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Brian Hayes

Student Body President Emeritus Joseph Shepard says he was verbally attacked by Stacey Steffes-Sundquist, mother of Student Body President Paige Hungate following the Student Government end-of-year banquet Thursday night at the Beggs Ballroom in the Rhatigan Student Center.

‘She hasn’t really been a yes man’

A closer look at Reagan-inspired President-elect Hungate

April 6, 2017

Paige Hungate knew she wanted to be president in the 5th grade.

Brian Hayes
President-elect Paige Hungate cries and covers her face after the announcement of her victory in the RSC. She arrived at the RSC minutes before the announcement, too anxious to walk over from Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity earlier.

“I’d tell everybody, ‘Vote for me in 2044,’” she said.

Now she’s Wichita State’s student body president.

After three days of voting, the results of the 2017 Student Government Association election were announced at 5:30 p.m.

United We Stand, led by Hungate and Vice President-elect Breck Towner, won with a reported 58 percent of the vote.

“I’m just elated,” Hungate said. “I didn’t expect it.

“All this hard work, my broken nose, all of it — worth it.”

The final minutes

The hour before the election results were announced, Hungate ate a Nature Valley crunchy oats and honey granola bar and listened to Towner sing the Irish folk song “Danny Boy” on repeat.

Ronald Reagan speeches played in the background.

They waited at Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Towner’s fraternity.

Towner worked on sales budgets for class, in between chugs of water.

Hungate thought about her future: the first 50 days if elected — or what to do if not.

She left Sigma Alpha Epsilon ten minutes before the announcement.

Her mom talked her through the five-minute walk to the RSC. She told Hungate God wanted her in the Bluestem Lounge, the announcement room, for a reason. She told her to not be nervous.

As she walked, Hungate remembered a comment from engineering instructor Alicia Newell, said after Friday’s debate: “My favorite part (of the debate) was when my 10-year-old daughter said, ‘Wow, she’s an engineer and wants to be president, mom,'” Newell said.

“At that moment, she saw the endless possibilities for herself one day.”

‘Tell them what you believe’

Active in politics and a computer science major, Hungate knows what it’s like to be a woman in a man’s world.

She’s one of a handful of women in her computer science classes, classes that all meet in the same room on campus.

Hungate spends more than eight hours a week in Jabara 226. It’s an older classroom with chalkboards up front and no outside windows — just four white walls and two pinkish-red doors.

She’s not afraid to email department chair John Watkins to raise concerns about her professor and encourages her classmates to do the same. The class average on the latest exam was 45 percent, Hungate said, and the average homework grade is 62 percent.

“It’s just like emailing a senator,” Hungate said. “Advocate for yourself. Tell them what you believe.”

Within minutes, Hungate has convinced most of the class to send emails to the department chair.

“Thank you,” Hungate said with a grin.

“See, this is a grassroots movement.”

Religiously Republican 

Fifth grade wasn’t just the start of Hungate’s lengthy presidential bid. It was also the year her parents divorced, a part of her life she spent much of with her grandparents, Lonnie and LaDonna Snook, and her dad, Trent.

The biggest reason for being ‘conservative’ is taxes, to be quite honest. I think conservatives get that right.

— Paige Hungate

All that bonding with her father and grandparents helped shape her personal and political beliefs — beliefs described by others as conservative self-described by Hungate as libertarian.

“The biggest reason for being ‘conservative’ is taxes, to be quite honest. I think conservatives get that right.”

Conservative or libertarian, Hungate is assuredly Republican. She interned at Jerry Moran’s D.C. office her freshman year and accepted a field representative position for Moran her sophomore year. First semester of junior year she was promoted to field director in Moran’s campaign, where she managed 23 Kansas counties. Now she’s an intern at Moran’s official Wichita office, assisting on casework inquiries.

Hungate’s political experience dates back to 8th grade, to a campaign she’s now embarrassed by.

In 2009, Hungate and sister Haley canvassed around her northeast Wichita neighborhood for Todd Tiahrt’s run for Senate — the year he ran against Jerry Moran.

“Don’t tell anybody.”

‘United We Stand’

As class begins, Hungate’s body language becomes purposeful. She sits up straight, doesn’t fidget. Her bespectacled brown eyes don’t wander far from the board, only straying to write something in her notebook.

Despite disagreeing with his grading methods, she pays attention to her instructor as he teaches a lesson on data structures.

Halfway through class, she takes out her laptop, adorned with symbols of some of her favorite things: a Senator Jerry Moran sticker, the Wichita flag, the Delta Gamma symbol.

She’s always had this fascination with the Reagan family.

— Haley Hungate

Perhaps the most telling sticker on her laptop, though, is a headshot of Ronald Reagan.

Reagan has always been her role model, Hungate said, both in his politics and as a person.

Her older sister, Haley, said Paige used to take her Reagan obsession to the extreme.

“In high school she used to Photoshop herself with Ronald Reagan and do a ‘Me and Ronnie’ kind of thing,” Haley said with a laugh. “She’s always had this fascination with the Reagan family. She would sort of drop herself in place of Nancy — even if she has the utmost respect for Nancy.

“She kind of stopped when she got into college,” Haley assured.

Haley said Paige’s love of Reagan speaks to her character and political passion.

That passion, fueled by a desire to mend a divided student government, was channeled into Hungate’s presidential ticket, United We Stand.

Hungate said the name represents her goal of eliminating division both in SGA and campus-wide. She said tension has defined this year’s session of SGA, and she wants to change that.

“There’s tension and division between administration and student government and there’s division between student government and students on campus,” Hungate said.

“We want to unify everyone.”

Hungate said she’d like to take SGA in a “positive direction” where political affiliations and social movements don’t decide SGA’s goals and vision.

To curb that, Hungate said she sought out liberals and others she doesn’t politically agree with to flesh out her 40-person ticket.

Brian Hayes
Vice President-elect Breck Towner hugs running mate Paige Hungate after the announcement of their victory in the RSC. Hungate spent the hour before the announcement anxiously anticipating the results with Towner.

The campaign now behind her, Hungate said she plans to meet with her senators to get to know them each personally. She’s putting together a potluck dinner with SGA and the administration. She said she wants to put to rest the Interfaith Prayer Space debacle.

Her vice presidential running mate, Breck Towner, said Hungate plans on sticking to the duties outlined in the SGA Journal “as closely as possible.”

He said her dedication to sticking to those duties and “not just going along with (SGA’s) plans” has made members of the student government executive team go after Hungate in the past.

Hungate said her outspokenness resulted in insults and bullying by President Shepard and members of his team over the last two SGA sessions.

Eye-rolling and glaring by differing sides in senate meetings became a staple of many Wednesday meetings, Hungate said.

Bullying and turmoil caused senators on both sides to leave SGA. One former member went so far as to leave the university.

Hungate will begin her third year in the organization in the fall.

“She hasn’t really been a ‘yes man,’ for lack of better words,” Vice President-elect Towner said.

Hungate said her male colleagues tend to look at her differently after they’ve seen her work.

“It’s cool to walk into a classroom with a bunch of guys and three girls,” Hungate said. “A lot of times the guys are like, ‘Oh, that girl doesn’t know anything,’ but then you prove that you’re just as smart — or smarter — than them.”

Hungate said she realizes the POTUS aspirations are lofty. After graduation, she hopes to pursue state politics. She looks up to Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, she said. 

“Sure, I want to be the president, but if I could be a senator for Kansas, that would be a dream come true.”

Sure, I want to be the president, but if I could be a senator for Kansas, that would be a dream come true.

— Paige Hungate

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  • A

    A concerned studentApr 7, 2017 at 9:01 pm

    Its funny how only a couple days in to Paige being elected the people who didn’t vote for her are already bashing and ranting about how horrible she’s going to be. Grow up people, you lost the election. Had things gone the other way and Paige’s supporters started ranting about Tracia Bañuelos, you would all be furious… Take the loss with dignity or at the very least give Paige a chance to prove herself. The election process exists for a reason.

    • Y

      Yes ManApr 8, 2017 at 11:52 pm

      Preach it! Y’all need to shut up and become ‘yes men.’

      • L

        lolApr 10, 2017 at 1:39 pm

        yeah because you should always be a good little child and never question things. You should grow a spine, bud.

      • W

        Womens' SuffrageApr 11, 2017 at 12:45 am

        Become a “yes men”?

        Why not a “yes women”?

        …Because women can’t.

  • R

    Rachel LeeApr 7, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    This post was called to my attention and I want to clarify that the person who posted this is also named Rachel Lee, and not committing identity fraud?

    This is not my post nor my words or opinion.

    Thank you,

    Rachel Lee
    (Senior, Delta Gamma, Elementary Education)

  • C

    Concerned StudentsApr 7, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    I’m a Senator and I’ve seen how Paige bullies the SGA Cabinet. I distinctly remember her calling one of the cabinet members a “stupid a**” after a Senate meeting last semester. I hope she learns to be more respective to people who aren’t white.

  • R

    Rachel LeeApr 6, 2017 at 11:30 pm

    Dear naive Paige, A potluck? You want to host a potluck? You want to eliminate division and tension? You want to go in a positive direction? That’s certainly not the role you played the last two years. You never missed an opportunity to take your complaints to the media – both social media and The Sunflower. You fanned the flames darling. Pay backs are a …

    Eye rolling? Glaring? I guess you would know since you were an active participant yourself.

    Paige, you haven’t been a team player. You have contributed to the drama, your tears and “melt downs” when you didn’t get your way are certainly indicators of what a difficult time you’re going to have this next year. I hope you get as good as you gave. You deserve it. Prepare to unite the 42% of us who did NOT VOTE FOR YOU!

    Pot luck?? Good luck with that!

    • A

      A concerned studentApr 7, 2017 at 9:05 pm

      While 42% of voters didn’t vote for Paige, 58% of us did 🙂 Give her a chance to prove herself, she can’t be any worse than the childish group we had running the student government before her. Our former SGA leaders were horrible, and seemingly their last action was taking part in an ILLEGAL protest inside a university building, breaking fire codes and University regulations for first amendment gatherings which could have seen every participant charged with CRIMINAL TRESPASS. There’s no way she’ll be worse than that.

      Dont agree with me? Thats fine. At least wait until she actually does something before you go ranting.

      • Y

        Yes ManApr 9, 2017 at 4:04 pm

        Haha, I like how illegal you think it was. I mean, technically, it was awesome. And…it’s funny that it’s as illegal as you dramatize.

        When Rosa Parks sat in the back of the bus.

        It was totally illegal.

        But we learn from history, right? Good things happen from muckrakers doing super illegal stuff the good and benefit of others. I think people confuse disagreement with a bunch of morons and hoolagins with people who have to have a peaceful sit in because their leader, President Bardo is acting innapropriately and doesn’t check or respond to his emails, won’t make press conferences, won’t take responsibility, blames everyone else for his problems.

        Bardo really was the causation for the effect of people being upset. Then Bardo made himself innaccessible by hiding in a cave and building walls around the castle of his throne.

        That trespass or however you want melodramatize it, it was pretty awesome.

        • A

          A concerned studentApr 9, 2017 at 10:31 pm

          I wouldn’t compare the sit in to Rosa Parks’ movement. Not for one second.

          Saying that the protest was illegal isn’t a melodrama. It is clearly stated that violating the terms can lead to criminal trespass charges. The fact is that whoever organized that sit in either had no understanding of first amendment gathering regulations, or chose to disregard them. That creates an environment that can become unsafe for both protesters and non-participants. That’s why the regulations are in place. Any group that wont take that seriously does not deserve to be taken seriously themselves… and I would say that even if there was a protest group on campus that I did agree with.

          Disregarding regulations and fire codes that are designed to keep everyone safe is not awesome, it is moronic, regardless of your political stance or feelings towards the administration.

  • L

    Lmao okayApr 6, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    Oh, girl.

    Trying to prove you’re not a racist homophobe and then idolizing a racist homophobe is not a good look. Reagan was god awful and killed and arrested millions based solely on racism.

    Like you know that. Right? Right?

    And that last line. Thank goodness she’s smart even though she’s a girl! Wowzers! How does ye ol family values feel about a girl outta the kitchen?

    Look you’re problematic as hell, but maybe, maybe if you say “I’m problematic as hell please help because people who aren’t white feel uncomfortable around me for a reason” you can get some help.

    But if you wanna just keep pretending we’re all human and nothing more (or less as some think) good luck uniting us.

  • J

    Jesse AllenApr 6, 2017 at 11:52 am

    “Then they’re like, ‘Paige isn’t just a girl — she’s smart.”

    I think I speak for most women on campus when I say how grateful and appreciative I am that Ms. Hungate is here to represent us dummies and our concerns. It’s tough for us ladies, being this stupid and incompetent (unlike the menfolk), but thank heavens our president, despite her debilitating girlhood affliction, was blessed with all them brains. United We Stand!

  • A

    Ain't that the truthApr 6, 2017 at 11:16 am

    If she’s not a “yes man” yet, she sure will become one. *rolls eyes*

  • C

    ConcernedApr 6, 2017 at 9:39 am

    Paige should really elaborate on the whole “She said she wants to put to rest the Interfaith Prayer Space debacle.” If putting to rest means excluding members of different religions and sects – I will be wholly disappointed. The article causes me nothing but great concern for the new SGA president and her term.

    • S

      sarcasmApr 6, 2017 at 10:49 am

      Don’t worry! Brett and her already have a great relationship with Bardo so of course they will be pioneers for the students that feel so marginalized by his lack of accountability when it comes to racism, discrimination, and doing nothing about sexual assault cases.

  • T

    Trying to be hopefulApr 6, 2017 at 9:02 am

    I hope Hungate advocates for the marginalized communities, unlike Reagan who shunned the LGBTQ+ community and did nothing about the AIDS epidemic. Who also incarcerated minorities at an alarming rate for nonviolent and/or minor charges (drug war). Also, his trickle-down economics didn’t work for the country, so keep that in mind with the already sparse budget. Please use your platform for the good of students!

    • M

      Mr. JonesApr 6, 2017 at 9:54 am

      You do realize that people incarcerated for drug offenses had other charges associated with their conviction, like trafficking. illegal firearms possession, etc. Also regarding the budget, Keynesian economics has put this nation into further debt with no benefit to anyone, just more needless, government intervention.

      • T

        Trying to be hopefulApr 6, 2017 at 10:46 am

        All I’m saying is Reagan isn’t really known for his advocacy of diversity, and his economics plan only benefits those who are already wealthy, so if that isn’t something that bothers you, I hope that you sleep well at night.

        • M

          Mr. JonesApr 6, 2017 at 11:47 am

          Advocacy for diversity as in forced diversity rather than the most qualified being accepted, that sounds nothing like totalitarianism *sarcasm*. True diversity is moving away from identity politics and favoring a merit based system, just saying.

    • A

      AgreedApr 6, 2017 at 10:12 am


    • U

      um. what.Apr 6, 2017 at 10:21 am

      Everything you just said has not and will have not any affect on WSU at all. lol.

      • T

        Trying to be hopefulApr 6, 2017 at 10:44 am

        I mean, my role models growing up weren’t racists like Reagan, who actually begrudgingly made MLK day a holiday after growing backlash from the country. Or Voted against civil rights laws constantly. That’s a red flag for me.

  • N

    Not much of a voter turnoutApr 6, 2017 at 1:03 am

    I’m not like Paige,

    because when men look at me they’re like, “she’s just a woman, because she’s such an idiot.

    All she can make me is a sandwich.”