Dustin Blankenship is running for Vice President. His opponents are Ashley Green and Spencer Stevens. Interview is below.
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Chris Slater: Let’s start off with a little background: What’s your SGA experience?
Dustin Blankenship: Okay, well, I’ve served as a Senator for almost two years, my freshman and sophomore year before the time that I stepped down to serve as the organizational representative for CRU because they were about to lose their voting rights and I’m a member. Beyond that, I was a Publicity chair. I served on Budgetary, CUSAC, Housing committee. I was also part of the Tuition and Fees rally planning committee. I’ve served on Higher Ed. Day, and a plethora of other things. So, I’ve done a lot with SGA, minus the brief time off.
CS: What initially attracted you to the SGA?
DB: I would say it was Jessica Cook, actually. She was one of the first people I met at Concord; she was actually my orientation leader. And, she happened to be the SGA President at the time. And, she told me, what the SGA was doing and she told me, "You should come for an interview for the Freshman Senator position," and from the moment I walked into the room I felt like, you know, the group was actually doing something good for the students, and it was something I wanted to be a part of.
CS: Why did you decide to run for VP?
DB: Honestly, I mean, well, 1) I wouldn’t be running for it if I didn’t think I was the best candidate for the job. And, I wouldn’t be running for it if I didn’t want it. People will say, "Well, maybe I - this or that," I’ll be blunt - I want the job and I think I’m the best candidate for it. But, I also have other experiences planning things like "Spring Fling" for other organizations. I was the West Virginia Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Alumni Association, I was a member of their board, I guess my freshman year and senior year of high school, and I helped plan their Spring Fling.
On top of that, I want to beckon back to the "Devon Stewart-style" leadership in the Vice President and I feel that I can be a great administrator of committees, which is a major part of the job of a Vice President. I feel like we put too much focus on the activities portion of the job and not enough focus on really organizing committees so that we can get things done, rather than have a couple of really fun activities but then nothing get accomplished for the students.
CS: What do you plan to accomplish if you’re elected?
DB: Well, you know, like I said, most people have their like 70-point list things that they want to accomplish. I have 10 main things that I want to do. One, I do want to give the best Homecoming and Spring Fling possible. I mean, that’s a given. Some of the things I’d like to do with that include give a "laser karaoke" event before the dance, like two hours we do laser karaoke. There’s a very good company in the state of West Virginia that works with Sandals cruise line and they actually give you a CD copy of your karaoke performance after you’re done. I’d also like to bring back the "free-fall jump" for Spring Fling, because people really seemed to like that.
But, I mean, beyond that, I’d also like to add a service element to Homecoming activities. For example, maybe a project like planting flowers, for the entire campus to get involved with. Not a mandatory thing, but you know, and SGA-sponsored event. Beyond that, I would like to retain the Homecoming alcohol policy. That’s not a given for students. That’s something that we have to fight for every year and that I will fight for. Also, I want Spring Fling and Homecoming to include actual events and not just giveaways. I think that we waste so much money on buying 100 footballs for $800 and then, there’s $800 we could have spent on an activity people could have participated in.
I think, beyond that, I want to work with The Concordian to bring back a reporter for the SGA, or to work with them in some way so that there is an accurate report of someone who is at the SGA meetings every week. But, beyond that, I also want to work with the Concord television station, to have them report on SGA and potentially post that to YouTube so that more students can become familiarized with the SGA process. And, then, like everyone else literally, I want to work with Green Sustainability.
Bring more activities to campus, improve the game room, the idea of a commuter/veteran lounge, and the student/fan section at games, I think, is a great idea. But, the things that I can guarantee, is that I will do the best job I can with Homecoming and will strive to keep everyone hardworking, and honest, and ethical.
CS: What will you do if you’re not elected?
DB: If I’m not elected, hopefully I will get a Senator-ship because I still want to work with the SGA this upcoming year, no matter what. If not, then I’m going to be an organizational rep. I really just feel like I can devote a lot of my time to helping with the SGA. It’ll be my senior year, I’ll only lack six actual credit hours to graduate, but I’m going to continue through the spring semester. I’ll have a lot more free time than I have in the past.
CS: What are your thoughts on your opponents campaigns?
DB: I think both Ashley and Spencer are very good people. I love Ashley very dearly. She’s one of the first people I met at Concord. We both served as Senators together, freshman year. Spencer, I know through being members of fraternities. He’s a Pi Kap, I’m a Phi Sig. I think they’re both great people, but I feel like of the three of us, I’m the most - I will bring the most dedication to the job. Like I said, I love them dearly, but I am going to do everything I can - not to say that they won’t do a good job, but that I will do a better job. At this point, they haven’t done a whole lot of campaigning, so I’m happy they’ve kept it good and clean. I hope it stays that way.
CS: What are some areas the SGA is doing well in, and what do you think they can improve?
DB: I think, one thing, right now that is a great improvement upon past years is the ethics legislation that’s being pushed through right now. I think that was very important and that’s one of the few things that I can say past administrations have said they were going to do, and have actually worked on accomplishing, and looks like it will be accomplished.
I think, areas to improve, though, there are a lot. And, the big thing, that I know I beckon back to this a lot, is the committee administration. I think that there are, really, three major things that I think can help with that. And, that’s choosing competent chairs that will actually do their jobs. Doing my job, as I should, which means working with all the committees to make real progress. And, a big thing, is working with attendance. Every organization - well, I won’t say every organization, but a lot of organizations have issues with not knowing their representative is missing meetings. And, then all of a sudden, they lost their voting rights and they can’t get their budgets, and they’re like, you know, “What are we gonna do?” One thing I’d like to do is bring in a way to report to the organization after one and a half absences, because you’re allowed three, to be like, “Your person has missed a combination of committees or whatever and is close to losing voting rights. You could lose your voting rights if they miss this much more.” Instead of announcing it in the SGA. Because, odds are, if you’re missing a lot of committees, their SGA attendance at legislative meetings is probably not that sterling either. So, I think that’s a couple areas they could improve. But, I think the ethics legislation, I applaud them.
CS: You left the SGA for a while and then decided to come back. Why was that?
DB: The answer to that question is actually two-fold. The first reason, I had a lot of personal problems at home. As well, as some health problems that, thank God, I’m doing a lot better. But, at that time, it was very overwhelming with being sick, and like I said, having a lot of family problems. But, on top of that, legitimately, the administration and I kept butting heads and with everything that was going on in life, I could not get what needed to be accomplished accomplished. And, I was removed, like, literally, President Prince removed me from my committee chair for no reason. And, you will notice as well, that the things we accomplished all semester of my sophomore year, there was little to nothing accomplished the spring semester after I was removed from that chair. And, I felt like at that point, the best thing I could do was alert the students as to what was going on. Which, is what I did with the [Concordian] articles I wrote. You know, "Your President's doing these things," and you'll notice that right after that was when impeachment proceedings were heard for President Prince as well. I think, for me, it was the right decision to do that because more so, my health, but also to be honest and open with the student body.
CS: You mentioned you were in a fraternity earlier. You were in there with a couple famous, in terms of SGA, people: Rocky Seay and the Brewsters. What have you learned from them, regarding the SGA?
DB: Not a whole lot [laughs]. When I came into the fraternity, it was my freshman year, around the same time that I started with SGA. But, at that point, they were not as - say - influential. It was kind of the downswing, obviously, the second candidacy of Rocky came that spring semester. I appreciate the help that they attempted to give me, but I’m very much my own person. I’m not very political. I think that that’s easily recognizable. So, when somebody tells me you need to do this, this, this, this, this, or that, to get elected, I’m like, if you’re going to elect me, it’s because you like my ideas, not because I manipulate or do anything wrong. Not to say that that’s what they would say to do, but just in general, I’m not a politician. And, if that keeps me from getting elected, then I’m sorry. I’m just going to be real.
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After the interview, Dustin asked me to remind everybody that if you have questions for him, you can check out his group on Facebook "Dustin Blankenship for CU SGA VICE PRESIDENT."