Student Association Senate finance chair first to bid for presidential post

The leader of the Student Association’s Finance Committee officially launched his presidential bid Thursday, becoming the first candidate to publicly seek the top post.

Sen. John Bennett, U-At Large, said the top focus of his campaign is to lay claim to student space as the University reshuffles offices across campus this summer.

As departments such as Career Services and the Office for Study Abroad contend for a spot on the recently cleared Marvin Center fifth floor, Bennett said he will reassert students’ right to the spaces left behind in the relocation, if elected.

“There’s going to be a lot of valuable, empty real estate up for grabs and students are entitled to a share of it,” Bennett said, claiming that the student voice has been stifled in University talks about the space. He pointed out that students have lost out as traditional campus hangouts like The Fishbowl, the Hippodrome and WOW Cafe & Wingery boarded up in the last year.

If elected, the junior said he would improve campus safety by overhauling the 4-RIDE shuttle system to more immediately serve students who are alone or feel endangered.

Bennett instead proposed a “triage system” in which students are asked a series of questions about their safety and surroundings to help an operator determine the order in which students are picked up.

“People use it for the wrong reasons,” he said, explaining that the new system would prioritize a ride for one woman relatively far from campus over a group of men walking around campus together.

As president, Bennett said he would ensure that Gelman Library renovations also include smaller details, such as additional study rooms, a proper security detail, bike racks and a vending area – projects that have been brought up in the SA Senate this year but have gotten no traction.

Bennett served as senator for the Elliott School of International Affairs last year, when he was also a member of the finance committee.

Under Bennett’s leadership, the committee has taken a more active approach to its role distributing Student Association funds. This year’s committee has overseen substantial changes to the student organization funding process, implementing a yearlong budgeting timeline and encouraging a self-sustaining revenue flow for groups.

He said his experience on the finance committee in particular has prepared him for the Student Association’s highest spot.

“Being finance chair, I have to know everything about every org on campus,” Bennett said. “I’ve been talking to students and I get the issues.”

The junior is a brother of Beta Theta Pi, a member of the College Democrats, the College Republicans and the International Affairs Society.

Bennett’s announcement comes about a week before the official candidate registration period begins. Students can declare their bids Feb. 8, 9 and 10. Elections will be held Feb. 22 and 23.

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