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Student body president candidates debate before election

Candidates for student body president engaged in a debate on March 8.
Candidates for student body president engaged in a debate on March 8.

Miami University’s Student Body President election begins today and runs through 7 p.m. on March 17. Ahead of this week's vote, the two pairs of electees held a debate on their platforms last Wednesday, March 8.

On one side, Nyah Smith and Jules Jefferson, running for Student Body President (SBP) and Student Body Vice President (SBVP), respectively, sat awaiting the opportunity to present their opening statements. Cameron Tiefenthaler and Grace Payne, running for SBP and SBVP, respectively, also sat ready to make their pitch.

Student Body President

In the opening statements of both SBP candidates, the background and achievements of both students were stressed to the maximum to display their dedication in the last three years. Along with these backgrounds came two campaign slogans.

“Longer tables, not higher fences,” Smith said.

“Continue creating change,” Tiefenthaler said.

The first question for both candidates was about their focus for fostering student engagement.

Smith answered first. She said her priority is to help students find groups that share their identities and help various organizations collaborate with one another.

“We’re here for academics,” Smith said. “However, you will find your home within the people that you surround yourself with.”

Tiefenthaler followed Smith with her own platform. Her focus was on identifying what makes students want to get involved on campus.

“I don't think students can be engaged on campus unless they have agency and they feel included in the first place, which is why with our slogan ‘create the good,’ we want students to feel that they have power and agency to make change in their campus and to be inspiring and inspired by others to do this action,” Tiefenthaler said.

The second question asked each candidate to share one academic policy that they will advocate for. Tiefenthaler said she intends to advocate for more-flexible attendance policies that encourage professors to be empathetic. Smith highlighted the importance of mental health screenings to help students, as well as her goal to encourage students to get more involved with community service.

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“We are inspired to create the good and want you all to create the good as well,” Tiefenthaler said. “This is why our slogan serves as an invitation to you all to join us. And that solidarity begins on election day.”

Smith followed up by explaining how she and Jefferson intend to “build the table.”

“We're looking at what Miami could be when our students are prepared and equipped to have a seat at the table to bridge the gap between resources,” Smith said. “I'm going to build longer tables, not higher fences.”

Vice President

Both Jefferson and Payne emphasized their running mates' goals and projects during the debate. Payne said although the SBVP role is typically seen as secondary to the SBP, that isn’t the case for their campaign. 

“I've always seen the role of vice president as being very collaborative,” Payne said. “When you look at the president and vice president there is an inherent ranking there, but I think in practice, that's not really ever how things are for Cameron and I.”

Jefferson also discussed the role of vice president as one modeled around partnership concerning issues and relations to the university.

“All the things I see Nyah do is so amazing,” Jefferson said. “That admiration, respect and friendship will help us be great leaders together.”


Around 40 attendees came to support the candidates and listen to their specific outlooks. 

Mollie Duffy, a sophomore political science and English literature major, came to the debate with her vote already decided. She enjoyed the debate because of the space it gave the candidates to explore their projects.

“It was really interesting to kind of see them in a setting where they're sharing their ideas out loud and articulating them,” Duffy said.

Hannah Vorderer, a junior Spanish and psychology major, saw the reasoning to vote for both campaigns.

“I think they’re both great,” Vorderer said. “I think it’s a hard decision that comes down to personal preference over the changes you want to see in your immediate next year on campus.”

Like Duffy, Vorderer came to the debate knowing what her choice will be when voting opens.

“I do know who I’m going to vote for,” Vorderer said. “But I do think both campaigns have what it takes to be amazing student body presidents and vice presidents for the upcoming year.”