EVP candidates debate COVID-19, Waco-to-Baylor connection

By Matthew Muir | Staff Writer, Video by Grace Smith | Broadcast Reporter

Student Body President, External Vice President and Internal Vice President candidates discussed a variety of Baylor and Waco related topics during debates released Monday by Lariat TV News.

Student Government’s External Vice President works to connect the Baylor student body to the Waco community and to state and national partners. McAllen junior Pato Peña, Waco junior Christopher Sharon, Sierra Vista, Ariz. Sophomore Gracie Kelliher and Hoffman Estates, Ill., sophomore Zach Tufenkjian are the candidates for this position.

The EVP position deals extensively with outreach, and candidates were asked how they would bridge the gap between Baylor and Waco.

Peña said Baylor should be doing more to reach out and support local businesses.

“We play a larger part in the success as Waco than some of us may realize, and in order for us to be successful we need to help and support the Waco community.” Peña said. “The plan is to get Waco businesses on campus, so expand the Baylor [Go Gold!] program.”

Peña also said he wants to partner with apartment complexes around campus to implement recycling programs.

Sharon said he wanted to reach out to local businesses specifically in the wake of the coronavirus’ economic impact.

“I want to focus on reaching out to the small businesses after such a big thing that’s been going on lately. A lot of them probably are struggling to continue to stay afloat … reaching out, finding ways that we can be able to help them,” Sharon said. “Creating a newsletter every month, finding new ways to get involved and be transparent, as well as letting people on campus know.”

Kelliher said civic and student engagement was a key part of her platform.

“With this time frame that we’re dealing with and the general election coming up in November, through my platform point of civic and student engagement I plan to connect with the Waco government to enforce and encourage voter registration on campus and then partner with them to get voting booths on campus so that students don’t have to leave, therefore limiting transportation needs.” Kelliher said.

Kelliher also said she would focus on environmentalism and partnering with service organizations in Waco.

Tufenkjian said his platform focuses on reaching out to a wide array of businesses and organizations throughout Waco.

“I think historically the External Vice President’s office has only worked with the City of Waco and a few other local organizations; however, I think we need to go bigger than that,” Tufenkjian said. “I think we need to expand out the EVP’s office and its reach into the community.”

Tufenkjian said specific plans included “expanding the amount of local catering options available to student organizations for their events, especially those owned by more marginalized groups in the community,” increasing voter turnout, and working with organizations such as the Waco Advocacy Center and Family Abuse Center.

The Student Body President, External Vice President and Internal Vice President debates can be found in full on the Baylor Lariat Youtube channel.