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UCF’s SGA presidential candidates share plans for campus life

The UCF campus may see a pedestrian walkway across Alafaya Trail or more LGBTQ-community inclusion, depending on the outcome of this year’s Student Government Association elections. On March 11, the SGA presidential and vice presidential candidates participated in an involvement debate in the Key West Ballroom where they discussed their goals and experiences regarding campus life. An official presidential debate between candidates Weston Bayes and Jessica Gottsleben will be held March 18, and voting opens for students March 24.

Pre-debate prep: While the candidates prepare, supervisor of elections Kathryn Andriotis speaks with moderator and fellow election commissioner Leah Chakoff  (on stage) before beginning the involvement debate on March 11.

Pre-debate prep: While the candidates prepare, supervisor of elections Kathryn Andriotis speaks with moderator and fellow election commissioner Leah Chakoff (on stage) before beginning the involvement debate on March 11.

Bayes partnered with Sydney Altfield for a campaign based on the slogan “stand uknighted.” Bayes serves as Senate President Pro Tempore, Activity & Service Fee vice chair and previously served as the homecoming comedy knight director. Altfield is the president of Alpha Phi Epsilon, a member of the library advisory board and previously served as the homecoming concert director.

“All of the different places that I’ve put my foot through the door have definitely shaped my leadership skills,” Altfield said.

Gottsleben and running mate Lucdwin Luck could be “revolutionizing knighthood” if elected. Gottsleben is the student director of Knightcast, sits on the library advisory board and served as vice president of Honors Congress. Luck is a brother of the Theta Chi fraternity, works at Transfer & Transition Services, is the secretary for Student Veterans of America and is himself a U.S. Marine Corp veteran. Gottsleben said that her ticket represents all Knights, as she is non-Greek, and Luck is a non-traditional, 28-year-old transfer student.

“I’m a servant leader, so I do not serve for myself,” said Gottsleben. “If the student body wants something, that’s what we want to deliver.”

Both campaigns agreed on the importance of delivering a safe environment to students.

“We look at safety, but we don’t realize that there’s things that we can’t see. Yes, we can try to handle safety that is directly on campus, but what about off-campus housing communities?” said Gottsleben.

Bayes countered by explaining his ticket’s plan for off-campus safety. He and Altfield proposed a walking bridge over Alafaya Trail that would allow pedestrians to safely cross the street.

“You’re crossing almost six lanes of traffic trying to get to campus from off-campus housing, and that’s so dangerous, and every Knight should feel safe when they try and come to campus,” said Bayes. “It shouldn’t be a hassle; it shouldn’t be a danger; it shouldn’t be a risk if you try to come to your own campus.”

Election season has arrived, and so have the campaign promotions. Weston Bayes and Sydney Altfield are running against Jessica Gottsleben and Lucdwin Luck for SGA president, and voting begins March 24.

Election season has arrived, and so have the campaign promotions. Weston Bayes and Sydney Altfield are running against Jessica Gottsleben and Lucdwin Luck for SGA president, and voting begins March 24.

            Though both candidates also stressed the importance of inclusion, Gottsleben and Luck emphasized this goal particularly toward the LGBTQ community. When introducing themselves, Gottsleben and Luck stated their gender pronoun preferences as “she” and “her,” and “he” and “him,” respectively.

“The LGBTQ+ community of UCF is my family, and I want to make sure that non-gender-binary students for once have a voice and that their trans issues are for once respected on campus,” she said.

Gottsleben and Luck seek to make the Safe Zone program as inclusive as possible, as she said the former ally program was misrepresenting the meaning of being an ally by giving the perspective that cisgendered, heterosexual people could not respond accordingly with the needs of the community.

These goals are just some of many platform points that the candidates will promote throughout the campaign.

SGA President Melissa Westbrook attended the event and advised that, while they are campaigning, candidates should “do it with passion or not at all.” The outgoing president also endorsed Bayes and Altfield as her successors.

“I’m fully standing behind them and giving them my 100-percent support,” said Westbrook.

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To Russia with Love: UCF student interns abroad

Through much of February, the world will focus its attention on Russia for the winter Olympics in Sochi. But Shannon Payne, a junior anthropology major, will be focused on Russia even after the fanfare dies down.

Payne will be traveling to Moscow this summer to work in the U.S. embassy as a Department of State intern. As a cultural affairs intern, she will work for 10 weeks doing tasks including preparing remarks for meetings, taking notes, meeting with exchange groups and assisting public affairs officers.

Shannon Payne

Shannon Payne, an anthropology junior, researches and compiles notes as part of her Global Perspectives at UCF spring 2014 internship.

Payne said she’s looking forward to her trip, and is grateful that she won’t be in Russia during the Olympics.

“It’s a little scary, just because this is the first time I’ve really been paying much attention to the politics behind the Olympics, but, I also feel like this is the first time that there’s been so much politics involved in the Olympics,” said Payne. “I feel like this time it’s just one thing on top of another.”

The 2014 Olympics has caused political concerns. According to PolicyMic.com, Russian law bans communicating to minors the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations.” Anti-gay laws have resulted in protests regarding the treatment of gay Olympians.

But Payne’s internship begins in May, and by then, the Olympic buzz will have faded. Though, that doesn’t stop Payne and her family from worrying.

“The first thing that my mom said when I called her and told her I got the internship was, ‘oh, I was hoping you wouldn’t get it,’” said Payne. “She doesn’t want me going to Russia. There’s a lot of safety issues; I’m worry about getting robbed; I’m worried about blending in.”

However, Payne should be prepared for the challenges she may face thanks to the education and experience she has received at the University of Central Florida.

Payne is currently in her second semester as an intern for Global Perspectives.

“The Global Perspectives office is sort of all things international,” said Jessica Gagnon, the program’s public affairs coordinator.

Gagnon said that internships are comprised of three pillars: office, research and events. For her research, Payne is studying the European Union and Russia and is creating weekly current event briefs.

If Global Perspectives has prepared her to speak the language of international relations, UCF’s Russian program has prepared her to speak the language of the people.

Payne has taken four semesters of Russian –the most that the school offers. In order to take her language skills further, Payne is considering taking an independent study with Russian professor Alla Kourova in the fall.

“It will be interesting to have an independent study with her because then for myself –she took four semesters in Russian, she spent internship in Russia, and it will be from the point, not only as a professor, but from the point of research even for me to see how she progressed,” said Kourova.

Payne characterizes herself as determined, and if she applies this work ethic, her language progression may be apparent upon her return.

“I just try to give my best; whether it’s in terms of schoolwork or friendship,” said Payne. “I try to give the best that I can, and if I try to do something and it doesn’t work out, at least I tried my hardest –then I can’t really hold it against myself.”

But, she might have to worry about her professor’s expectations.

“I mentioned to Shannon … ‘I’m going to be very hard on you this semester because I don’t want my friends think, “she did not teach you well enough to use Russian,”’” Kourova said.
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