The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

Meet the Candidates of This Year’s USG Election

The Undergraduate Student Government elections will take place from Monday, April 15 to Friday, April 19. The Maroon talked to the candidates running for cabinet positions.
Undergraduate Student Government’s offices are located in the basement of the Reynolds Club.

This spring’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG) elections will take place from Monday, April 15 through Friday, April 19 at 4:00 p.m. Over a five-day voting window, students can cast their ballots for the Executive Slate (President, Executive Vice President), various Cabinet positions, and their College Council class representatives. The Maroon reached out to this year’s candidates to understand their respective platforms.

Executive Slate: Better Slate Than Never

Elijah JenkinsUSG President

Second-year Elijah Jenkins leads “Better Slate Than Never” with a bid for the position of USG President. Jenkins, who has been involved with USG since his first year, currently serves as chair of the College Council.

In his platform, Jenkins identifies fundraising training, RSO funding, and transparency as his three main priorities. In light of the University’s recent financial constraints, Jenkins hopes to “support RSO leaders who have been significantly impacted by USG budgets that have not increased proportionally with RSO growth in recent years.” By providing fundraising training to RSO leaders in collaboration with the Alumni Relationship and Development Team, Jenkins believes that RSOs can better fundraise to finance their activities.

Jenkins also hopes to increase support for low- to middle-income students by creating a Student Activities Fund (SAF). The fund will allow students to request reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses such as Ubers and food that RSOs could not cover.

Jenkins is committed to increasing collaboration with other student organizations on campus. Previously, he worked with the African Language Development initiative and successfully campaigned for an Igbo professor to be hired in autumn 2024.

As president, Jenkins aims to “collaborate more with RSOs and potential campus startups to bring the community closer to USG.”

Timothy Lu—Executive Vice President

Second-year Timothy Lu, who currently serves as the Vice President of Advocacy in the USG Cabinet, is running for Executive Vice President alongside Jenkins. Transparency is the most important issue for Lu, who hopes to “democratize the institution of USG and create a space for all students” through town halls, office hours, and more opportunities for student involvement.

“I want to help end the perception that USG members are separated from the rest of the student body… It’s simple—USG is the student government, and as such should serve student voices, not just act as ‘the middleman’ between students and administration,” Lu said.

Executive Slate: Lyftin’ La Vida Loca

Christopher PhillipsPresident

Christopher Phillips, a third-year in the College, is running for USG President under the “Lyftin’ La Vida Loca” slate. Like the name of his slate suggests, Phillips’ platform centers on one main objective: preserving the Lyft program.

“Right now, the University’s intention is to get rid of the Lyft program entirely, and recently, USG completely rolled over and is now working with the admin to facilitate this transition,” Phillips said. “When I saw this, I was outraged that we were being sold out, and I knew something had to be done. When elected, I will unilaterally cut off cooperation on the transition from Lyft to the crummy Via program on day one.”

Aside from the Lyft program, Phillips hopes to protect all things that he sees as most important to the student body. He hopes to advocate for the restoration of Botany Pond, 24-hour access to the library, as well as repairs to reduce flooding on the quad.

“The University has superfluous spending that they’ll need to cut down before they start taking away the things that make UChicago life awesome,” Phillips said.

Victor JiaoExecutive Vice President

Running alongside Phillips, third-year Victor Jiao supports continuation of the Lyft program and calls for a “complete overhaul of the University shuttle system.” As Executive Vice President, he aims to improve route reliability and scheduling so that more students can utilize the UGo shuttles.

Jiao also opposes the $1100 fee that Housing & Student Life charges students for staying for any duration of winter break.

Phillips and Jiao are part of a greater group called “The Duck Pond Movement.”

“The Duck Pond Movement is about finishing the duck pond, yes, but there’s a bigger vision at play here,” Philips said. “Finishing the restoration project is an ambitious goal, but that’s what we’re all about. We believe in big dreams, and bigger plans of action. Currently, USG has neither of these things. The institution is inherently pessimistic; we are optimists… There’s nothing stopping USG from taking huge steps to advocate for the student body but themselves, and we won’t be standing in our own way.”

Though neither candidate has previous involvement with the USG, Philips believes that this is an asset: “When we come in with outside perspectives and an insatiable desire to make this school a better place for everyone, it will be impossible for us not to see results. By relying on some legacy members for guidance but also by inspiring a spirit in USG that will attract a whole new excited class of associates, USG is going to be a problem-solving machine.”

Party: The Phoenix Party

The Phoenix Party comprises a cohort of 12 Executive Cabinet and College Council candidates, headed by Elijah Jenkins and Timothy Lu of the “Better Slate Than Never” slate. According to party member Andrea Pita Mendez, the shared vision of the Phoenix Party involves “fostering transparency, accountability, and inclusivity while championing the diverse voices and needs of our student body.”

Andrea Pita MendezVice President of Advocacy

First-year Andrea Pita Mendez is the unopposed candidate for the cabinet position of Vice President of Advocacy. During her tenure as a College Council Representative for the Class of 2027 and as the chair of the Academic and Career Affairs committee, she established a permanent subcommittee to collaborate with the academic advising department on a monthly basis. As VP of Advocacy, Pita Mendez hopes to host open office hours with USG, where students can come speak to cabinet members.

Arsima ArayaTrustee & Faculty Governance Liaison

Third-year Arsima Araya is the Phoenix Party’s candidate for the position of Trustee and Faculty Governance Liaison. Araya declined to provide a statement to the Maroon about her platform.

Independent: Kevin Guo, Trustee & Faculty Governance Liaison

Kevin Guo ‘27 is running as an independent candidate for the Trustee and Faculty Governance Liaison. During his time as a College Council Representative for the Class of 2027, Guo observed that “it is not uncommon for USG to run afoul of its own constitution and bylaws, including provisions of both documents that seek to promote Student Government transparency.” For example, Guo points to the massive backlog of unpublished USG meeting minutes, despite the fact that they are supposed to be publicly available. Improving adherence to USG bylaws is Guo’s priority, and he believes that “attempting to introduce new measures to promote transparency won’t work if the existing measures aren’t followed.”

Guo hopes to amend the USG’s constitution to formally establish an institution titled the Judicial Council. Emulating similar bodies at peer universities, the Judicial Council would enforce compliance to the constitution and bylaws of the USG.

Moreover, Guo hopes to organize a Student Perspective Series dedicated to discussion of the University’s current financial crisis so that students can converse with the Trustees about how the financial crisis is affecting them.

All eligible voters in the 2024 Undergraduate Student Government Elections received a link on Monday (April 15) morning to access the USG election ballot. Voting will remain open until Friday, April 19 at 4:00 p.m.

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