LOWELL -- Forget Obama versus whatever nominee the Republicans end up with.
Brown versus Warren? Still seven months away.
At UMass Lowell, spring has sprung and democracy is in the air as the university gears up for the first contested Student Government Association presidential election anyone can remember.
The race pits incumbent President Brian Dano and his newly chosen vice-presidential running mate, Will Deady, against challengers Gianni Falzone and Corey Lanier, who are senators. Voting takes place online Tuesday and Wednesday through UML's internal computer network. The candidates will debate Monday at 3 p.m. at Cumnock Hall.
Ask either why they should be elected, and you will get the same answer: Experience.
Dano, a 20-year-old junior from Merrimack, N.H., studying marketing and finance, is seeking re-election to the position to which he was elected in an uncontested race last April. His current Vice President, Bryan Marcotte of Chelmsford, is graduating. He chose Deady, a 21-year-old junior also majoring in business, from Northboro, as his running mate.
Deady founded the UML Finance Marketing Connection, a club that has become the school's DECA chapter, focusing on leadership and entrepreneurial skills. He also last year piloted a community-gardening program on campus that is graduating to a greenhouse this year in partnership with UTEC and Lowell Sprouts, and is a member of the student advisory board for the Manning School of Business.
Falzone, 20, of Saugus, is a junior studying management and entrepreneurism who, as a senator, has chaired the Campus Life and Environment Committee for the last two school years.
Lanier, 19, a sophomore from Dracut studying political science and criminal justice with a minor in psychology, is chairman of the SGA Governance Committee.
Dano said in his year as president, he has made small changes, like bringing new computers into the SGA office and providing free food at SGA meetings to make student government more friendly and attractive to students.
He said he is most proud of the work done by the SGA in passing the Student Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, a document that had sat gathering dust for five years before compromise language was written in this year, in conjunction with the administration, that holds students and faculty accountable to meeting the expectations outlined.
Lanier said that as chair of the Governance Committee, he worked on that document during the school year and throughout the summer.
"I got a bill that sat for five years passed in three months," he said.
Candidates on both tickets said they would work toward making a stronger connection between the University and the community, citing an afternoon last month when the SGA rented out Babylon Restaurant, an Iraqi eatery downtown that had been vandalized, to show their support.
"We need to do more things like that to support local businesses," Dano said.
Falzone cited his work on gaining approval from the administration to implement a Good Samaritan policy, which allows students to, for instance, seek help for a friend who drank too much and is sick without fear of being suspended from school. Falzone said he convinced administrators that its purpose is to protect all students, not simply be a get-out-of-jail-free card.
Now he is working to have hydration stations, which can also be used to fill water bottles, installed around campus in an effort to cut back on plastic-bottle waste and to implement electronic sign-in stations in residence halls to make the process of signing into dorms more efficient.
Both candidates for president said parking issues and food-service concerns top their priority lists. They also agree that the quality of offerings and service in the dining hall will increase once the $9 million renovation of Fox Hall is complete, but promised to carefully monitor the situation.
"I have been involved with meeting with Aramark to discuss food issues and will continue to do that," Dano said.
"Food quality is very important, and I know students would like to see more variety," Falzone said.