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Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

NISG elections: What you need to know

Pictured+left+to+right%2C+NISG+presidential+candidate+Lizbeth+Montalvo+and+her+running+mate+Joshua+Walsh.+Vice+presidential+candidate+Ethan+Woodhouse+and+NISG+presidential+candidate+Enoch+Bolaji.
Pictured left to right, NISG presidential candidate Lizbeth Montalvo and her running mate Joshua Walsh. Vice presidential candidate Ethan Woodhouse and NISG presidential candidate Enoch Bolaji.

Elections for Northern Iowa Student Government (NISG) president, vice president, and senatorial positions are just around the corner. The elected officials will represent the student body in a variety of ways, including meeting with the Board of Regents and legislators, lobbying with legislators at the state capitol and making student life decisions, including distributing funding for student organizations.

All students are invited to vote from 6 a.m. Feb. 27 to 6 p.m. Feb. 28 through an emailed link which will be sent to the entire student body. 

Student Body President: Meet the Candidates

Lizbeth Montalvo and Joshua Walsh:

Montalvo is a junior majoring in political communication and Spanish with a minor in legal studies. She currently serves as the student body vice president. Joshua Walsh, a junior majoring in public administration, is her running mate. He is a current NISG senator for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the chair of the Organization and Finance Committee. 

Enoch Bolaji and Ethan Woodhouse:

Bolaji is a sophomore majoring in biology and pre-med. This is his second semester in NISG, where he serves as a senator for the College of Humanities, Arts and Sciences. His running mate, Woodhouse, is a sophomore social work major who is a member of SSDP, Hilltop Media, and is an honorary member of the Student Social Work Association. 

Platforms:

Bolaji and Woodhouse

The Bolaji and Woodhouse pair are running with the slogan, “The Choice for Better Change.” The key message of their campaign is creating a more open connection between NISG and the student body.

“We are very interested in the relationship between the NISG and the student body. It’s almost nonexistent if you ask me,” Bolaji said. “I’ve spoken to so many people, and I’d say most of them don’t even know what the NISG means.”

He continued, “I think you actually have to find people and talk to them. What would you like to see? Are there any changes you want? Or are you comfortable? And that’s what Ethan and I are doing.”  

Through his conversations with students, Bolaji has fielded a number of student complaints, including overpriced parking tickets, the lack of air conditioning in dorms and Rod Library closing at 11 p.m. each weeknight. During their campaign, Bolaji and Woodhouse met with university officials to discuss these issues, including President Mark Nook and Rod Library staff.

Bolaji and Woodhouse are also pushing to require all faculty and staff to go through Green Dot training, the gender-violence prevention program available on campus, in efforts to limit sexual assaults.

In response to the recent recommendations passed by the Board of Regents regarding Diversity, Equity and Inclusion services at Iowa Regent universities, Bolaji said that he and his running mate plan to “peacefully advocate against that” in whatever way they can.

“We also plan to increase the awareness of safe spaces like the CME, and [UNI] Proud up to students, just so they have people around them because as humans, we need to be like people around us and I think that’s very important,” Bolaji said. 

Bolaji wants students to know that he and Woodhouse have their sights on making a big impact on campus if elected. “I’ve been a member of the NISG for almost two semesters, and one thing I’ve noticed about them is that they’re not very open to change,” Bolaji said. “If you want everything just the way it is right now, if you want that for next semester, don’t vote for me.”

“The reason we’re running is that we need to remind the students that we are in power and that this school is meant for us. We should be comfortable in our own school, because without us, there’s no UNI,” he said.

Montalvo and Walsh

“We HEAR You” is the saying propelling the Montalvo and Walsh campaign. HEAR is an acronym, standing for Health, Experience, Accessibility and Resources.

Alongside each of those pillars, their campaign is focused on working with overlooked communities, such as graduate students, international students, transfer students, deaf and hard of hearing students and blind students. Among those communities, she also wants to connect first-year students with needed support.

Montalvo has participated in UNI’s Jumpstart program for two years, which welcomes students to campus who may be marginalized, first-generation or low-income.

“I also worked with orientation coming in, and that is something that we don’t really realize affects the retention and success of students,” Montalvo said. “So making sure that right away they feel like they’re welcomed here. They feel like we have the right resources. They feel as if they are a student, not just a number.”

The pair have been working to connect with students of various backgrounds through their campaign process.

“Through our campaign, we’ve been reaching out to student boards and talking to student arts and getting their opinion on what they want to see. A lot of our platform is built around what we’ve heard from what student or to need around campus,” Walsh said.

Walsh also pointed to their campaign’s combined four years of experience in NISG. “We know the ins and outs, and we know what is possible and how to get those possible things done,” he said.

Montalvo also said that they plan to continue encouraging a diverse and supportive culture at UNI.

“It is no hiding that UNI is a predominately white institution. But I will say from the diversity aspect that I do see a lot of strong faculty, staff and administrators that are also people of color that are also diverse in their values and their beliefs,” Montalvo said. “The community is beyond amazing. Everyone sticks together. Everyone helps each other. Everyone wants to see each other thrive here because everyone feels as if they belong here. Because they do, everyone deserves a spot here. Everyone deserves to be here.”

“I just want you to make sure that you understand that your voice as a student matters,” Montalvo said. “That is something that I think I even overlooked sometimes, but the institution was built for students. This institution is for students. If it wasn’t for students, the institution would not be a thing, so your voice matters. Make sure people hear your voice. That is something that I want to humbly advocate for—your voice matters. Your opinions matter. You matter here.”

Mental health on campus

Montalvo and Walsh

“The biggest issue we see is mental health,” Walsh said. “So what we’ve heard a lot from students that we’ve talked to is that mental health struggles are by far their biggest issue and it affects everyone on campus, not just a select few. That’s why one of our pillars is health in our ‘We HEAR You’ campaign, to support mental health.”

Their campaign also supports the counseling compact, which was advocated for by NISG’s legislative liaison team. The bill was passed last session and makes it easier for qualified mental health professionals to provide services across state lines in states that are part of the compact. This session, LLT along with Iowa State and the University of Iowa are advocating for mental resource funding through the Iowa Board of Regents to the state legislature. They are asking for one-time funding intended for mental health resources.

Montalvo and Walsh also want to continue working with UNI Athletics and UNI’s counseling services to have a mental health counselor specifically for the Athletics Department.

Bolaji and Woodhouse

Bolaji considered mental health the second-most important issue on campus, right behind the need to connect and communicate with students. “The biggest thing is bridging that gap first, because we can’t advocate for people that don’t know us,” he said.

One of the propositions the pair discussed with President Nook was wanting to incorporate one mental health day into every four weeks of the school year.

“We think that’s really important, and he thinks he thinks that’s going to be extremely difficult, and so do I because if we take out a day from the school calendar, we’re going to have to add it back,” Bolaji said.

“We still think that’s possible. It’s just not maybe as realistic as maybe once every four weeks, but we still think, and President Nook agreed, that we still need mental health days taken,” he said.

Communicating with the Board of Regents and other Regents universities

Bolaji and Woodhouse:

In looking ahead to future communications with the Board of Regents, Bolaji sees a high level of collaboration between NISG and the student governments at the University of Iowa and Iowa State.

“Most of the time we have the same or similar initiatives, like mental health, that are common around UNI and Iowa and Iowa State,” he said. “We are student bodies. We will talk to them about the initiatives that we’d like to see and all of us together will face the Board of Regents. All of us together will go to the State House and make a pitch to convince them, which is easier to say than do, but that’s what we can do.”

Montalvo and Walsh:

“One big thing was we would want to put the right people in place to be able to deal with things like the Board of Regents and the state legislature,” Walsh said. “We would also want to make communication one of our key components so that at all times we’re actively communicating with the Board of Regents, the state legislators as well as the other regional universities to know what they’re doing and to let them know what we are doing.”

Montalvo added, “I think I have the advantage of already having the connections and have navigated the connections and how people work and how they deal with responses. Those are things that I bring to the table. It’s just also kind of navigating the other student governments. We’re all different regional universities, we have different needs. What they believe their students need is very different from what we may need because they’re both regional comprehensive universities, and we’re not, so their needs are definitely different. Being able to understand how they navigate that as well I think is very beneficial,” she said.

The campaign process

Both campaigns have been active on campus to gain support, whether tabling in Maucker Union, meeting with student organizations or utilizing social media.

Last Wednesday was the NISG Presidential Debate in Maucker Union. This event typically involves the candidates, both president and vice president, taking turns answering pre-written questions before opening the floor to student questions.

This year, Bolaji and Woodhouse stated that they would not participate in the debate less than an hour before the event was scheduled to begin.

Bolaji said that he made this decision because he personally felt the debate should be just between the presidential candidates without the involvement of the running mates.

“I actually spoke to the Chief Justice Aaron. I told him I would like to debate to be one v one, because that’s how everybody else does it. If I’m going to debate, it has to be one v one, and he said no. I told him I wasn’t going to go,” he said.

“Honestly, I don’t think it’s a loss,” he added.

Montalvo and Walsh participated in the debate Wednesday night anyway, despite not having an opponent present.

Northern Iowa Student Government

“I think our opponents say that they’re here to make change and they hear the students but they can’t even do the simple job of going to a debate,” Montalvo said in an interview after the debate. “How was that showing up for students? It was an opportunity for them to really voice their opinion, and I think it’s the starting point of administration. I think that really set a tone for it as well.”

Bolaji and Woodhouse also handed out campaign brochures last week with the title “The Student Body is Weak,” that described their campaign platform.

Both campaigns also have Instagram accounts with further information. Montalvo and Walsh’s account can be found @lizandjosh4uni and Bolaji and Woodhouse’s  @enochandethan4uni.

Other elections

NISG Senate elections will happen alongside the presidential election. The Senate candidates are as follows:

  • Geneva Bell- Senator for the College of Humanities, Arts and Sciences
  • Trina Tourjian- Senator for the College of Humanities, Arts and Sciences
  • Gabriel Salazar- Senator for the College of Humanities, Arts and Sciences
  • Cooper Messina- Senator for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Further election updates and information can be found at nisg.uni.edu or on Instagram @northerniowastudentgov.



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MALLORY SCHMITZ, News Editor

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