Thursday final day for voting on WildcatLink
By Greg Laudani, Staff Writer
After last week’s UNH student body elections left an unfilled space behind, one final spot in the student board of trustees remains, and the race is on between two candidates.
No student went through the required petition process of securing 300 student signatures to obtain a trustee position. The student body then decided to leave it up to a write-in election, where a candidate would be chosen if he or she received 50 percent or more of student votes.
That didn’t happen, either. None of the candidates received enough votes to reach that majority percentage. The result: a runoff election.
Junior Lisa Demaine and sophomore Lincoln Crutchfield are battling it out in a runoff election that started on Wednesday, March 11, and ends at midnight tonight. The candidate that receives the most votes will officially secure a spot representing UNH students on the student board of trustees.
The vote is taking place online through Wildcat Link, where students can use their Blackboard information to log in and choose between Demaine and Crutchfield. UNH undergraduate and graduate students, along with students at UNH Law Schjool and UNH-Manchester all have the ability to vote in the election.
Demaine, a major in Environmental Science: Hydrology, worked as a business manager for UNH’s Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) last spring. She attended weekly meeting in which SEAC debated with student organizations about funding issues. She said her knowledge of UNH finances makes her an attractive candidate in this election.
She said her ability to work with students from all sorts of different backgrounds in financial situations will help her be a valuable member of the board of trustees.
“I’ve had a lot of hats within UNH, and people might recognize that,” Demaine said. “In having those hats, I know how many other hats exist at UNH.
“So I think I’m able to understand the different identities and different aspects of life that people are coming to UNH with. I think that I’m able to keep an open door – I think that’s the best way to do this job.”
Acquiring a position on the student board of trustees means that the elected individual would serve on the University System of New Hampshire Board of Trustees, which meets with state officials regularly to decide on the amounts of money that are spread out across each public university in New Hampshire. These universities include UNH, Keene State University, Plymouth State University and Granite State College.
Demaine said she wants to fight for lower tuition costs. According to Demaine, UNH graduates face the highest average debt at an estimated $32,000 per student. She also said that over $1 billion is made each year solely on tuition loans.
“Specifically as a trustee, I see it as a way for advocacy of what UNH students want,” Demaine said. “There’s really a way people can listen to you if you just use your voice the right way. I think I would be able to feel what students want to say.”
Demaine said she wants to teach more students about what the board does to fight for students’ rights. Also, she wants students to have a greater understanding of what the student activity fee is and how students can capitalize on the over $90 they spend on the fee each semester.
She said she wants to change the culture of elected officials to change. Demaine is confident she can deliver change that will put students’ voices first.
“An individual that is elected to a position will spend 40 percent or more of their time fundraising money,” Demaine said. “That’s not them doing their job. That’s them trying to keep their jobs.
“If you’re going to have more and more students coming here, you should want those students to be able to stay here all four years and be able to pay for those four years.”
Crutchfield said his extensive knowledge of UNH finances makes him the right person for the job. The sophomore is in his second year with Student Senate and chairs the Senate’s Financial Affairs Committee (FAC), putting him right in the thick of UNH financials.
“My understanding of university financial operations is really good,” Crutchfield said. “That’s what I pride myself on. I’ve worked really hard to be able to carry a conversation with the vice president of financial administration and not sound like a fool. And I think I can do that very well.”
He helps advocate for students while attempting to keep the university’s administration in check. The FAC meets weekly with administration to discuss recent increasing or decreasing costs required of students each semester. Crutchfield said the annual budget is about $560 million for the university to work with.
“We work with the administration to get a good grasp on why things are happening, what they are doing to keep costs down while keeping services up, and making sure students are getting the best value possible,” Crutchfield said. “That’s what we are there for.”
The trustee hopeful asserted that his primary objective, if he is elected to board of trustees, will be on lowering tuition and student fees.
“Budget fight at the state, there you go,” Crutchfield answered quickly when asked about his plans if he is elected. “You’re going to hear it over and over again, and I’m going to sound like a broken record, but that is critical.”
According to Crutchfield, UNH has the third highest out-of-state tuition fees in the country. Out-of-state tuition is currently at $39,892. Meanwhile, New Hampshire residents attending UNH are faced with $26,912 each year.
Crutchfield said his experience working alongside UNH administration gives him a leg up in this election. He said that student governments often take an ineffective approach in trying to lobby administration to lower tuition rates.
“Student government is often pitted against administration,” Crutchfield said. “When we’re talking about budget fights, you can’t do that. You’ve got to work with the people who are trying to get more money to keep your tuition down.”
The sophomore said he is not afraid to battle with administration over budget cuts in order to backbone the student body. But he said he will not go against administration – he would continue to work with them as he has the past two years.
“I’ve worked with these people and showed them that we are not the enemy, we are here to stay,” Crutchfield said. “We’re here to help and we’ve achieved good things.”
As the clock ticks toward midnight, UNH will have a new voice when this election is all said and done.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story discussed Lincoln Crutchfield’s experiences with the Student Activity Fee Committee (SAFC). Although Crutchfield has served on SAFC, the story intended to refer to his experiences with the Student Senate’s Financial Affairs Committee (FAC).