Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of profiles of the five executive alliances currently in the running for student body president and vice president.
A year ago, Madison Gardner and Antonio Guevara stood campaigning on opposite sides of the Student Government elections. Gardner wore blue and white to support presidential candidates Natalie Butler and Ashley Baker, while Guevara wore red and black to support Abel Mulugheta and Sameer Desai.
Today, Gardner and Guevara vow to “Unite Texas” if elected SG president and vice president. Gardner and Guevara are one of five executive alliances, a team of two students running for student body president and vice president. They are running on a platform focused on benefitting student retention while improving safety, affordability, student engagement, services and traditions.
Gardner, a Dallas native and Spanish and finance senior, has been involved in Student Government for three years, during which he served as a representative for the College of Liberal Arts, University-wide representative and as the Butler/Baker external financial director.
This past year, Gardner worked with SG representatives to develop an initiative to create a more accessible room reservation system for student organizations, organized more than 800 students to aid the Bastrop community in SG-sponsored “Horns for Bastrop” and helped increase the number of organizations applying to the SG Excellence Fund, a fund that gives money to organizations to promote equality and justice.
Guevara, a public relations senior from El Paso, currently serves as president of the Kappa Psi Epsilon fraternity and as a member of spirit organization Texas Cowboys. He founded the 1st-Year Achievement Initiative, an achievement scholars program for underrepresented students within the Office of the Dean of Students. Apart from serving as campaign manager for Mulugheta and Desai, Guevara has never been involved in Student Government.
Although they have established goals they wish to accomplish if elected, Gardner said advocating for what he knows students want is more important than accomplishing his personal goals.
“I see the job of Student Government president as a representation of what students want at UT,” Gardner said. “Something I’m most passionate about is advocating for everyone.”
Some of Gardner’s and Guevara’s goals include measures to further donor involvement by reaching out and creating relationships with SG alumni. Gardner began work on the alumni network earlier this year as financial director and hopes to create a monthly newsletter, among other measures. Gardner said he would also try to establish a student relationship with representatives at the Texas Legislature by utilizing the connections he made when he interned at the Capitol last year. He also said he would advocate Division of Housing and Food Services for a gender-neutral housing wing to be established in Jester this summer.
Butler said she took office at the end of the Legislative session last year and that whomever replaces her needs to establish a strong relationship with the Legislature to advocate for students. She said there is a good chance for gender-neutral housing to pan out because there is planned renovation in Jester this year.
Guevara said the experience from last year will help their run this year. He said he has learned how to manage a team and to reach out to all people within the UT community.
“We’re definitely a little wiser and we know what to expect,” Guevara said. “We’ve also learned about some of the intangible things that can’t happen and we know not to make these empty promises that a lot of these campaigns tend to make.”
UT alumnus and former presidential candidate Mulugheta said when he first heard Gardner and Guevara were running together, he was upset and he thought it was an odd pair. However, he said working with the competition can have pros and cons and Gardner and Guevara are doing it right and he supports them.
“I think together they represent what it is to be a Longhorn,” Mulugheta said. “They cover all ends of the spectrum. Now they need to be true to who they are. The [most intimidating] politicians are those who really believe in what they’re fighting for and if they really do, it will be hard to beat them.”
Gardner said Butler/Baker did not reach out to different student organizations during their term. If elected, he said he would like to increase involvement from outside organizations, establish transparency and decrease polarization within SG.
The SG General Assembly questioned Gardner in January for a lack of transparency during his tenure as student representative for Men’s Athletic’s Council. If elected, he said he will make his executive board more transparent.
“I think it’s important for the Executive Board to be as transparent and as accountable as possible,” Gardner said. “We don’t consider ourselves any better than anybody else, and in the future we will be as open as possible.”
Over the weekend, Gardner and Guevara filed complaints of campaign violations against candidates Yaman Desai and Whitney Langston for trademark violations and early campaigning. They also filed complaints against John Lawler and Terrence Mass as well as Thor Lund and William Brown for trademark violations. Desai and Langston filed against Gardner and Guevara questioning their website and lumbar rental.
Stan Gardner, Madison’s father and UT 1979 alumnus, said he was excited when Madison told him he was going to run — though it did involve staying an extra year. Gardner said Student Government elections have become more intense over the years, but he believes his son’s leadership abilities will help him during the elections.
“Madison is the one that has the experience,” Stan Gardner said. “It takes a while for anyone to learn. UT is a big place, it’s complicated. If you want to get anything done you have to get involved in Student Government for a year or two to know the channels you have to go through to make the changes that are important to do.”