Kansas settlers during the 1850s who opposed slavery.
“We have a multitude of identities that shape our character: race, religion, age, sexuality, ethnicity,” Mishra said during the meeting.
Mishra said despite all of these identities, each student shares one, which is the Free State.
Students both involved and not involved in Student Senate attended the coalition meeting.
Coalition leaders did not come with a prepared list or presentation of their platforms. Instead, following introduction speeches, the attendees workshopped platform ideas and potential solutions to problems within Student Senate.
“It’s kind of a more unique approach we’re trying to take with the campaign this year,” Mishra said in an interview with the Kansan. “We don’t want to come out and present, ‘This is what we’re going to do right now.’ We wanted to ask people what they think we should do and then hopefully build in meetings from there.”
The coalition members discussed how to improve Student Senate itself, including addressing transparency issues, raising meeting attendance numbers and bettering communication between chairs and executive staff members.
The University of Kansas Student Senate will look to fill two vacancies on its executive board in coming days.
“I’ve been in Student Senate now for almost three years, and from day one it’s been a not very inviting territory," Daily said in an interview with the Kansan following the event. "It’s been extremely difficult to get anything done ever, and frankly, a lot of people are entitled in there. There’s no reason as to why Senate should be so violent… Words matter and how we present ourselves matters.”
The coalition members also discussed solutions to issues on campus.
Daily, who authored a resolution requesting the University of Kansas reopen its sexual assault task force last semester, said his coalition’s main goal is to help undergraduate students, graduate students, food insecure students and students who have experienced sexual assault. Daily said he's planning on running a difficult campaign.
University of Kansas administrators still leave unanswered questions regarding Student Senate's proposed resolution requesting Chancellor Douglas Girod to reopen a sexual assault task force.
“People aren’t going to like us, but hopefully they can learn something from us,” Daily said during the meeting. “Through that hardship, we will achieve greatness. We will help students to the best of our ability and we will do everything we can to aid them.”
Addison Henson, the coalition’s campaign manager and current internal affairs director, said mental health is one of her biggest priorities. Henson said she will work to figure out how to continue cutting rates for Counseling and Psychological Services, making sure counseling is more accessible.
Coalition members also discussed finding ways to add scholarships for people who are of lower socioeconomic status, and making Student Senate’s ad hoc committee for social mobility permanent. The committee was formed after a U.S. News and World Report ranked the University of Kansas No. 377 out of 381 colleges across the nation in their retention of Pell Grant-eligible students.
The coalition’s next meeting will be at 6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 16 in the first-floor classroom of Templin Residence Hall.
“I think Senate is contentious, unproductive [and] hardly notable in our 50 year history,” Daily said in an interview with the Kansan following the event. “On our cover, this year was historic. Amongst the pages, they might as well be blank. I think next year is going to be different. I promise it’s going to be different.”
—Edited by Brianna Wessling