Highlights from SG presidential debate and town hall
Here’s what you missed from Thursday’s events
The 2017 student government presidential candidates faced off on Thursday night in a debate broadcasted and hosted by ATV.
The four presidential candidates, Taylor Dumpson, Haley Lickstein, Andy Schwarz and Terry Altherr answered questions by debate moderators Ammad Quraishi and Mawal Sidi.
Here are four of the biggest topics the candidates discussed.
1. Should student stipends be cut?
Schwarz plans to cut student stipends for paid positions in SG by 40 to 50 percent and instead wants to put that money toward scholarships for financially struggling students, he said. Although it is not in the president’s power to cut stipends, Schwarz said that he would convince the Senate to pass it. The SG president gets a total $10,000 stipend: $5,000 for the summer and $5,000 for the academic year they serve.
“I want to be fair to everyone, but you can’t give those stipends to a handful of student government elected officials that receive that money, but not be fair to the students who they are supposed to be serving, who they aren’t right now,” Schwarz said.
Lickstein pointed out that it is not in the president’s power to cut stipends and that it is not the money, but the members of SG that must be held accountable. She proposed that SG members publically log office hours and make themselves more available to students.
“I think that we spent a little too much time on stipends, but rather that’s not the issue,” Lickstein said. “The issue is holding members who are elected accountable for what they’re saying they’re doing.”
2. What is the best way to improve AU’s counseling center?
Each of the candidates shared their plans on how to improve the counseling center for students.
Altherr pointed out that students can only meet with a counselor eight times a year and wishes to improve this by getting administrators to hire more counselors.
Schwarz suggested that the counseling center should mandate check-ins with students that visit to make sure that their conditions are improving.
Dumpson responded with a different approach, proposing an expansion of the counseling center due to overcrowding.
“If we expand spacing and we provide more room for the counseling center, then that means you have to increase funding,” Dumpson said.
3. Diversity and inclusion: Where do we go from here?
Each candidate presented very different ideas on how to foster diversity and inclusion on campus.
Dumpson suggested that by hiring full time faculty members of color and creating a safe space for students that feel marginalized on campus, students will feel safer and more comfortable.
"We need to hire more faculty members of color,” Dumpson said. “... No one is talking about race because it is a little 'uncomfortable.'”
Lickstein proposed that diversity and inclusion should be divided into specific area groups within SG. Each group will specialize in a certain area, such as the LGBTQ community, minorities and the disabled.
“We have to work on diversifying our resources in mental health and sexual assault to make sure those [resources] represent students on this campus as well,” Lickstein said.
Schwarz and Altherr both made a statement about how they want to reach out to more students and listen to their concerns. Altherr stressed that AU already has long term goals and recourses, but in order to accomplish short term goals the president must listen to the students.
“We should interact with people instead of being scared,” Altherr said.
Dumpson pointed out that not every student has the same experience on campus and how that must be taken into account when creating a better environment for the community.
4. Pushing for change: How do candidates plan to listen to student concerns?
Dumpson said she plans on maintaining strong relationships with student organizations, giving out quarterly surveys to students asking about their concerns, and working on “Ask Clawed,” which will be a campus resource guide created to make a student safe space for marginalized students.
“It’s not about listening to student voices,” Dumpson said. “It’s how you hear them.”
Schwarz said that talking to students isn’t enough and that more pressure should be put on the administration to satisfy the needs of students.
He cited Duke University as an example of a school whose administration listened to its students and implemented a new sexual assault policy as a result.
Altherr and Lickstein both said that the best way to listen to student concerns is by reaching out to more student organizations and taking their concerns into account.
Following the debate, the four presidential candidates followed debate moderators Quraishi and Sidi into the Tavern for a town hall that allowed students to ask the candidates questions directly.
Here are some of the questions students asked all of the candidates.
1. “What have you done thus far, what organizations have you worked with thus far to improve [the] lives of marginalized people?” - Sydney Jones, sophomore and AU’s NAACP President.
Dumpson mentioned how during her freshman year she began working with AU’s Intercultural Greek Collective and for the past two years has served as the president for the organization.
Additionally, Dumpson said she served as the vice president for Student Advocates for Native Communities.
“I know people in these organizations that are doing work so I honestly think that the role of student government president is to build friendships, connections and relationships we currently have to foster a more inclusive environment,” Dumpson said.
Lickstein mentioned how she has worked as the events coordinator for AU College Democrats, served in SG Undergraduate Senate for the past two years, and has attended events sponsored by the Center of Diversity and Inclusion and other organizations.
“I think it’s really important to hear these voices and I could always do more,” Lickstein said.
Schwarz mentioned how he grew up in a rural town in Maryland and said how it related to his changing perspective on advocacy for marginalized people.
“AU as a whole has definitely changed my perspective from what it was coming in to what it is now,” Schwarz said.
Altherr mentioned how this is a “complicated” question, saying how he hasn’t had the chance to take part as much in BSA and NAACP but said he attended events. Additionally, he mentioned experience with the Student Worker Alliance.
“I listened to and made friendships with the workers here, since they are predominantly of color as they continue to fight with accountability from Aramark and AU to make sure their rights and their paychecks are being honored,” Altherr said.
After everyone finished answering the question, Dumpson responded to her fellow candidates.
“As a student of color, what I heard the candidates mention so far kind of rubbed me the wrong way because we’re all supposed to be up here to advocate for students and just because you haven’t had experience with them one-on-one doesn’t mean you cannot advocate for them,” Dumpson said.
2. “Why are sexual assault advocacy and resources prominent to you all's platform during SG election season but no other time?” - Sidi read a question from Twitter.
Dumpson mentioned how her mother was a director of a life crisis center that works with sexual assault and domestic violence. Additionally, she mentioned her work as IGC president and serving in the Greek Wellness Coalition.
“Growing up that’s always been something that I’ve known about,” Dumpson said. “That’s always been something that I am passionate about.”
Lickstein said she began sexual assault advocacy the moment she stepped on campus. She mentioned her roles in Senate and different meetings with organizations, like meeting with AU’s office of public safety.
“From the second that I stepped on this campus I’ve been advocating for increased resources for sexual assault,” Lickstein said. “You can check my track record of everything that I’ve done on campus.”
Schwarz said how he cares about sexualt assualt year round, and mentioned his experience with friends that are survivors of sexual assault.
“I think I share the similar frustration,” Schwarz said. “I don’t think someone on Twitter knows myself as a person well enough to say that sexual assault doesn’t matter to me.”
Altherr mentioned his own personal experience with sexual assault when asked this question and said to fix this problem, the candidates need to listen to students.
“Obviously it’s easy to get angry at people because there hasn’t been a lot of work done to promote sexual assault awareness,” Altherr said.
3. “What have all of you done to address the privileges in your own lives?” - Christine Machovec, junior and a comptroller candidate asked.
Dumpson said her privileges are that she is a cisgender, heterosexual black woman that comes from a privileged socioeconomic background,
“I check [my privilege] day in and day out. I recognize there are students here at AU that it is uncomfortable for them being in spaces with such privilege,” Dumpson said. “… I try to take a step back, recognize if I said something problematic, and I always welcome feedback if I have said something problematic.”
Lickstein said that she was born into a family that used food stamps that rose to a stable socioeconomic level. She said her privileges are being a heterosexual, white woman.
“I spent a lot of time on this campus trying to work to hear other students voices and work with other students,” Lickstein said. “... I think it’s really important to have a student government president that not only recognizes their privilege but advocates for people that don’t have the same privileges that they do.”
Schwarz said that when he first came to AU he didn’t know too much about privileges and what his own privileges were. Schwarz said it’s more about taking action.
“I’ve learned from those experiences,” Schwarz said. “I’ve said problematic things but I’ve learned from them.”
Altherr said that he is autistic, and is half-white but is white passing with a “strong” socioeconomic background. He said he used to have a “liberal elitist” view, where if someone didn’t believe in the same things he did, they were wrong. However, Altherr said he’s learned from it.
“People have different perspectives and even if you disagree with them or what they’re saying, it’s important that you listen to them and understand their position,” Altherr said. firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com