In their own words: President-elect Kirkpatrick and Vice President-elect Styc
In the wake of their victory in the 2017 ASuop Elections, President-elect Grant Kirkpatrick ‘19 and Vice President-elect Caroline Styc ‘19 sat down with The Pacifican to talk about their motivations for running, their goals for ASuop, and the issues they would like to address on campus. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Zach Withrow: Why did you both decide to run for your respective positions?
Grant Kirkpatrick: Firstly, I have always wanted to better advocate for students and make a government that is more involved, and tries to accomplish things on behalf of the students. And to do that, I think, we need to change some things in the internal structure. There are a lot of issues with transparency and accountability.
Caroline Styc: For me, I hadn’t thought about [running] at all until Grant asked me to consider it. But I took a lot of time to think about it, and during that time I realized how much I have struggled in dealing with ASuop. Being in a professional fraternity, you have to go to ASuop for a lot of things, and it’s not an easy process. I knew that I could make a change, make things easier for organizations on campus. I thought, “Why not? That’s just one way I could advocate for students.”
ZW: Grant, you’ve served as the Interfaith and Spiritual Life Senator for the past year. How did that experience influence your decision to run for president?
GK: It’s been great; I’ve learned a lot about how the Senate functions, and a lot of the history of the Senate. There’s a lot you learn being a Senator just because you get access to a lot of things. And really, my hope is to make all those things public; they shouldn’t be private. Primarily the Senate is a body that determines how to appropriate money, how to best use that money. That’s about 80% of what we do.
ZW: It sounds like the pursuit of transparency is one of your biggest motivations.
GK: Yes, and the response I always get is, “Why bother? Nobody cares. Nobody is gonna read this anyway.” That’s always the answer for why we’re not transparent. But from my point of view, nobody is gonna care if you always take the reactive approach. You can get people to care if you become more proactive and try to get the message out. I don’t have any illusions that suddenly 3000 people will start becoming involved. But if we can get 100 or 200 people more involved, that’s a start. Being a Senator, I’ve learned that you have to take things slow… I think it’s an important lesson to learn that process.
ZW: Caroline, what were your expectations coming into this, and have you gotten a good understanding of what your duties will be?
CS: One of the first things I told Grant was, “If I’m gonna do this, I need to know everything.” I didn’t want to be caught off-guard, or be unprepared. I knew about the student side, having worked with ASuop on organization funding… but not actually how the government worked. So it was important for me to learn all that, and Grant, who knows everything about it, answered all of my questions… Now I feel like I know a lot more, and I am definitely prepared to take on the role of Vice President because of Grant’s help, and what I’ve learned so far meeting with [ASuop Vice President] Matt [Monges] and [ASuop President] Wyatt [Bacon].
ZW: Grant, when you ran for Senate last year, you ended up losing by one vote. Were there any lessons learned in that experience? Anything you did differently this time around?
GK: Yes, a whole lot of things. Most of all, I think the reason I lost last time was because I was confident that I was going to win, and I didn’t continue to campaign hard in the last day or two. After I saw the results, I couldn’t stop thinking about all the people I had walked past that day [laughs]… So this time, the final days were very stressful; I started messaging everyone I knew, trying to get them to vote.
One frustration I had the first time around was that I didn’t want to change what I had to say to make it more simple. Because in my head that meant I was, in a way, lying, or being a politician, by not saying what needed to be said. But this time around, I realized that it’s not a matter of changing what you believe, it’s a matter of: if no one understands what you’re saying, then there’s no point. I got to the thesis of what I wanted to say.
ZW: Let’s talk about tuition. As everyone now knows, it is going up again this year. Is there anything ASuop can do to influence this issue?
GK: When it comes to lobbying, it’s really contingent upon how many students are involved. If a lot of students really invest themselves in our government, then we’re gonna have a much bigger bargaining chip when it comes to saying, “Hey, this is unacceptable.” But when you get what we have right now, 18% turnout in the election, it significantly reduces our ability to say, “Students are really upset about this,” because the numbers aren’t reflecting that.
Mainly, I would like [the University] to be more transparent about why they raise tuition… To me, it’s just the most basic idea of any institution to be as open as possible.
CS: Yeah, President Eibeck sent the email last week announcing the rising tuition. And almost immediately social media lit up; people in classes were talking about it. And they don’t know why it’s going up. Where is their money going? Like Grant said, it’s about being able to answer those questions.
ZW: You mentioned that a larger coalition of students who are involved can have an impact on these issues. I feel like that’s really the elephant in the room here at Pacific, the lack of participation. What are some ideas that you both have in improving in that regard?
GK: I haven’t really looked into [the apathy problem] enough to see if it’s unique to Pacific, or if it’s a national trend of people becoming less engaged in interpersonal activities. But it’s really sad that only around 18% of people voted in the election… I don’t think by next year we will have 50% turnout, but I think 25% is a reasonable goal for next year.
Removing as many barriers [for event planning] as we can is important. Like Caroline mentioned, it can take up to a month [of processing] for you to do anything, when it should really be as simple as a week and a half or so. We have this horrendous contract with Bon Appetit, which dramatically limits clubs’ abilities to have events with catering. If it’s over a certain amount, they have to use Bon Appetit, which is exorbitantly more expensive than outside catering. There are just a lot of things that we’ve gotten ourselves into, barriers to having events that would get people interested in clubs.
CS: I think the voter turnout is a reflection of students feeling that they can’t get anything done on campus… Students have recognized that the University is there, very quickly, to stop you from voicing your opinion… President Eibeck holds very few office hours, and holds town halls only once a year. It’s not easy to reach administrators, unless you’re lucky enough to be in a position like me or Grant.
GK: I think people will become more involved when they see some tangible change. We have to show progress. It can be difficult, because our government is very restricted in a lot of ways, being a part of the University. When we think about taking action, we have to think about what the University will do in response. There is no guarantee against the University simply giving us less money next year.
ZW: Are there any other glaring problems within ASuop that you want to address?
GK: When I talk about transparency, I really mean accountability. Seven out of the ten bills that I authored this year have been about accountability. The Finance Board, for example, makes financial recommendations. Nobody on that board, until I wrote this bill, had to disclose any involvement that they had with organizations on campus. Potentially, they could have been voting to allocate funds to groups that they, themselves, were apart of.
Another example is the fact that our budget, which is $800,000, formerly was only one page long. I thought, “Oh, this must be the table of contents.” It was insane! Thankfully, our current treasurer, Matt Montoya, has done a great job of laying significant groundwork for our budgetary process… Another thing I’d like to address is the fact that we don’t record our Senate meetings… I’d also like to work on making the campus more sustainable, and making sure Veteran’s Affairs is getting the resources they need; working with Residential Life and the Multicultural Center is a priority. There is a lot of work to do.
ZW: Who are your some of heroes?
GK: John F. Kennedy, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Alexander Hamilton… Lot’s of civil rights activists, like Harvey Milk, and Martin Luther King Jr… Barack Obama. My grandmother is probably the most influential person in my life. She was always someone I went to when I needed to talk things through. She marched with MLK; she spoke in front of the California legislature in support of LGBT rights… She was an amazing woman.
CS: A lot of my Econ professors are women, and they are very successful and strong. I really look up to them; they have been very influential in my life recently. I appreciate the work they have done and the help they have given me.
ZW: What is your favorite class you have taken so far at Pacific?
GK: One of the most interesting ones I’ve taken is Politics of Asia, with Professor O’Neill. I had no idea about Chinese politics, and even geographically, I had so many misconceptions about the eastern Asian coast. My mind was blown with how little I actually knew about all these Asian countries. I also just like Professor O’Neill and his style of lecturing; he’s great.
CS: So far, my favorite class has been one I am in right now, called Public Finance. It has really kind of turned into more of a discussion class on hot topics like health care, education, and social services. The class breaks down how the government attacks these problems. It is very interesting, and very important with regards to what we are experiencing in the U.S. right now.