At face value, there are a few noticeable differences between Adam Bergman and James Comerford. Bergman is an Advertising and Journalism student from Dallas, while Comerford hails from Austin and is majoring in Urban Studies. But, as you’d expect from any dynamic duo, the third-year executive alliance team also has a lot in common with one another. They’ve both been skydiving before and hold a special place in their hearts for their favorite TV shows (“Love Island” for Adam and “Avatar: The Last Airbender” for James). Perhaps most importantly, they feel a mutual call to service that has led them to run for the Student Government’s executive alliance.
For presidential candidate Bergman, the call came after two years of previous Student Government experience, during which time he served as first-year representative and university-wide representative. Comerford, his VP candidate, has similar experience, having spent a year as transfer student advocacy director. It’s their combined three years of Student Government tenure combined with the realistic platform that they say makes them unique among other executive alliance candidates.
“I think the biggest thing that sets us apart from everyone else is how pragmatic our plans are and how tangible our goals are,” Comerford says. “Our platform points are all intertwined, and they help each other succeed.”
Their platform consists of four key points: reducing domestic and sexual violence on campus, increasing mental health awareness, improving administrative and athletic transparency, and maintaining accountability and longevity. It’s an intentionally short list in comparison to other candidates.
“We want to be realistic with students,” Bergman says. “I don’t think it’s fair, and honestly I think it’s outlandish to say that you have 26 to 30 platform points only to not fulfill those ideas. Because you only have one year, and it’s actually less than that because although you have that time in the summer, you can’t pass legislation then.”
“I think everyone’s heart is in the right place,” Comerford adds. “There’s not a selfish person on the ballot. But I don’t think that the president and vice president of the student body have the power to solve Austin’s housing crisis. There are some really big, amazing ideas that I just think people aren’t being as realistic about as they could be.”
Part of that pragmatic attitude comes with taking a harsh look at the ways that the university has failed students in recent years, whether it be in the handling of sexual misconduct allegations or the implementation of mental health programs. Both agree that working with the administration of those issues will involve overcoming what Comerford refers to as “Texan pride.”
“I think the biggest thing that we’ll run into is that we’re running a very vulnerable platform and embracing the university’s flaws,” he says. “So just kind of making the university be honest with itself will be difficult for sure.”
Their plan to increase sexual assault prevention and awareness is particularly important to them. The main goal of their plan is to change the orientation programming surrounding sexual misconduct and domestic violence and bring in Austin Safe Care Counselors to speak about UT-specific issues to all incoming freshmen and transfer students. They’ll also work with organizations like It’s On Us and Not On My Campus to have conversations with student groups, including fraternities and sororities, to ensure that students are all on the same page in understanding how sexual misconduct affects them. In a similar spirit, Bergman and Comerford hope to enhance mental health awareness programs on campus. Currently, only the Cockrell School of Engineering and McCombs School of Business have unique, established mental health weeks that address the demands faced by students in each major and department.
“It’s tough to be a Longhorn in any capacity,” Comerford says. “We want to extend these programs across schools to make sure that we’re meeting these demands.”
In addition to sexual misconduct and mental health, Bergman and Comerford hope to increase transparency within the university, specifically as it relates to athletics marketing and sexual misconduct. The duo felt the overwhelming sense frustration with the administration when it was revealed that two professors who had previously been found guilty of sexual misconduct on campus with students were allowed to return to teaching staff, and it’s their hope that having proactive conversations can prevent something like that from happening again in the future.
“We pay our tuition and we are students in good standing,” Bergman says. “Why do our professors have to do the baseline requirement to get back on payroll and back on the teaching staff. It’s very frustrating to see. So having those candid conversations is very important to us.”
The last point of their platform builds on current student body president Cameron Goodman’s promise of boosting accountability and longevity within Student Government through the continuity committee. The idea is to ensure that popular platform points of previous executive alliances, such as making Thanksgiving break a full week and reinstating the UT/A&M game, remain a part of the Student Government’s agenda.
“You only serve a year-long term as President and VP, and it can be really hard to actually push your ideas through,” Comerford says. “So we love Cameron’s idea of a continuity committee to make sure the ideas of the past aren’t burning out when you’re passing the torch.”
Above all, Bergman and Comerford want to stress that this campaign isn’t about them. They understand the sacrifices that come with being student body president and vice president, from the sheer workload to the setback in graduation schedules due to only being able to take six credit hours, although individuals in both positions are compensated with stipends. But what matters most to them is what they can do to serve the student body and ensure that everyone’s voice can be heard.
“We’re here to steer the ship towards the students that we care about,” Bergman says. “James and I are taking that hit in the time of being students at UT. We’ll have to take an extra semester in the future, but we do it because we really want to make that change on campus, and we’re ready to do so.”
For now, the two are focused on sharing their vision of a “Texas Better Together” with the student body and trying to make their case. Next week, they’ll learn whether or not their efforts paid off.
Click here to learn more about the Bergman/Comerford platform