A Non-traditional Politician
Politicians who keep their promises are hard to find.
Such politicians don't win elections. Just ask Gino Duran, former ASUA Senate candidate and founder of the United Working Students Association, a fledgling campus organization that hopes to fight for non-traditional students' rights.
Duran lost his campaign for ASUA Senate by a mere 21 votes. His campaign platform centered on helping non-traditional UA students who are faced with inconveniences in many areas of campus life, such as parking, night class availability, tuition, and low wages.
The university caters to the mainstream of the student body - students who live near campus and do not need to work full time - to the detriment of students who care equally about their education but cannot live as traditional students do. They may be parents, or they may need to work full time to support themselves - and the UA ought to do its best to accommodate them.
Duran is a full time student who works 25 hours a week as a community service officer with the university police. He hopes the UWSA will represent fellow non-traditional students.
But why is he keeping his campaign promise even after losing the campaign?
"I said I was running because I am someone who champions this cause," Duran said. "Over 25 percent of the electorate thinks helping non-traditional students is important, so there is a need for a group like UWSA."
Duran lost his campaign because he was a non-traditional candidate. He did not have connections within the Greek system. He did not have a catch phrase like "Bailey's Irish Cream" to punctuate campaign speeches.
He came very close to winning, however, because he was brutally honest. While most candidates enjoyed practicing their bullshitting abilities in order to get elected, Duran preferred to speak his mind.
When he gave a campaign speech to the Residence Hall Association, Duran told the group that off-campus students should have parking preferences.
RHA endorsed Duran for Senate anyway.
"I really got the feeling they just respected honesty," Duran said.
Despite his loss Duran feels his campaign for Senate was still a positive experience. He also admits to witnessing the dirty side of campus politics.
"A lot of people just view campaigns as a means to an end," Duran said. "You can't blame people for enjoying power or wanting things to add to their resumes to get into grad school."
But you can get angry with candidates running for office who claim they want to "improve" the campus and in fact want nothing but the power trip.
"Politics itself is kind of a dirty business," Duran said. "People with the purest ideas tend to lose. It's sort of the nature of the system."
However, according to ASUA executive vice president and president-elect Ben Graff, most candidates who win do believe in their issues.
"I agree with Gino that non-traditional students need representation," he said. "ASUA would be willing to work with such a group."
Graff ought to prove this by encouraging ASUA to provide UWSA with startup funds before the end of the semester.
Duran is considering applying for an appointed position within ASUA. However, he will probably accomplish more outside of ASUA, for UWSA has the potential to become a powerful lobby for non-traditional students.
But first it needs to be recognized as an official UA club. Duran has approached the Office of Student Programs and has prepared a UWSA Constitution.
Now, all he needs is a faculty member to serve as the club advisor before UWSA can receive full recognition.
"So far, no faculty member has agreed to help us," Duran said. "Once we receive full recognition, I intend on using ASUA startup funds to begin a major recruitment as well as publicizing our mission."
UWSA can build a solid foundation for it to begin working next year. This requires a faculty member who believes in the rights of non-traditional students as strongly as its founder does to step up to the plate.
And once it finds an advisor, UWSA will need backing from ASUA and officers like Graff to help it achieve its goals. Hopefully, the candidates who did get elected will respond to the organization.
Hopefully, they, like Duran, will actually try to get something done.