Wellkamp, Fowler win runoffs

After both the undergraduate and graduate student body presidential elections went to a runoff due to no candidate in either race receiving a majority, the winners have been decided.

Nick Wellkamp, a third-year Industrial Engineering/Public Policy double-major, will serve as the undergraduate president, and Aaron Fowler, a City and Regional Planning master’s student, will be the graduate president. The results were announced on Friday, April 11, exactly one week after the conclusion of the initial election.

Both candidates won by large margins; Wellkamp carried 60% of the vote to opponent Brian Tyson’s 40%, and Fowler received 64% to opponent Andrew Shulman’s 36%.

In Student Government Association (SGA) executive elections, when no candidate receives more than fifty percent of the vote a runoff election is held the next week between the top two candidates.

Wellkamp narrowly missed that mark last week in receiving 49.3% of the vote, compared to Tyson’s 36.3% and Brad Petrick’s 14.4%. Fowler’s 45.8% was also not enough to secure him a victory last week, with Shulman receiving 38.6% and Michael Aaron 15.6%.

The undergraduate runoff election actually attracted more voters than the initial race, with 2,620 students casting votes in the runoff compared to 2,606 votes the previous week. But the graduate election experienced a significant drop-off as 439 students voted in the runoffs compared to 550 the previous week.

“While having to campaign another week was a bit frustrating, it was also nice that it gave me an opportunity to go out and meet more students, which I think is important for any president to do,” Wellkamp said.

“Elections are a good time to discover what people put a priority on because you have a platform that you run on and advocate,” Wellkamp said.

Wellkamp officially takes over for current president Anu Parvatiyar on Tuesday during the SGA banquet, and his first priority will be to appoint his executive cabinet and committee chairs. Applications are available in the SGA office located in the Student Center Commons.

“I heavily encourage anyone who’s interested to not only notify us of what their concerns are but to come and volunteer to be a part of student government, because it’s the main vehicle through which students can drive change on this campus. Contact me and we’ll find a way for you to get involved with student government,” Wellkamp said.

Another important issue for Wellkamp will be getting SGA in better touch with the students it serves.

“One of the ways to get people to care about student government is to respond to their concerns. If we take student input and focus our effort based on that input I think we become more relevant with students and accomplish what our true mission is, which is to be advocates for the student body,” Wellkamp said.

For this purpose he is creating a new position, called Special Assistant for Communications, who will concentrate on soliciting input from the student body and keeping students informed on current issues and initiatives.

Other goals of Wellkamp’s include working on improving the athletic ticket distribution procedure, improving campus’s environmental sustainability, working with the Provost’s office to provide students with more academic options that provide greater flexibility for students, and working with the Parking and Transportation department to give students a graduated ticket price system that grants more leniency to first-time offenders and gives discounts for early payments.

Like Wellkamp, Fowler also must deal with a disconnect between his constituents and student government, which was made clear by the turnout of less than five hundred voters out of a population of over six-thousand graduate students at Tech.

“When I went around campaigning the first question I asked a lot of people was whether they knew what student government does for them, and they had no idea,” Fowler said.

Fowler said he will work hard to get students more involved in SGA and to reduce health care costs for graduate research assistants. But his top priority will be working on Tech’s environmental stewardship.

“Georgia Tech is a leader in technology, a leader in science, and we should be at the forefront of environmental stewardship on an academic level, vocally supporting measures to fight global warming. One of my main platform issues [while campaigning] was expanding the campus recycling program so that it’s actually everywhere on campus,” Fowler said.

The runoff elections also contained a runoff for the second Civil and Environmental Engineering representative position, which was won by Felix Rexach.