Who will be our next fearless leader asum candidate profiles features montanakaimin.com

Hugues de Pingon skips right over “dressed to the nines,” cranking it up to eleven. His flashy suits make him stand out around campus. If Jet Bibler wagered on an over-under of five people recognizing de Pingon on a walk through the Oval, he’d bet over. Way over.

De Pingon and Bibler decided to run for ASUM’s executive offices after realizing they shared the same concerns about parking issues, the lack of diversity among sitting senators’ academic majors and the loss of the Galloping Griz food truck.

De Pingon said many senators are political science majors and ASUM has done nothing to fix the underrepresentation of students from other academic programs.

De Pingon and Bibler said the ASUM presidency should represent all students without exceptions.

The candidates hope to “streamline bureaucracy, promote growth and minimize nepotism and corruption” that is enveloped by a “conspiracy of silence” within ASUM. De Pingon and Bibler said nepotism within ASUM derives from the similarity of students on senate, creating an echo chamber.

The current ASUM senators wrote in a Kaimin questionnaire they are running for executive offices because the University of Montana is a “special place.” They acknowledge the University is facing challenges. “The tough times provide an opportunity for students to create positive change on our campus,” the campaign wrote.

Butler is currently enlisted in the Montana National Guard after serving in the US Army, where he says he not only trained for his current position, but also the leadership role he’s seeking. He is also president of UM’s men’s rugby club and sat on the provost search committee.

Welch was student body president at Billings Senior High School and currently sits on UM’s Vice President of Administration and Finance search committee. She said she prepared for the position by polling business students on what they wanted in someone who oversees a budget.

ASUM information sessions at the beginning of the semester would benefit student groups, as well as the student body, Butler said, by explaining the budgeting and fund appropriation process and how to take advantage of existing agencies and job opportunities within ASUM.

“It’s a way for us to sort of teach them how to be a really good student group leader, how to get funding from us, how to utilize our outreach efforts and how to plan events on campus, but then also use that as a way for student groups to get to know each other,” Butler said.

Welch said President Bodnar has increased transparency between UM and the student body through his emails, but there can be improvement. Besides sending emails, Welch wants Bodnar to attend student groups’ meetings. She said Bodnar “needs to be reaching out to students where they are, instead of asking them to provide their input.”

Michael Toppen is a third generation Montanan and a second generation UM student. He said he understands students who come to UM “in search of a quality education at an affordable price, but have become dismayed by the threat of tuition increases and alarmed by the chaos coming from University Hall.”

The candidates call for ASUM to amplify student voices, not filter them. The pair are focusing on raising awareness of ASUM through making senate proceedings more accessible to the student body, increasing transparency in programs at UM and promoting diversity.

Toppen wants to educate students on the various committees that exist within both the University and ASUM. A large part of that means ensuring committees’ meeting minutes and agendas are publicly posted, as well as making clear to students how to get involved with a committee. Toppen wants to ensure the University is being transparent and accessible by asking University committees to post their meeting agendas and minutes as well.

They also recognize that ASUM represents not only the main campus, but the Bitterroot College and Missoula College’s west and river campuses. Toppen said ASUM needs to have a presence there as well, and hopes to have senators tabling at the Missoula College regularly to engage with students and hear their concerns.