Executive alliance candidates discuss platform points

Sheryl Lawrence

Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in The Daily Texan’s March 5 print edition.

UT students will have the opportunity to vote next week in student body elections and choose who will represent them and their views for the 2021-22 school year.

The four executive alliance candidates are Kiara Kabbara and Ethan Jones, Gautham Metta and Quenton Stokes, Javier Lopez and Danielle Buffa, and Dwight Peton and Domanique Williams. Students can vote at utexasvote.org from Monday, March 8 at midnight to Tuesday, March 9 at 5 p.m.

The student body executive alliance is one of the only direct contacts students have with University administration, along with the Graduate Student Assembly’s executive alliance and the president and vice president of the Senate of College Councils.

Over the past year, the student body has been through a lot, between Winter Storm Uri, COVID-19 and the protests against systemic racism in summer 2020. Students are still calling for the University to remove “The Eyes of Texas” as the school song due to its racist history, but the University has received pressure from donors and alumni to keep the tradition in place. Only one of the executive alliance campaigns discussed whether they plan to push the administration to remove the song.

Students have also expressed frustration with getting help from the Counseling and Mental Health Center, and all executive alliance candidates said they want to expand CMHC access. All campaigns except for the Kabbara and Jones campaign said they want to provide students with more free appointments. The Kabbara and Jones campaign said they want to provide funding to CMHC because they are underfunded and understaffed, which Jones said is the reason the CMHC cannot provide students with more support.

Dwight Peton and Domanique Williams: Determined to Deliver

Presidential candidate Dwight Peton and vice presidential candidate Domanique Williams said they are consistent and have no problem with bothering people to follow through on their campaign promises.

In an interview Wednesday, the candidates said they did not have their platform fully finished or a place where students can find all of their platform points. They said they hope to have a website up by the weekend.

They said their three finalized campaign points are assisting students with their basic physical needs, addressing student mental health and open communication with the student body.

Philosophy junior Peton and architectural engineering senior Williams want to expand the CMHC’s budget to so it can hire more diverse counselors to address unique challenges students may face due to their ethnicity or race.

“There should be no reason why the counselor should not reflect the student body and the different people coming to CMHC and using their resources,” Peton said.

Peton and Williams said they did not include removing the “Eyes of Texas” in their initial campaign because they believe it will eventually happen because the University has made changes in the past, such as removing statues.

Kiara Kabbara and Ethan Jones: Longhorns, Y’all Ready?

Presidential candidate Kiara Kabbara and vice presidential candidate Ethan Jones said they would be the best team to lead the student body because they have already been doing work through Student Government and other organizations.

“Not only do we have these ideas, but they’re not arbitrary,” said Jones, a business honors and public relations junior. “We’re giving you actual tangible ways and structural ways that we’re going to address the systemic issues.”

The candidates have five main campaign points: academic affairs, campus housing, equity outreach, services and sustainability, and executive projects. They want to create an endowment for the ethnic studies department to focus on learning about different cultures. To emphasize learning about different perspectives, government junior Kabbara and Jones also want UT to partner with historically Black colleges and universities for students to take classes.

“Studying different aspects of different cultures and identities and backgrounds are so important to not only increase your education but more importantly, increase your empathy towards other people,” Jones said.

Kabbara and Jones said they did not include removing the “Eyes of Texas” in their initial campaign because they have already been working on the “Rewrite not Reclaim” campaign.

Gautham Metta and Quenton Stokes: Power to the Students

Presidential candidate Guatham Metta and vice presidential candidate Quenton Stokes, a supply chain junior, said they will be able to offer a unique perspective to SG because they have not previously been a part of SG and emphasize the importance of transparency.

“People who are already a part of SG have been a part of SG, (and) whether or not they 100% align with the current administration is one thing, but they’re more or less all trying to move in the same direction,” finance junior Metta said. “We think that can create groupthink, where somebody is afraid to speak out.”

The executive alliance candidates want to push for the Texas A&M and Texas rivalry game’s reinstatement, which ended in 2011, to bring students together and create memories.

“We can’t bond over ‘The Eyes of Texas’ anymore, (and) I’m never going to sing it again,” Metta said. “There’s so many other things we can do to unite the student body, and I feel like the A&M game is another way to do that.”

Javier Lopez and Danielle Buffa: We put the U in UT!

Presidential candidate Javier Lopez and vice presidential candidate Danielle Buffa said they want to give students a voice instead of being the students’ voice.

The executive alliance candidates have six main campaign points: Your Voice, Your Health, Your Orgs, Your Identity, Your Name, and Your Government. For ‘Your Identity,’ they want to push the University administration to add a nonbinary gender identification option upon registration. For ‘Your Name,’ they are advocating for students to be able to place their preferred name on their diploma rather than their legal name.

“The bigger overlying goal is making sure the University has the tools for those students that want to change their names, or they’re going through a transition phase, and they don’t identify with the name that they came into the University as,” said Lopez, an international relations and global studies junior.

For ‘Your Orgs,’ the candidates want to use more of the SG budget to allocate to student organizations. However, SG only has the capacity to allow student organizations to request funding through SG once per semester, according to previous reporting by The Daily Texan.

Lopez and Buffa said they did not include the removal of “The Eyes of Texas” in their campaign because through their open-floor meetings, they want students to express this concern directly to University administration.