Student government candidates discuss transparency, diversity at College Democrats forum
Student activity fee increase, student communication also on the agenda
Candidates for student government’s 2018-2019 executive board made the case for their campaigns and answered questions in a forum hosted by the College Democrats last Thursday.
In previous forums, AU Dems voted after the event on who to endorse as a group. However, because their communications director, sophomore Alex Behle, is running for secretary, they are declining to endorse this year, the organization told The Eagle.
“AU Dems is not going to endorse anyone in this election cycle,” AU Dems president Emily Hamm said. “One of our own e-board members is running and we decided it isn’t proper and we want to be impartial this year.”
After each candidate presented minute-long opening statements on March 29, Hamm asked the candidates questions on behalf of the organization.
To read the bios of each candidate for the 2018-2019 SG executive board, click here.
Comptroller candidates: Gladden and Kenna talk transparency, student activity fee increase
Comptroller candidates Gisselle Gladden, who was represented by Sabrina Matlock, and Thomas Kenna were introduced first. Members of AU Dems asked their opinion on the potential increase of the student activity fee. The Senate originally voted to hold a referendum this spring on whether or not to increase the fee from $88.50 to $100 in order to give more funding to SG, Student Media Board and AU Club Council.
Kenna, who was present when the referendum was proposed, said SG is currently trying to push it to the fall ballot. The Senate has since voted to move the referendum to fall 2018.
“Student government wants to hear more input from students about how they feel about this,” Kenna said. “I know that all clubs need more funding, so a marginal increase, the equivalent of a meal swipe or even less, I think is something we should all be in favor of.”
Matlock said Gladden is also in favor of the increase in the student activity fee. Matlock said that Gladden wants to partner with outside companies in the community to advertise with SG, given her experience as business manager for The Eagle.
According to her representative, Gladden would also like to speak with students about their transparency concerns as well as release monthly reports to inform students on current initiatives.
“One of her things is listening and serving and within that she’s trying to be as transparent as possible,” Matlock said. “I think with talking to the students first and trying to gauge their ideas is one way to be transparent.”
Kenna, also emphasized his focus on transparency by measuring the student impact of SG’s programming.
“We need to do better job of measuring the per student impact of all of our programming, so when KPU, WI, SUB, Founder’s [Day] all spend student money and see how many students attend these events,” Kenna said.
Secretary candidate: Behle speaks about finding new ways to communicate with students
As the two comptroller speakers left the stage, secretary candidate Alex Behle stepped up to deliver his campaign speech. Behle is running unopposed and was not asked questions during the forum.
“I’m running for secretary because I know the value that the secretary’s cabinet can have in organizations small and large and I really want take my time to elevate club’s messages on campus,” Behle said.
Behle spoke about using new forms of media to reach students as part of his platform.
“AUSG has relied a lot on Facebook and email, which is really great, but I want kind of do some new content and branching out to new waves to reach to students,” Behle said. “I want to be accountable.”
Vice president candidates: Najafi and Munson on their visions for programming
Vice president candidates Jacob Munson and Leela Najafi, represented by Shadi Nasab, took the stage next. Munson spoke first about himself, saying that he’s a transfer student from Montgomery County College and an active member of his community.
“My biggest thing is that I really like to organize events and, with the vice president, it’s what they do,” Munson said.
Nasab spoke about Najafi’s experience as a SG senator and why she is running for the role.
“She’s running to be AUSG vice president because she believes her vision for programming will elevate inclusivity and make our programming most efficient,” Nasab said.
Hamm asked the candidates how they will work with student organizations to create programming that is relevant to students. Nasab answered first, stating that Najafi wants to continue developing relationships with several student organizations.
“She really wants to continue building proactive relationships by including student organizations in the conversation both when the event is in the planning process and seeing what their feedback is,” Nasab said.
Munson said he wants to increase transparency within the organization to create programming that is relevant to students.
“One of the biggest things that I've noticed since transferring here is the lack of transparency and I'm glad that other students have recognized that but it didn't take two years though,” Munson said. “We also need connections with the student body.”
Presidential candidates: Rogers, Fernández, Delaney on increasing diversity at AU
Last in the forum were presidential candidates Valentina Fernández, Sam Rogers and Jarryd Delaney, who was represented by campaign manager Andrew Lalwani. Fernández began her opening statement by speaking out on her experiences as the student trustee on the Board of Trustees and serving as a resident assistant and Empower AU facilitator.
“I want to make sure that I’m combining the institutional knowledge I’ve gained through the leadership roles I’ve had with my personal experiences,” Fernández said.
Rogers spoke about how he’s running because he wants candidates to deliver their promises.
“I’m running for student body president because I’m tired of seeing candidates year after year run for positions and over promise and when they get elected and actually serve in those positions, they underdeliver,” Rogers said.
Lalwani spoke about Delaney’s past experiences as an AU Ambassador and his own friendship with Delaney.
“Throughout his time, he has been an amazing frontrunner from what I’ve seen from his as a best friend and also as someone who knows and understand the students’ struggles,” Lalwani said. “He is very passionate and very dedicated and it comes through his earnest and trustworthiness through the people he cares about.”
Hamm asked the candidates what they were going to do to improve diversity on campus and what their response if and when they get “called out” for not doing that.
“I think the conversation around diversity are extremely important but I think we need to reshaping our energy to inclusion and equity,” Fernández said.
Fernández said she would continue the work of current SG president Yamillet Payano, who was elected in February, by creating a student task force with students to be involved in the execution of the Inclusive Excellence plan.
“I think criticism is more than important,” Fernández said. “There’s always great work being done but we will never be perfect.”
Rogers said that more than talking to just student leaders, he wants to talk to all students in multicultural groups.
“It is important that we go to club leaders, especially multicultural organization leaders but the second part is that we have to remember that they don’t speak for everyone in their community,” Rogers said. “We can’t solely rely on the perceptions of the people who are leading these groups.”
Lalwani said that there’s a difference between being diverse and actually including people in the conversation. He said Delaney’s experience working in the Center for Diversity and Inclusion would be helpful in working to improve representation in SG and at AU.
“Speaking for Jarryd, I have seen him speak to people and I’ve seen him digest information and take a step back knowing that he’s not the proper resource at times,” Lalwani said. “Being involved with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, he knows the structure of how that process works ... It’s also having an understanding what those resources can and cannot do.”
Editor’s note: Gisselle Gladden is The Eagle's business manager. She did not influence the reporting, writing or editing of this article.