Andrew bruening / For The Lantern
The incumbent Undergraduate Student Government president is running officially unopposed with a new vice presidential candidate at his side.
Taylor Stepp, a third-year in public affairs, is running for office with Josh Ahart, a third-year in public affairs.
If elected, Stepp, who was elected president last year with Kevin Arndt, a fourth-year in political science and public affairs, will be the first student since 2002 to hold the USG presidency for two consecutive terms.
Stepp is also the first since 1966 to run unopposed for Ohio State USG president.
There are a few candidates who are running write-in campaigns, including Jacob Coate, a second-year in political science, who’s running with James Prather, a second-year in finance.
Ahart said he and Stepp aren’t treating the write-in competition any differently than they’d treat officially registered competition.
“You can’t really be too concerned about it. You just go on like you would normally be campaigning if there were other teams running. We just have to do our jobs and continue to do what we would normally do,” Ahart said.
Stepp and Ahart are running on a five-item platform: increasing the use of digital textbooks, making college more affordable, increasing off-campus landlord accountability, expanding the Buckeye Roadtrip program – which provides free rides for students to cities around Ohio on select weekends — and working to increase student safety.
Stepp said OSU has estimated students each spend more than $1,000 annually on textbooks.
“If you go online, you can find digital textbooks fairly easily for $20, so if we can go to a digital textbook system entirely, which is a lofty ideal but one I think we can push toward, students can save thousands of dollars,” Stepp said.
Stepp also wants to work toward decreasing the average student debt of about $24,000, below the national average of $26,600, by focusing on reforming OSU’s financial aid system.
“We want to make sure there’s a good system of merit- and need-based scholarships at Ohio State, financial aid at Ohio State … we really want to make sure we have a good financial aid mixed package,” Stepp said.
With regards to the issue of landlord accountability, Stepp said he’s drawing from personal experience after living in an apartment on 10th Avenue with cockroaches.
He said he believes problems with off-campus leases could be easily resolved if USG works with OSU Student Legal Services to create a default lease that protects students.
Ahart mentioned the expansion of the Buckeye Roadtrip program as another significant part of their platform.
“(We want) to take it to different states or more cities in the state of Ohio, and also if we can do special events within the university, all of those things to get students home or to those events hopefully free, so we want to continue to expand that,” Ahart said.
Although Stepp and Arndt were able to follow through with their plans to increase student safety this school year, Stepp said he isn’t done quite yet.
“We can work with the city of Columbus to add more lighting. That’s something that we’re trying to work on,” he said.
Since Stepp took office, USG has facilitated a joint jurisdiction with OSU Police and Columbus Division of Police and created a semester appeals board where students with problems relating to the semester switch can turn to for help.
Although Stepp has been criticized for running without official opposition, he said he’s glad USG can remain “unified” behind one platform rather than becoming divided, which has happened in previous elections.
“Students elected us (Stepp and Arndt) because we told them that we would get these things done. We promised to get them done. It was a lofty platform, I wasn’t sure how we were going to do all of it, but we have. And for me, that validates a second term,” Stepp said.