By Adeline Wilson–

This past year has been a media hell storm for the University of Louisville. The alleged scandals our institution have been involved in embarrass our reputation and threaten our academic credibility. As a result, many U of L students feel disenfranchised with university administration as a whole. There has never been a more important time for students to care about who will represent their needs in Grawemeyer Hall.

Aaron Vance is the right kind of leader to address the needs of this student body. As current chief of staff to SGA President Victoria Allen, the junior from Vine Grove, Kentucky knows the inner-workings of the Student Government Administration. Vance not only brings great ideas to the table, but he also knows which channels to use to enact real change.

The biggest problem facing students, Vance believes, is money. Proposed budget cuts in Frankfort threaten funding for student programming at U of L. Under Governor Bevin’s plan, U of L could lose up to $12.6 million from the university’s 2017 budget.

Vance has experience lobbying on behalf of students in Frankfort. As former political coordinator with Cards in Action, the political advocacy arm of SGA, Vance led a group of students to Frankfort and Washington D.C. to lobby for research grants and decreasing student debt.

If elected SGA president, Vance plans to rally together with other SGA presidents at Kentucky universities. Working with the Board of Student Body Presidents, Vance’s goal is to make the policy-makers in Frankfort more sympathetic to student concerns.

“Next year is an off year for the budget for the GA (general assembly) in Frankfort, so that will be something that will be really very much more pertinent in 2018, but (I plan) to lay the foundations for that advocacy,” Vance said.

Knowing that SGA’s $1.2 million budget might be reduced as a result, Vance plans to take a serious look at the SGA budget if elected president.

“I’ve heard from many students who have been involved in SGA that they feel there is a lot of overlap in committee work with regards to SAB and ELSB. (I want) to make sure we streamline that, to make sure we are being efficient,” he said.

Vance envisions that, with a more efficient budget, SGA would have the funds to put aside to improve the Cultural Center and benefit the over 400 recognized student organizations on campus.

The three-year veteran of SGA calls his experience a strength, a move that is not popular in our current political climate. However, the staff of The Cardinal believes that students cannot afford an SGA president without extensive experience. It is a stressful time for our university, and an experienced SGA president will bring student concerns to the board of trustees with credibility and poise.

“It’s great to have ideas, but when you don’t understand how to get to these ‘pie in the sky’ ideas, when you don’t have the conduit to make from point A to point B, that makes putting things in action that much harder,” said Vance.

Vance’s institutional knowledge is valuable. In the event that there is a personnel change in Grawemeyer Hall or the board of trustees, this staff wants a student body president with connections in the student involvement office and trusted colleagues in SGA. Vance is our choice to help U of L students navigate the challenges ahead.

Editor’s note: This endorsement reflects the opinion of the majority of The Louisville Cardinal staff. The staff met with each SGA President candidate for an interview. The following is our interview with Aaron Vance. The answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity. 

TLC: What is your main priority as SGA President?

AV: Looking into this coming year, I can list out the main three, but prerogative-wise, fiscal policy is probably going to be the most crucial aspect for the coming year. We’ve already seen whats going to be coming out of Frankfort in regards to the budget cuts, with the 4.5 percent already being imposed and the potential for the nine percent to be approved by the legislature. Considering that we still don’t know how that will quite shake out, that could be something that could be a major purgative for next year to go ahead and start planning. Next year is an off year for the budget for the GA in Frankfort, so that will be something that will be really very much more pertinent in 2018, but (I plan) to lay the foundations for that advocacy the foundations for advocacy and continuing to grow our student advocacy in Cards In Action is a major purgative.

Fiscal policy also has another end. If these cuts are as pertinent or as true as they may be, that will take a huge toll on SGA. We don’t know if we’ll continue to operate under the $1.2 million we have and how we’re going to continue to shape that for the coming year. Victoria (Allen) worked very hard along with Caitlin (Durgin) and Brandon (McReynolds) this past year to set a budget that started to trim the fat, but it’s going to be imperative that we continued to do so.

I’ve heard from many students within SGA that they feel that there is a lot of overlap in committee work with regards to SAB and ELSB to continue to streamline that, to make sure we’re being efficient, and I hate to use the phrase “doing more with less” because we don’t know if less is going to be the case, but we still want to continue to do more and be efficient in that regard.

TLC: How do you plan on working with students and university administrators who disagree with you?

AV: Disagreement has never been something I’ve been too concerned with. I mean, it’s just part of it all. At the university, we definitely care for diversity in all shapes and forms, specifically in ideas and how we are going to approach the problems that we have. I know this year has been very tense. I’m sure Victoria (Allen) can tell you that she has had a fun time on the board of trustees and working with the administration and working with students that feel that they aren’t getting the most out of what we can do for them.

The student interest is obviously the most important part of this job. The administration has their own parameters and their own guidelines on how they want to approach and how they want to tackle the issues they think are most pertinent, but at the end of the day, there is a Top Four and a president who are here for students.

It’s going to be constructing and finding those proper channels and then even doing the back work and doing the communicating and branding aspects to make students understand that we have to be willing to work to compromise, that these issues may not necessarily be what they seem, that it may also take a large a student effort on their part so the university feels and understands.

TLC: What do you see as your greatest character strength? Weakness?

AV: This is like a Forbes 500 question. With regards to the campaign, I think one of my greatest strengths that I bring to the table is just having the experience within SGA. I’ve really had the opportunity to sink my teeth in and know how it works. The learning curve is nowhere near as steep coming into this position. It’s great to have a plan, it’s great to have ideas, but when you don’t understand how to get to these “pie in the sky” ideas, when you don’t have the conduit to make it from point A to point B, that makes putting things in action so much harder.

But the converse to that, I’ve been in the administration and sometimes that may be seen as a problem when tackling disparaging voices out of students, and that’s going to be something that takes a lot of work and dialoguing.

TLC: One of the biggest ways SGA will have influence in the upcoming year is the new SAC and new academic building. What is your biggest priority on these subjects?

AV: The new academic building we’re going to have some displacement problems we will be dealing with over the summer, as far as transition, and we will have to work with the departments that are housed in the Crawford Gym and with the services that are here to see what would be best and most conducive to students.

As we get closer to the SAC renovation, I think that setting up these plans and having the money to do it are crucial. Continuing to work with our SAC reno committee and keeping it on board with the senate and in line with all of its missions, are very crucial because there are so many pieces to put in. It’s making sure we have the resources available and having the committees still working and still going out in the senate to make sure we are still capturing those student wants and desires.

TLC: What else are you involved with on campus? Do you think these things will cause any conflicts with being president?

AV: I’ve been involved for the past three years with the McConnell Scholars program, but this coming year I’m hitting the “senior stride” as far as the McConnell program is concerned, so I’ll be focused outward. I’ve also been in SGA for the past three years. I’ve been involved with my fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau. I’m putting everything on the backseat to focus my time on this. I’ve been involved in Cards In Action as a student and as the director for the past two years. I’ve been an A & S Peer Adviser, all of which have given me some insight. As far as an explicit conflict of interest, I can’t say that any of them will be problematic in that regard.

TLC: How do you plan on reaching out to the student body?

AV: That’s something we’ve definitely been focused on this year, is getting engrained within the student body. One of the ways is with the services to bolster and support RSOs, and that’s I’d love to consider with the implementation of a new system. I want to continue to bring RSOs into the mix because they serve as a great eclectic group to bring an issue or policy to the table. SGA has a firm open door policy and we are committed to their success.

But there are those students who don’t have the ability to join those groups, and that’s where we need to keep hammering away.

I would love for my staff to look diverse and be engrained in all the different facets because they’re right there with me.

TLC: What are your thoughts on being the student representative on the board of trustees?

AV: I’m definitely ready for the task of being on the board of trustees. It’s definitely the least glamorized part of the job because a lot of the students don’t know that, and they don’t quite understand the impact of being a constituent member on the board of trustees has. I will definitely value it for the impact it has representing the student body.

TLC: Why did you decide to run with someone on your slate?

AV: I chose to run with someone on my slate because one, I think we just assumed that with the change in rules, we thought everyone was going to. We thought, “This is probably what is going to happen.”

In choosing a running mate, I wanted to choose someone I knew also had experience in SGA, that I knew had experience being involved on campus and someone that I’ve known for a long time and that I’m very trustworthy of. I trust in her ability. Amanda (Nitzken) and I go way back to high school. We went to GSP together. We were involved in the Y together. As far as finding someone that I knew had the ability to serve the student interest, Amanda is definitely one of them.

TLC: How did you come up with Cards Rising, your slate name?

AV: When we sat there  and we kind of flipping through ideas, we came across the 2013 National Championship shirts, the ones Adidas had printed up for all the top four teams and we got to be the winners and we got to keep them. They’re the “Rise to the Occasion” shirts. We thought this is going to be a year for the record books, as that national championship year was, and I think we are right in that assumption that 2016-17 is going to be a critical turning point for the university. We started playing around with that idea, and that’s how we came up with Cards Rising.

TLC: Now some fun questions. What’s your favorite U of L memory?

AV: When Cards In Action first got itself off the ground my freshman year, Chase Riddle let me help out considerably. It was something I wanted to do and it’s something I want to do in the future, working in politics and working in a campaign organization, and he said, “Hey, we might be going to Washington and doing this.”

After finding out I was going to succeed him as political coordinator, we did find out that we would have the trip with the ACC. Getting to go work with our other constituent members of the ACC, getting to talk with them and see what their universities are like and getting to share a moment where we threw up our L’s with John Yarmuth on the steps of the capital. That’s just awesome. That’s something you can’t take back, and that’s a memory that I’m glad I got to share with chase, someone that’s very influential and important in my life.


Photo Courtesy / Aaron Vance