A week after campaigning for all Undergraduate Student Government (USG) positions began, President-elect Morgan Smith and Vice President-elect Darylann Aragon are both exhausted and desperately in need of a nap. However, their excitement to transition into their new roles radiates off of them, despite the campaign fatigue. While the USG election cycle only spanned over the week of April 23, the process of planning their campaign and writing their platform has been occurring for months, finally culminating in their win and opportunity to move forward with their new administration.
“Over the past few months, we sat down multiple times a week . . . and that’s where conversations with student leaders came about and meeting with athletes and fraternity and sorority leaders and LLC freshmen and everyone in between came in,” Smith, a public policy and economics double major with a minor in leadership, said.
Before that could even happen, both of them had to decide to even be interested in running. Even though Smith and Aragon have been involved in campus vis a vis multiple organizations for the past few years, neither of them had really considered executive administration to be a possibility until this year.
Both became involved with student leaders on campus who encouraged them to run, as well as being inspired to want to contribute to being part of the solution after witnessing what was going on during fall quarter on campus while being abroad.
The two have known each other since they were freshmen, but have grown closer through their conversations about policy and their mutual love of DU, culminating in each planning to ask the other to be the other’s running mate.
“At the end of the day, I think it was just both of us knowing how much we love this place,” Aragon said. Aragon is majoring in international business with minors in sociolegal studies and leadership. “To have seen from abroad what was happening on campus and what the climate looked like here, we said we need to step up and do something about this.”
Smith and Aragon’s platform revolves around four major tenets: student voice and presence, community unity and inclusivity, campus reform and placing DU at the heart of Denver. Each principle is backed up with specific policy solutions, including creating a Leaders Assembly made up all leaders and presidents of student organizations, recognizing the Joint Council of Student Alliances, creating a student advocacy team in conjunction with the Sturm College of Law and working with the administration to connect DU to the greater Denver community.
“Every moment was calculated in the sense we weren’t going to offer an idea without a solution,” Aragon said. “That’s the way Morgan and I work best and that’s the way we want our Senate to work. We can complain and we can crowdsource and we can think about ideas, but none of that solves problems. Finding solutions and testing them is what does, so that was critical in the way we wrote our platform.”
The Leaders Assembly—which is one of their solutions for increasing student presence in USG—in particular is Smith and Aragon’s first priority after being sworn in during week seven. The plan is for the Assembly to meet the first time during a week eight as a precursor to next year’s meetings. That, along with appointing their cabinets and deciding senators to oversee committees, is the goal for the last few weeks of the school year.
Moving into next year, their top priorities besides the Leaders Assembly are working on the student advocacy team and getting the ball rolling on a conversation surrounding DU’s mascot as early as possible. DU, of course, has been without a mascot for a number of years and both expect that conversation to not only be controversial, but lengthy.
The student advocacy team is inspired by American University’s student advocacy center and would act as a resource for students navigating any part of DU’s legal or conduct system, including Title IX.
While their platform is full of legislative specifics, the underlying current is involving students and creating a place passionate students to make change.
“I want every student on this campus to have an answer to the question what does USG do. I want every student on this campus to know that and that requires everything we’ve laid out in our platform,” Smith said. “It’s about elevating students and their solutions to campus issues and events and understanding that USG is this our hub on campus, or should be, for student voice on our campus.”
Smith and Aragon will not be doing this alone. The duo will be joined by the 16 senators who were also elected in this cycle, as well their appointed cabinet members and any other members of the student body who make their voices heard. As it will be a collaborative effort, Aragon wants to make sure that credit is given where credit’s due.
“We are the figureheads,” she said. “One of our biggest goals and my biggest goals is making sure that praise and thanks are given where they are due.”
Not every goal will be accomplished nor every problem fixed, but Smith and Aragon aim to effectively resolve as much as possible, and to ensure that the solutions they create are sustainable past their tenure. But for now, they’re just excited to get started and for their lives to calm down for at least a week before being sworn in.