Mahreen Ansari’s world changed completely when they were sworn in as SGA president this past November. Ansari, a third year political science major, was initially the SGA vice president, but took the top office after former President Brandon Henderson resigned for mental health reasons.
With their term set to expire in May, Ansari is running for re-election under the banner of the UMKC Onward Party.
“I feel like the transition was smooth because Brandon and I had such a good line of communication,” Ansari said. “Throughout the entire time that I had been vice president and he had been president I felt like he had almost been preparing me for this moment.”
While Ansari has only been president for less than a semester, they’ve worked with the Senate to pass a bill reforming the SGA electoral process. Now, all voting will be conducted through RooGroups in an effort to make elections more accessible to students.
“That was something we cared a lot about when we came in, and I am really glad to see that happen,” Ansari said. “I think it’s going to improve how elections work this year.”
According to Ansari, the UMKC Onward Party has four key issues: student support, housing, student involvement and sustainability.
“Because of complications of COVID-19 we have had to continue to reimagine how resources are provided, and used, and advertised,” Ansari said.
One resource that has adapted this year is the Kangaroo Pantry. Ansari said they were excited to see the pantry expand its offerings during the pandemic, including a bookshelf of free non-perishable items located in the Student Union near Jazzman’s Café.
“That was something that we really worked on last year, to bring the pantry closer to campus,” Ansari said. “I think we can also turn [the Kangaroo Pantry] into a basic needs center where they provide things like menstrual care and personal hygiene products.”
Ansari also noted the importance of recognizing the burden that COVID-19 is putting on students, whether that’s anxiety related to contracting the virus, isolation or economic circumstances.
Abigail Weiler, UMKC Onward Party’s vice presidential pick, made history earlier this year when she became the first freshman in recorded SGA history to serve on the SGA Executive Board.
“Mental health is something that matters a lot to me,” Weiler said. “So I would love to pursue the referendum that previously failed if it is something that students are interested in next year.”
If elected, Weiler says she would make sure the SGA gets more student input during the process, planning informational sessions about how much it would cost and how it will benefit students.
“I am aware that students may not want to pass legislation that would increase fees because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is completely understandable,” Weiler said. “I want to gauge how the student body feels about this issue and encourage SGA to use this valuable input when deciding how to move forward.”
Ansari is a resident at Johnson Hall, and they were affected by the recent floods caused by a broken sprinkler pipe.
“I know how difficult it has been for students in Johnson Hall, even outside of the flooding,” Ansari said. “I know that in the fall semester we had a lot of first-year students who enrolled and applied for a year long contract, but because of their own circumstances had to leave early.”
Ansari says they want to advocate for possible alternative residential life contracts that would last one semester instead of the entire academic year. They want to urge the administration to consider adding on-campus housing that has some variety in living arrangements.
“I’m hoping that through establishing a line of contact with residential life, SGA can start to ask questions about the current set up of contracts and the exploration of new living arrangements,” Ansari said.
Ansari said they have seen a decreased level of engagement from the normaly numerous student activities on campus.
“I’ve noticed a lot of student groups that were super involved on campus have kind of fallen off because the membership is dealing with a lot, understandably,” Ansari said.
Kyle Potts, the party’s candidate for SGA comptroller, wants to encourage student involvement by making sure the SGA is reaching out to clubs, organizations and professors to alert students of resources and events.
“It is more important than ever that students are kept in the loop about events and resources to maintain the connectedness of the Roo family,” Potts said. “We hope to integrate new methods of advertising through more social media channels, emails to students or through texting apps like Remind.”
Potts said that while the Student Activity Fee is strong and well managed, he thought that there are some guidelines for student organization budget requests that could be changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Malavika Rajaram, running for internal affairs director, is a freshman in the 6-year BA/MD program at UMKC. According to Ansari, no one from the 6-year medical program has been represented on the SGA Executive Board in its history.
“Historically, students in my program have not been very involved in general UMKC/SGA-related activities,” said Rajaram. “I hope to increase the BA/MD program students’ participation in general events as well as act as a direct line of representation for students in my program.”
If elected, Rajaram says the UMKC Onward party will advocate for replacements to single-use plates and utensils in the dining hall with compostable or biodegradable alternatives.
“With the ongoing pandemic, we have seen a rise in the use of single-use plastic serving plates and utensils,” Rajaram said. “It is of utmost importance, the hundreds of pounds of plastic being discarded weekly is quite concerning.”
Inclusion and diversity was a focal point of the 2020 SGA campaign, Ansari says these topics will continue to be a top priority moving forward.
“As someone who is a person of color and someone who is feminine and non-binary, I noticed [not only] where there were cracks in our greater society, but also how these cracks reflect on UMKC,” Ansari said.
During Ansari’s term, UMKC has expanded the Multicultural Student Association lounge, and hosted a diversity training event in October 2020 that included introspections on privilege and racism.
“I think that the protests that took over this past summer are a really important reflection point,” Ansari said. “It’s important that we continue to push forward for inclusion and diversity on campus the way that we did last year.”
Voting for this year’s election will take place March 23-26 on RooGroups. Ansari said anyone with questions is encouraged to reach out to them on social media or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.