Nine candidates took the stage on Saturday as AU College Democrats hosted an SG Candidates Forum prior to releasing its candidate endorsements on Monday morning. Nicole Gray, communications director for AU Dems, and Diane Roznowski, AU Dems press secretary, moderated the event and asked candidates questions from club members and Twitter submissions.
In the past, candidate endorsements were only made by AU Dems Executive Board members. However, this year 25 members of AU Dems had a say in the process by voting after the forum, amongst a total audience turnout of approximately 40 people. According to Gray, this change was made to make the endorsement process “more inclusive and democratic.”
After the candidates presented opening statements to the crowd, all of them then answered a variety of questions involving improving AU Central and the financial aid process at AU, enhancing sexual assault prevention, making SG more inclusive and more.
Following these questions, position-specific questions were asked to the individuals, a process which highlighted differences between the candidates.
Vice presidential candidate Sam Vervaeke was unable to attend due to a death in her family and was represented by Solomon Self, her campaign assistant. All of the other candidates represented themselves.
Presidential candidates and sophomores Matt Mullin, Devontae Torriente and Will Mascaro were asked by the moderators how they plan to realistically accomplish all of the issues laid out in their ambitious platforms.
Mullin stressed the importance of bringing students together through enhanced communication and on-campus events, which he believes will inspire students to work more cohesively and get things done.
“I think my platform is the most inclusive for everyone and involves bringing everyone in,” Mullin said. “I think that it’s important to have pride in our school, and I think that as we raise the level of school spirit and pride in the school, more people will want to get involved with not only specific clubs and organizations on campus, but people would want to come and be more involved in student government.”
Torriente emphasized his experience working with administration in the past on large scale projects such as the revised general education program and the diversity and inclusion proposal presented to President Kerwin, as well as explaining how he can effectively bridge the gap between students and the administration.
“I think I’m the right person to bridge that gap, because it’s evident that when I have a seat with administration, when I’m at that table with them, things actually get done,” Torriente said. “I think it’s very clear that when we have the right person in that seat at the table with our administration, things get done. And you know, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu and I’m not about to be eaten.”
Mascaro touched on the importance of his past experience in Student Government leadership roles and putting together a team of student advocates to influence administrative officials.
“You need to know how the administration works, and the experience I’ve had over the past two years has given me the opportunity to know exactly how that works,” Mascaro said. “It’s also leading a team, because the president doesn’t serve alone. The president works with a team, with a cabinet, and you need talented people from communities affected to be on that team.”
Vice President Topics
Vice presidential candidates sophomores Alexis Arnell and Sam Vervaeke were asked how they plan on making AU and student government more inclusive for everyone.
Self, representing Vervaeke, discussed her concept of “Programming with a Purpose” and facilitating important conversations through programming options.
“We have fun events, we have cool speakers, but we should have more things that mean something to people,” Self said. “For her, one of the big things is strengthening the programs we already have. She doesn’t know everything. She can’t be every race, gender and everything else. But she can work with the groups who do represent those issues, like The Darkening, Queers and Allies, every other kind of group there is. She can strengthen those as vice president.”
Arnell touched on the importance of continuing to have SG members completing safe space and peers training, in addition to appointing a diversity and inclusion director within her cabinet if elected.
“This person [the diversity and inclusion director] will be in charge of doing bi-weekly conversations with members of different organizations such as BSA, The Darkening, LGBTQ and many other organizations that the vice president will be in contact with, and they will be the voice in programming for them,” Arnell said. “This year we had the leader of the Black Lives Matter movement come, and that’s great, but that shouldn’t lie on our KPU director who’s bringing speakers to this campus. It should lie on someone who wants to have this programming come to campus.”
Secretary candidates sophomore Faith Rokowski and junior Martin Valderruten were asked how they plan to collaborate with clubs on campus to makes sure they have the resources they need to be successful.
Rokowski outlined her plans to better inform student media by providing them with press packets on potential events to cover, in addition to compiling a mass calendar for the student body, stocked with information for all clubs so all receive equal attention and support.
“I’m really looking to do a lot about reaching out to every club on campus,” Rokowski said. “I was in a small club last year, and we don’t exist anymore because we would put on events and 11 people would go, and we would work all semester on our publication and nobody would read it but us. I don’t think it’s fair that we are claiming to work for the students that elected us, and we’re not there to give them the support they need.”
Valderruten discussed bringing more attention to the current calendar on the student government website and the success of the leadership breakfast he has implemented in the past year.
“I also have started the leadership breakfast that I initiated every semester and that’s where I meet with every single member of every club,” Valderruten said. “I sent them an invitation, I come to meet with them at the roundtable, I talk to them and ask them what they need, how can we help them.”
Sophomore comptroller candidates Shannon McDermott and Alex Mosenson were asked how they will make sure the needs of on-campus workers are represented in the upcoming budget year.
McDermott focused on extending current benefits that professors and their families receive to Aramark workers, as well as looking into lowering transportation fees to and from campus to make it more affordable for them to get to work.
“[Professors] have discounted prices on attending classes here at American, and their family members do as well. I don’t think it’s fair that our workers don’t get that,” McDermott said. “I want to fight for our workers including with our Metro pass system. The dollar a day for us, I want to extend that to our workers as well.”
Mosenson talked about elevating workers’ voices to the University budget committee, as well as appropriating more funding into scholarship programs for them, similar to McDermott.
“I want to give the University budget committee workers’ rights stories,” Mosenson said. “I also want to expand the scholarship program for them that they have extended to one of the workers. I think that we should be funnelling more money into that program so workers daughters and sons can come to this school.”
The AU Dems endorsement was announced Monday morning via social media.
Based on voting results, members of AU Dems endorsed Torriente for president, Arnell for vice-president, Valderruten for secretary and McDermott for comptroller.