UTEP SGA’s townhall introduces 2021 executive candidates


Julian Herrera, Staff Reporter

The UTEP Student Government Association (SGA) hosted a Facebook livestream on Tuesday, April 6, as part of their 2021 General Election Executive Candidates Town Hall.

A panel of three undergraduate candidates, each with uncontested positions, answered a series of questions submitted by UTEP students regarding pressing issues for the university, including transportation, leadership, social justice and mental health.

Samantha Morales, a political science junior running for vice president for internal affairs, is one of the more than 20 SOAR party candidates in the 2021 SGA Spring Election. According to its website, SOAR stands for Support, Opportunity, Academics, and Reconnection, the platforms the candidates will focus on if elected.

SOAR is the only student party in the election.

“I would like to inspire people to be the most successful version of themselves,” said Morales, a junior majoring in political science with a minor in communication.

Morales envisions the future of UTEP as having “lots of student engagement, with safety precautions in mind and student health and support.” This includes advocating for the promotion of COVID-19 vaccines and channeling funding towards physical and virtual mental health services, such as UTEP’s Counseling and Psychological Services.

“Even with physical classes, we can retain the advantages of our digital connection and resources,” Morales said.

According to Morales, social justice reform and recognition initiatives, such as SGA’s collaboration with the Black Student Union on Together We Commit, are also at the top of her concerns.

Austin Stephens, the SOAR party candidate running for president, also referenced the Together We Commit initiative as he elaborated on the need for action and advocacy to create a social change on campus.

Stephens, a history major, hopes to achieve “a democracy with power that resides in the senate and reinforces the will of the students through advocacy and collecting the voices of the student body.”

Stephens wants his presidency to be defined by an “open-door policy,” which fluently and frequently communicates with the student body to ensure university resources are known.

On the topic of safety, Stephens wants to bolster the efficiency of Miner alerts and public services for physical and mental health to promote comfort and relatability.

AJ Avila, an electrical engineering and political science major, is the SOAR party candidate for external affairs.

“Above all else, I am deeply driven to be an advocate for others, guided by a strong set of ideals, and a sense of integrity and fairness,” Avila said.

Like Stephens, Avila emphasized the necessity of creating a clear communication channel between students and SGA, so topics affecting the student body like parking or social justice can immediately and effectively be addressed.

Avila hopes structure a support system for students’ mental health as they make their return to in-person classes.

“A current focus is the prevention of student burnout,” Avila said. “There needs to be some patience and understanding about the mental and emotional health and condition of the students as they return to physical classrooms.”

Ballots for the 2021 SGA General Election close at 5 p.m., April 8. UTEP students can vote at sgalections.utep.edu.

The election will be followed by an in-person and virtual SGA senate session at 6:30 p.m., where a new constitution will be presented.

Julian Herrera may be reached at [email protected]