As two veteran members of UK’s student government association, Michael Hawse and Maya Elias believe in serving their community.
Hawse and Elias are running for student body president and vice president. Hawse is a junior studying political science and hopes to find a career as a lawyer. He’s from Lexington, Kentucky, with his home walking distance from campus. Currently, he is the current Appropriations and Revenue Chairman for SGA and an active member of Pi Kappa Alpha.
“I always say this campus in this community has given me so much,” Hawse said. “It goes into why we’re running, where we want everyone to have that same connection when they leave Lexington or when they always think of their opinion of Lexington and our campus.”
Vice presidential candidate Maya Elias is a junior pursuing a dual degree in mathematics and business communication. She is the current SGA Senate Chair and previously served as Operations and Evaluations Committee, freshman senator and Senate executive member at large. She has just finished serving as the Philanthropy Chair of Kappa Kappa Gamma and served as Team Captain for Dance Blue for the past two years.
“I don’t think there’s anything that can’t be worked on, I think everything could use a little bit of improving,” Elias said. One of the main concerns of the Hawse-Elias campaign is amplifying student voices.
“It’s time that all students have that opportunity, no matter where you came from…no matter your race, or religion, no matter your gender, no matter how you identify, you should have the ability to make on this campus if you want it,” Hawse said.
COVID-19 and diversity are the greatest concerns of the Hawse-Elias campaign. Part of their concern is how students will adjust to campus life and university classes after the pandemic recedes.
“I think a big adjustment for students is going to be going back to those in-person classes, especially for freshmen or even sophomores that didn’t really have that college experience to begin with,” Elias said.
A big part of bringing back the voice of the students is set on “putting forth actual policies and putting forth actual change” regarding diversity and inclusion. By doing so, Michael hopes that his administration will “make sure students and marginalized communities feel safe on campus and feel comfortable on campus.”
Hawse believes that effectively bringing the voice of minority populations into the important conversations needs to happen at three fronts: SGA, committees and task forces and through the administration. One recommendation they have is encouraging administrators to hold regular office hours.
“Organizations and students from traditionally marginalized communities have not had the ability to speak to administration and advocate to the degree that you know organizations such as SGA have,” Hawse said, and he will advocate for regular access to the administration.
According to Hawse, one of his first steps if elected will be establishing of the Council of Student Leaders. It will “bring together the leaders of as many organizations on campus as we can get and talk about our issues.”
Hawse and Elias want to incorporate voices that come from outside of SGA in their committees.
“Personally I think COVID and racial injustice are perfect examples of things where it’s time to stop talking about them and it’s time to start you know, making that legitimate change and saying all right, how are we going to make this better than we left or than when we came here,” Hawse said.
Hawse and Elias say their experience in SGA is a strength.
“From our experiences, we have a lot of things that we’ve noticed and we’ve seen and we’ve been like actively, in our positions, we’ve been trying to fix these things for so long,” Elias. Serving as president and vice president would give them the leverage to make headway on that list.
When planning their campaign, Hawse and Elias said they met with various organizations and individuals to receive input on campus issues and are willing to hear from more students.
“What is the biggest issue that you see on campus, you know? How can we help you or how can we help you in the future because I think at the end of the day, this isn’t about me or Maya,” Hawse said.
Many students are concerned with how UK has handled the case of Gracyn Courtright, who participated in the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
"I believe that breaking the federal laws should be punishable at the university level, I don't believe somebody that's sitting in jail right now should be considered a student," Elias said. (Editor’s note: Courtright is not in jail. She is at home and limited to her county).
Hawse denounced the actions of Kendall Johnson, who posted controversial videos about Breonna Taylor online.
"When the actions you make can make an entire community of people feel unsafe, unwelcome on campus that is something that you know I don't like, I just don't stand for that because I want to be a leader on this campus who doesn't stand for that, because that's not my city and beliefs," Hawse said. He expanded by saying that the university’s lack of response to these situations has left many students feeling unsafe.
“The University needs to take account for that, because I don't think they have," Hawse said.
Hawse and Elias also believe the university should be held accountable for its COVID-19 response. Hawse said it was an absolute crime that one out of nine students on campus had contracted COVID-19. (Editor’s note: at least 3,000 UK students have contracted UK this school year, which is 10% of the student body, but not all students are on campus).
Hawse said UK should realize that the decisions and actions on campus have a profound effect on the nearby community and the state of Kentucky as a whole.
"We all know that it was not safe, and I think the University needs to be held accountable for that not only to its students but to the community as a whole,” Hawse said. “My grandparents live on Kentucky Avenue like literally down the street.”
The pair acknowledged the improvements that the administration with COVID-19 protocol.
“I think the regular testing that they're requiring students do, I think that should have been done last fall when they decided to have us come back," Elias said.
Elias expressed concern over transition that students will have to make as the campus moves on from COVID-19.
"I think that they've done a really good job with [vaccines]. My hope for the future, I even think I mentioned this earlier for a minute, but I do hope that the University realizes that there will be an adjustment period for students transferring back into in person classes," Elias said.
As such, their campaign is promoting is a college transition program to smooth out the transition into in-person courses for students. Elias additionally noted the importance of incorporating the input of faculty in the conversation as well.
Hawse and Elias are also advocating for the creation of a mental health bill of rights, inspired by a similar idea at Vanderbilt.
“We believe that mental health should be too priority as we've seen in the past couple years, and especially during COVID, it is [an] incredibly important issue that a lot of time is left in the dark, just because nobody wants to talk about it," Hawse said. The bill would make sure that counseling centers are well-funded, that people from marginalized communities are hired and ensuring the privacy of students.
"[UK] should care, should have that liability towards your mental health 365 all year," Hawse said.
Other policies listed for the Hawse-Elias ticket “implementing free parking coupons through students’ linkblue IDs” and more funding for multi-cultural organizations. This would help counteract the “SGA bubble” by bringing in diverse student voices.
More of their policies can be found at hawseelias.com. The pair encouraged all students to vote in the election and thoroughly read the platforms of all candidates.
Hawse stressed the importance of voting by reminding students that the SGA president also serves on the university’s Board of Trustees.
“If I’m not the best person to do that, that's fine, but you have to make sure that the student who is sitting in that room and is representing the students is prepared to fight tooth and nail for every single issue that students stand for,” Hawse said.