This is a two-part series examining the feasibility of the platforms proposed by the candidates running in the 2020 Student Senate Election.
Free Staters, the only coalition running in the 2020 Student Senate Election, continued releasing platforms they plan to implement if elected up until the final week before voting.
The coalition, led by presidential candidate Apramay Mishra and vice presidential candidate Grant Daily, proposed 24 platforms focused on accessibility, inclusivity, affordability, student wellness and senate reform.
The Kansan spoke with campus experts to examine the feasibility of some of Free Staters’ platforms the coalition has been most outspoken on, including those focused on student wellness, affordability and inclusivity.
Presidential candidate Isabella Southwick and vice presidential candidate William Wilk have proposed 13 platforms as independent runners. The Kansan reached out to campus experts regarding the feasibility of these platforms.
Subsidizing and reducing the price of STI testing at Watkins
One of the coalition’s platforms is to work toward subsidizing and reducing the price of STI testing at Watkins Health Services.
Current prices without insurance for walk-in STI testing are $41 for HIV testing, $24 for syphilis testing and $24 for chlamydia/gonorrhea, said Watkins program manager Jenny McKee. All of the tests bundled together can be done for $88, which saves $21.
McKee said lowering the price any further would not be easy.
“The bundle was a recent attempt and reducing cost as was offering free HIV testing throughout the year,” McKee said via email to the Kansan. “Because of issues related to working with insurance carriers and what labs have to be sent off to where to be evaluated, getting these prices lower would be difficult.”
Free Staters has not reached out to her or Watkins Health Services Director Diana Malott to discuss the feasibility of the option, McKee said. Though the coalition members did not meet with them, Daily said they met with CARE Coordinator Merrill Evans and CAPS staff.
Decreasing the wait time for CAPS walk-in appointments
Free Staters hopes to increase access to mental health services by decreasing the wait time for CAPS walk-in appointments.
CAPS Director Michael Maestas said there is currently no wait time for first appointments. Additionally, students in crisis or who require urgent care have always been seen by CAPS at the time they request, Maestas said.
However, Maestas said wait times can be decreased with additional staff, which CAPS is expecting after Student Senate approved a $7.50 student fee increase for CAPS.
“We expect additional assistance in this area with the new positions that were approved for funding by Student Senate for fiscal year 2021,” Maestas said via email to the Kansan.
The Free Staters coalition, led by Apramay Mishra and Grant Daily, rolled out 14 new platforms Sunday. The platforms focus on affordability, student wellness, inclusivity and internal senate reform.
CAPS reported a decrease in wait times in October 2019 after a walk-in system was implemented in February 2019 in an attempt to combat the longer wait times for students.
Despite the progress CAPS has made with a new walk-in model and an increase in appointments, Daily said wait times can still be decreased. He also said staffing needs to be increased at CAPS.
“The policy states that there’s not a wait time, but I think more so what we’re talking about is individuals who walk in off the street have been turned in, saying, ‘You have to stay here for the next several hours until we’re able to fit you in,’” Daily said. “It’s a statement of fact that if you walk in, you’re not always going to be served within 30 minutes. It just isn’t that way.”
Reducing the price of internship credit hours
Free Staters also introduced a platform to reduce the price for internship credit hours.
University Registrar Tiffany Robinson said in an email to the Kansan that the cost for internship credit hours is based on the number of hours the student enrolls in, and it is possible for students to take internships without receiving course credit.
Robinson said there are ways to make internships more affordable. For example, students can also participate in internships without enrolling in a course or receiving course credit, Robinson said.
"In my 16 years at KU I am not aware of any conversations about reducing tuition for internship credits,” Assistant Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies David Gaston in an email sent to the Kansan by Robinson. “The KU core does allow for students to meet requirements through approved experiential learning activities that are not tied to course enrollment. We are exploring how these opportunities might be expanded in the future."
The Kansan hosts a Q&A with presidential candidate Apramay Mishra and vice presidential candidate Grant Daily who lead Free Staters, the only coalition running in the 2020 Student Senate election.
Providing online diversity, equity and inclusivity training to students
One of Free Staters’ platforms is to provide each student with online diversity, equity and inclusivity training, similar to the online mandatory sexual assault prevention and AlcoholEdu training students are required to complete.
Office of Multicultural Affairs Director Precious Porras said this platform could be implemented because it already exists on a smaller scale at the University, though it may take some time due to the possible financial impacts of the novel coronavirus.
“The University already has a contract with DiversityEdu for housing staff to participate in online training,” Porras said. “It is definitely a viable option and something that’s already available that other institutions are doing.”
Turning campus dining halls into study halls during finals and midterms
Mishra and Daily introduced a platform to turn KU dining halls into study halls after their regular operating hours during finals and midterms weeks so students would not have to walk home from the libraries late at night.
University Affairs Committee Chair and coalition member Max Schieber previously told the Kansan that coalition members reached out to KU Dining Director Jim Schilling about this platform, and Schilling said it could be implemented in the upcoming fall semester.
The Kansan reached out to Schilling for comment, but he did not respond in time for publication, and Assistant Director of KU Dining Keith Lake declined to comment.
Chief Information Officer of KU IT Mary Walsh declined to comment on the feasibility of some platforms.
Voting for the 2020 Student Senate election opened Sunday, April 19, and closes Saturday, April 25.