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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Graves / Brown

Graves+%2F+Brown

Amid the troubles of the Undergraduate Student Government of this year, UMB is preparing for the annual general elections. This year the student body will have a vibrant presidential race with the appearance of an ambitious political partnership of two fresh student senators.

Senator Reynolds Graves, a native of Grosse Pointe, Michigan who joined the UMB community in 2008, has thrown in his hat into the race to become the chief executive of the USG. His partner in this race is Senator Chanelle Brown, a native of Cleveland, Ohio who came to UMB to finish her college education.

To put it simply, Graves-Brown ticket have one principal goal in this race and it’s to create a more vibrant community at UMB that’s tightly knit through frequent interaction via student organized activities and outreach by the executive.

Roots of Ambition

In an interview with the Mass Media, the Graves-Brown ticket discussed their backgrounds, school life, political experience, and their platform as the challengers in this year’s presidential election. It started with a simple look at who they were before coming to UMB.

“My family was one of six African-American families living in the predominantly white suburb of Grosse Pointe. This made my upbringing unique, because there was some confusion about how I was treated,” said Senator Graves.

Graves noted that his peers had a difficult time interacting with him due to his rearing in an affluent neighborhood and heritage – when his family moved to Grosse Pointe, a neighboring suburb that borders Detroit, Michigan, but he got through that due to his firm understanding of who he was.

At the same time, he stressed that fact that he was aware of how tough it is to make a living. He remarked that he understood the “value of the dollar at a very early age, because my parents made me work in the corner store and wait on diners at restaurants during my high school years.”

He is a member of a politically active family that’s steeped in civic service, high academic achievement, and politics. President Reagan appointed his father to be a US Federal Bankruptcy Judge in Detroit, Michigan and his mother is a lawyer. One of his uncles, L.Douglas

Wilde, served as the first African-American governor and had unsuccessful bids for the US Senate, President, and Vice President of the United States.

On the other hand, Senator Brown has her own unique and positive experience growing up in Oak Ridge, Michigan and her birthplace in Cleveland, Ohio. She observed that growing up in these two cities gave her a “chance to learn about other cultures and helped me to figure out who I am” due to the contrasting ethnic compositions of the two cities.

Senator Brown also attended the Fashion Institute of New York briefly. She stated, after being questioned by the Mass Media, that, “I intend to dress professionally to represent the students of UMB, if Senator Graves and I win in the upcoming April Elections.”

Scholastic Success

Academically, both Graves and Brown have had their share of success in their experiences at UMB as juniors. Senator Graves is currently double-majoring in political science and economics. Senator Brown is also majoring in political science and minoring in history and philosophy.

When pressed to comment about why the pair chose their respective fields of focus, they had very clear answers.

Senator Graves started off by stating that, “I’ve always been interested in politics and economics. I have pictures of me reading the headline stories of the Detroit Free Press when I was 4 or 5 years old. I also watched a fair share of cable news, including CNN, Larry King Live, and Fox News. I’ve been attending political rallies well before I could spell Democrat or Republican. Economics is a field that’s closely related to political science and is compatible with that field.”

Senator Brown finished off the question by saying that “Since my days at the Fashion Institute, I’ve always wanted to promote my vision of empowered women. When I worked in the beauty industry, my interest was focused on lifting the spirits of women and empowering them in their endeavors. My interest in political science is the same. As for my minors, they are complementary fields of interest that goes well with my primary principle of empowered women.”

Senator Graves is a transfer student from Hampton University, a historically black university located in Hampton, VA. He came to UMB after having a less-than-satisfying tenure at Hampton, which he described as being unfocused due to lack of highly specialized professors in his fields of interest.

On the other hand, Senator Brown is finishing her college education after spending years in the cosmetics business with her training from the Fashion Institute of NY. She chose UMB because of the friendly faculty and students on campus. She also noted that she took an interest in studying political science because “I wanted to be able to empower women and this field suited to my goal.”

Both senators have been involved in Pi Sigma Alpha, the local chapter of the National Political Science Honors Society, at varying capacities. Senator Graves was invited to join the executive council by Professor Bussiere, the Chair of the Political Science Department. Meanwhile, Senator Brown has participated in the activities and events of this honor society on a non-member capacity.

Roadmap to Integrity

One of the most important parts of their platform is their “Restore Integrity” initiative, which intended to correct the not so “secret” fact “that a majority of the students at [UMB] do not know where the [USG] is located, how it functions, or its purpose” along with the high turnover rates within the body of the government.

“When I was growing up, I saw how governance was done properly at a federal, state, and local level,” said Senator Graves, “I believe that this experience enabled me to see how leaders served their constituency.”

Transparency and retention are the two things that are two characteristics that Graves stressed in his explanation of his “Restore Integrity Initiative,” because he believes that the student body doesn’t know or understand their student government. Additionally, he notes that there’s an issue of turnover at the USG that needs to be addressed.

The solution, according to the Graves-Brown ticket, is to take the “bull by the horn” by recruiting “a member of the UMB faculty with a reduced course load to serve as a direct advisor” for the USG. The senators will receive credit for their time and be judged on their ability to legislate, initiate amendments, constituent services, attendance, and overall ability to work as a team.

Senator Graves told the Mass Media that, “When we say ‘restore integrity’, it’s not an attack on any of the leaders of the USG. What we’re trying to say is that when there are inconsistent details within the provisions in propositions that come before the USG, something needs to be done to address such problems. Integrity takes a long time and a lot of student input. I’m not sure all those things are there right now.”

A critical concern for the Graves-Brown ticket is the issue of UMB’s sense of community.

“There’s a fundamental lack of a sense of community on campus,” said Senator Brown, “This is one of the central issues of our campaign that we aim to address by encouraging students who don’t participate in student activities on campus to get involved. There are so many opportunities to grow outside the classroom and we want more people to make use of the resources on campus.”

All of the initiatives are said to be aimed at eliminating this problem. The “Rate of Return Initiative” will aim to boost funding for the Student Activities Trust Fund and reach a broader audience. The Tuesdays Together Initiative and Wednesday Walk Initiative are both aimed at facilitating an effort lead by the Graves-Brown ticket to close the loose sense of community at UMB. The same is said of the “Restore Integrity Initiative.”

Senator Brown said that she intends to bring her own distinct brand of student politicking to this team, in the event that they are victorious in the race.

Points of Consideration

There were some points of consideration brought up during the interview with Senator Graves and Brown concerning their position on their challengers, campaign platform, and their leadership styles.

When asked about the opposing ticket, Senator Graves and Brown had many positive things to say, but they also asserted that they have a more comprehensive plan for reaching out to the UMB community through the Tuesday Together Initiative and Wednesday Walk Initiative, along with their other initiatives.

“We respect President MacInnes-Barker and Chairman Henderson due to our mutual interest in the welfare of the UMB student body and our pursuit of a college education. However, our ideals better represents the community we live in, as I’m 21 and my running mate is 27, which reflects the diversity of the campus,” said Senator Graves, “and there’s also room for improvement in terms of what the executive can do. The sky is the limit.”

Both Graves and Brown promised to remove personal politics out of the government process to stop the dysfunction that has “happened on the current administration’s watch.”

The style of political leadership and political know-how was the last issue discussed in the interview. These issues were brought up to address the limited time each candidate has spent as members of the USG and their capacity to take up the reigns of power.

Both Graves and Brown have less than one year of experience as senators in the USG, but they have shown a lot of passion in their beliefs and their motivations for being representatives of UMB students.

This is not to say that Senator Graves, who is running for the presidency, doesn’t have any experience in leadership in student government. When he attended Hampton University, he served the acting president of the student government for a semester after the president was removed and the vice-president left to study abroad.

During his term in office, then Acting President Graves was able to accomplish a host of things by building consensus on a number of issues that surfaced during that time. He was responsible for managing the legislative body and balancing the budget. He was also pushed to handle problems facing the community.

While in office, he convened a committee made up of students of both genders and from every department at Hampton to choose a provost and vice-president for student affairs after much controversy. The committee was “formed quickly and the two posts were filled within five weeks.”

“My approach was to tackle the problem head on by building consensus with a wide range of my constituents and getting the job done quickly and properly,” noted Senator Graves.

Graves also served as an intern for the US Congress and the office of Governor Deval Patrick. These experiences were mentioned, by Graves, as another experience he’s had in the field of leadership.

Senator Brown summarized her own brand of politicking as being a mix of being “creative and innovative,” as well as engaging with the student body and colleagues in the USG.

As for style, Brown had this to say, “I’ve always been vocal in the USG whenever I felt my fellow UMB students’ interest weren’t being upheld. I think I clearly demonstrated that I will not be easily deterred in my convictions.”

To sum things up, Senator Graves said that, “I see that there are many things that need to be done to improve the USG’s role at UMB. I feel that my knowledge of governance and human interaction will enable me do what’s necessary for my fellow UMB students. My running mate and I complement one another in terms of our vision for the UMB community.”

When asked about being compared to President Barack Obama, by some fellow UMB students, Senator Graves said that “I’m not the next Obama. I am the first Reynold Graves and I’m running in this race to become the next President of the USG.

About the Contributor
Dillon Zhou served as opinions editor for The Mass Media the following years: 2010-2011