Get to know your student government candidates

By Claire Desmarais | March 27, 2018 9:58am

Photo submission from candidates Alex Peterson (President) and Carrie Fitzgerald (Vice President) on the left and candidates Sitara Nath (President) and Michael Gallagher (Vice President) on the right.

Tuesday and Wednesday, students can vote for who will represent them in student government. 

Among the senators and other Executive Board positions, students can decide whether they want Alex Peterson and Carrie Fitzgerald as their president and vice president, or Sitara Nath (P) and Michael Gallagher (VP). 

Both Nath and Peterson have played prominent roles in ASUP in the past. Peterson is currently the speaker of the Senate and Nath is currently the CAS (College of Arts and Sciences) senator.

The Beacon spoke with each pair of candidates about their campaigns and learned a little more about who they are. 

Sitara Nath (P) and Michael Gallagher (VP): 

Where are you from, and what is your current major?

Nath (she/her): Olympia, WA. I’m a double major in political science and philosophy.

Gallagher (he/him): Sunnyside, WA. I am a double major in biology and Spanish.

What is your current position within ASUP or what has your involvement been with ASUP?

Nath: I am currently the CAS (College of Arts and Sciences) senator, and I have been for the past year. 

Gallagher: I was a freshman senator, and then I worked on the internal outreach committee and was on the constitution committee to redo the constitution.

What issues are you most passionate about working on at UP?

Nath: We are actively committed to diversity and inclusive issues. I am really passionate about supporting underrepresented student groups. We are really pushing for the administration to commit to a diversity center within the next five years, and I think that is one of our key giant action items for long-term. We also want to work with faculty to update training to make students’ experience more inclusive and how to incorporate diversity in the classroom, especially with the revision of the core curriculum right now. 

I’m also really passionate about engagement. In response to the frustration to the community about the pay raise, Michael and I really want to start working by doing more events and more community building, and a lot of that has to do with more of a presence with student groups. 

Gallagher: When I first came to UP, I was told that I was a lot people’s first gay friend. In that sense, I kind of felt very alone. It wasn’t really a good environment for people to come out if they weren’t already comfortable with themselves. I want to create an environment where people feel safe to develop their own sexuality and develop their own gender identity.

And also, there is a severe lack of racial diversity at UP, which is just starting to get shifted with the freshman class. We kind of have too much of a homogenous campus to the extent of which we are not getting exposed to different cultures, experiences, or viewpoints which is really important to a good, supported, well-rounded education. 

And with people who are racial minorities, there definitely are some toxic environments at UP just due to the fact everyone is so homogenous. I want to create an environment where there really is good discussion, but minimal micro-aggressions. Information that is presented right when you get here. Better education, better environments and more open and honest experiences. 

What are your plans to solve these issues?

Sitara: One of our goals next year is to actually, in person, meet with every single club, at least once, and establish a relationship with them so that they feel more comfortable approaching us for collaborative efforts. Another thing we want to work on is working with any students who are interning on campus, and seeing if we can collaborate on projects together or co-sponsor events together. The commitment to engaging the UP community and doing community building, and going out and meeting students is something that we are both really passionate about. 

Gallagher: One of the big things Sitara and I were talking about first, we need to have a space where students can be students. We really love the idea of a student center. Gonzaga about four years ago just opened their big student center, and it’s a huge success. It’s gigantic. There’s more food spots, offices, and spaces for diversity, sustainability and inclusion centers. There’s this hub of all this information and good support and environment. 

We want to talk to the administration about the implementation of a student center within the next five to ten years. It’s going to be really difficult because UP already has its ten-year plan in developing River Campus, but regardless we want to make that a priority to getting the ball rolling. 

Second, we want to work with the administration on their core curriculum change to allow better education on diverse cultures, backgrounds and histories. 

Also, (we want to work) with freshman workshops to implement crash courses on cultural proficiency, religious proficiency, gender and sexuality proficiency, to kind of implement these into the idea of freshman workshops. 

You mention transparency as part of your platform, what does that look like and how will you accomplish it?

Nath: Another aspect of our platform that I am really passionate about is transparency. We get a lot of complaints that we aren’t transparent. I think a lot of that is going to come in the form of kind of working with The Beacon more to tell them more what we are working on and getting students more aware of what we are working on. Expanding our ASUP newsletter and collaborating more through communications that students are informed of what we are working on. 

Gallagher: Transparency is super cool. It literally just means everyone knows what we are doing. One of the big things I think is lacking is easily digestible information. I want to work with the director of communications that’s going to be on our team and implement a few basic things just to make sure information is accessible. After the Senate meetings, I want to film a less than a minute video about what we did in the Senate today, and what we are doing next week and have that come the day after Senate meetings. 

Why did you decide to run for ASUP President?

Nath: I had some people ask me early on, and I had decided not to initially because I wasn’t sure yet if this was the role where I could make the most difference on campus because that’s always been my goal. 

I realized that during a lot of my time at UP, there has been a theme of me feeling unhappy with the fact that we haven’t had diverse leaders reflected in that student government. And so, not only was it about what I can do in the role, but also a huge symbolic element of this is that students, especially underrepresented students, think ASUP is unapproachable. A lot of them tell us it’s because they don’t have students in leadership positions that look like them. 

I think that culture change and approachability issues can be shifted if Michael and I join this role. Michael would be the first openly gay vice president, and I would be the first woman of color as president. There is a huge symbolic element that would show the university that we are moving in the direction that regardless of what identity you bring to the table, you can have an opportunity to be in this role. 

Describe yourself in one word. 

Nath: Passionate. 

Gallagher: Energetic. 

What is a fun fact that you think students should know about?

Nath: My guilty pleasure is celebrity gossip. 

Gallagher: I moved a lot as a kid so I was exposed to a lot of different cultures. I was born in El Paso, TX, and then moved to Alabama, and finally moved up to Sunnyside, WA.  

If you could visit one place in the world, where would you go?

Nath: I would really love to go to Tanzania. My mom was born there, and I think it would be so cool. 

Gallagher: Thailand or Australia. 

Alex Peterson (P) and Carrie Fitzgerald (VP):

Where are you from, and what is your current major?

Peterson (He/him): Happy Valley, OR. I’m a finance major and history minor. 

Fitzgerald (She/her): Grass Valley, CA. I’m a marketing and finance major.

What is your current position within ASUP or what has your involvement been with ASUP?

Peterson: I’m a junior class senator and speaker of the senate. 

Fitzgerald: I’m currently a business senator, and as a sophomore, I was also a business senator. 

What issues are you most passionate about working on at UP?

Peterson: One area that I’m most interested in is that one pillar of ours, service, because there is so much potential that I see for it. It’s something that I really believe will just objectively benefit our entire community. 

Having that disposition towards self-sacrifice for others and helping your greater and larger community is something that really changes people, and changes them for the better. It’s got that externality of improving your larger community, and what I mean by that is not just our campus, but actually Portland itself. We have that opportunity to develop a culture here that actively improves the city of Portland. That’s exciting. 

Fitzgerald: I feel safety is really important. We’ve had a few break-ins and a few issues this year, and that really needs to be better addressed in the coming year. 

There’s a whole other aspect to safety. He (Alex) said in his speech last night (Speech Night) that we want this to be your home and when you’re home, you’re safe from feeling attacked. That was kind of an encompassing thing about sexual assault and horrible things that do happen on other campuses that we want to address and make sure that stays away from ours. We want to partner with SASA, and bridge gaps. We recently got Green Dot-certified and that was a wonderful experience. 

UP is our home, and you deserve to feel like you are at home always. And that’s a very important value we want to spread across campus. 

And the crosswalk. That is such an issue we want to address as well. 

Alex on the crosswalk: It’s one of the things where everyone on campus is in an agreement that the crosswalk needs to be fixed. I mean, crossing a street is an issue that has been solved by society. It doesn’t make sense why it has to be so dangerous here. 

What’s needed is someone to advocate aggressively and consistently within the University, but (also) with the University to the city of Portland. 

What are your plans to solve these issues?

Peterson: When we talk about instilling that idea of service in the community, it’s a very non-linear goal. How do you get to a point where you know your campus has a genuine interest and disposition towards helping others? There are steps we can take towards that. 

First, the biggest one is partnering ASUP with the Moreau Center because really so much of what we want to do is what the Moreau Center is doing, but they don’t receive as much support from student government as they should. Part of that looks like financial support, and there is a good amount of funding we can provide to their immersions. But writing a check isn't enough. I’d like to see more formal partnerships to promote it to students, to expand the opportunities so students can take experiences like that, but also to brainstorm and innovate to bring similar experiences to campus, making those experiences more accessible financially, and accessible to students who want to stay on campus. 

Fitzgerald: We’ve thinking of ideas of how to do that (fix the crosswalk issue). We are thinking of flags on each side students could have when they walk by. Maybe lighting up the actual crosswalk, like the paint. 

It’s horrible and such a bad situation. 

Part of your platform deals with sustainability. What are some ways you are going to make a sustainable campus at UP?

Peterson: I think the wall we are running into isn’t student interest. It's clear that sustainable focus is a priority, but that priority needs to be made clear to the administration. The first major step would need to be the creation of a full-time Sustainable Coordinator. It’s something that I’ve already started working on with Brandon Rivera, and we’ve been talking with (Vice President for Student Affairs) Fr. (John) Donato. 

They’re open to the idea, but it’s going to take longer. To add another position is not a change you can make in a month. It’s something that takes more than a year of planning and budgeting. It’s a long-term goal that the University is interested in. What I want to do is continue to add that pressure. This is something the students want, and we need it as soon possible, so it’s not something we’ll get around to one day, but something we need to start working towards and make it a higher priority. 

That’s not the solution, but the beginning of a solution. 

Fitzgerald: Like those cups they’re looking into at The Commons where they are actually compostable cups. Similar to the eco-containers, The Commons is trying find something like that but with cups and we would love to help them with that. Little things, but equally big things. 

It really does come down to the students that have this drive. We both attended the Town Hall meeting, and it was really well-attended.

Describe yourself in one word. 

Fitzgerald: Ambitious. 

What is a fun fact that you think students should know about?

Peterson: I play the ukulele. My favorite song is “Riptide” by Vance Joy. 

Fitzgerald: I worked on a Broadway play once. It was South Pacific. 

If you could visit one place in the world, where would you go?

Peterson: Germany. 

Fitzgerald: Iceland.