Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Wednesday, September 26, 2018

At debate and town hall, presidential candidates address diversity, improving relationship with AU police

Jarryd Delaney, Sam Rogers and Valentina Fernández make their pitch to be student government’s next leader

At debate and town hall, presidential candidates address diversity, improving relationship with AU police

Student government presidential candidates Jarryd Delaney, Valentina Fernández, and Sam Rogers responded to student questions at the town hall.

At a debate and town hall hosted by ATV Monday night, the student government presidential candidates presented their ideas on diversity, inclusion and improving communication between AU police and students, in addition to other topics.

The three presidential candidates -- sophomore Jarryd Delaney and juniors Sam Rogers and Valentina Fernández -- were asked questions by ATV moderators Mariah Espada and Max Aboko-Cole before moving to the Tavern for a town hall with students. Here are the main topics that the candidates discussed.

Improving the campus climate for students of color

Aboko-Cole’s first question for the candidates centered around the candidates’ plans to work with campus officials and offices to help “minority and POC students feel safe.” The moderator cited the results of a 2017 campus climate survey that found only 33 percent of African-American students said they felt included on campus.

Fernández’s solutions included creating a student advisory council for President Sylvia Burwell’s Inclusive Excellence Plan and advocate for more Latinx and transgender personnel in the Center for Diversity and Inclusion.

“This council will consist of cultural student leaders, religious student leaders but also should have an open application process to make sure that we’re adding new fresh faces and perspectives into the decision making rooms,” Fernández said.

Delaney advocated for better communication from the University when racist or hateful incidents occur on campus beyond the University’s immediate response.

“At the end of the day when the time is elapsed and months have gone by … we don’t have any updates on what happened,” Delaney said. “It just seems that for some reason the University is not working with us and not giving us the information that we need.”

Rogers said programming within and across communities will be a key part of his platform and mentioned his involvement with AU’s NAACP chapter, which endorsed him Tuesday, and the Caribbean Circle. He wants students who would not normally attend cultural events to support cultural organizations on campus.

“I think it goes a long way in laying the foundation for communities across campus so that when there are issues, when there are racist posters coming from outside groups and people, we’re able to fall back on that foundation of support to get us through those times,” Rogers said.

Improving communication between University, police and students

Candidates were also asked about their approaches to establish “a clear channel of communication” between the AU Police Department and students. Aboko-Cole cited the recent “tension” between students and AUPD following an incident during which a graduate student was arrested on campus for not identifying himself as a student.

Fernández said the tense relationship between students and AUPD is part of a national conversation. She would seek to clarify police procedures and create a student grievance policy with AUPD where students could file complaints about an interaction with AU police.

“I think for me, my interactions with police are completely different than they were three months ago before I became a U.S. citizen for personal reasons and everyone has their own personal take on it,” Fernández said. “What I plan to do as your next student government president is to make sure ... that we’re having those conversations consistently.”

Delaney said that there needs to be more relationship building between AUPD and students. He suggested having student tours of the AUPD office and hosting events with officers.

“I think it’s important that we build a community with the AU police department,” Delaney said. “We have students across the country and across the world who come to our student body here at AU, and you’re going to have students who come from places where police relations are better than others.”

Rogers said he wanted to create an advisory board with AUPD to engage about police procedures regarding interactions with students.

“I think we need to go a step further than just clarifying those policies and procedures and make it easier for students to engage regularly on those issues and help determine whether or not they’re the most appropriate policies,” Rogers said. “That’s why I’m proposing an advisory board.”

At town hall, candidates address diversity in SG, making organization more effective

During the town hall, two students asked Delaney about prior social media posts espousing conservative views about immigration, among other issues. He apologized for the tweets, calling them “disgusting.” He also partly addressed the posts in a Facebook video posted last Thursday.

“It’s extremely important to admit that I was uneducated on these things,” Delaney said. “I came from a place that surrounded me with these ideas."

Also on the agenda: increasing diversity within student government and ways to recruit more students of color to run for positions in SG. Delaney said he will reach out to a more diverse pool of students to run.

“I think that the lack of diversity in student government is clearly something that we need to work on,” Delaney said. “We need to address the students that we see potential to them and tell them ‘you should run.’”

Fernández said she would hire a strong diversity and inclusion director to identify problems within SG regarding diversity and inclusion.

“The director [will be] able to find the gaps in the organization itself by evaluating our composition but also realizing that looking at numbers doesn't do enough,” Fernández said.

“It starts at students government but it has to continue through every single platform in our university.”

Rogers said that he wants to create relationships with multicultural groups on campus with student government.

“I think in order to avoid tokenizing individuals we need to work with the organization to disseminate information on campus,” Rogers said.

The candidates were also approached about how they would make student government more effective and serve students better. Fernández said the central problem with SG and the student body is the lack of interaction between the two.

"I'm not spitting out talking points,” Fernández said. “We are in this together to make real solutions.”

If elected president, Delaney said he would make his administration “actually open to students” and bring conversations about SG policies to students through regular town halls. Rogers said he would change the model upon which he believes the government operates: “duplicating” efforts that other student organizations that are already working on issues on campus.

“We need to be a support system for what's already going on on campus," Rogers said. “There’s already students that are doing something. It becomes a matter of supporting them.”

mcarrrasco@theeagleonline.com


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