Presidential candidates debate affordability, accountability within Student Government
Angela Chen and Joshua Dantzler took part in ATV debate, town hall Monday night
After multiple town halls with students over the past week, presidential candidates for the 2019-2020 Student Government executive board took part in the annual ATV broadcast debate and a town hall in the Tavern on Monday.
Angela Chen and Joshua Dantzler faced questions from ATV moderators Awais Ahmed and Alexis Arnold, concentrating on diversity and inclusion, the University’s finances and student relations with AUSG. Arnold clarified that although she is The Blackprint’s editor-in-chief, she has maintained editorial distance from the endorsements made by the publication.
The ATV live broadcast was divided into three parts: university finances, such as tuition increases, financial aid assistance, and responsible spending; diversity and inclusion, with topics surrounding faculty diversity, international students and accessibility; and student relations and accountability, including concerns about AU dining and SG’s relationships with AU Club Council and Student Media.
Dantzler, Chen debate how to address student concerns about affordability
Chen and Dantzler agreed on the importance of addressing tuition cost, emphasizing current problems with accessibility of the financial aid office. However, they disagreed on how to address student concerns about affordability.
Chen mentioned a tuition shopping sheet for new students, which would allow them to fully understand the financial aid options available to them and to see where their money is going. She spoke about her experiences with students who lost their financial aid packages, which forced some to drop out.
“Too many of my peers have had to drop out or transfer because they could no longer afford to come to this university,” Chen said. “Before you enroll in AU, you should know exactly how much each year of your education is going to cost, and whether or not your financial aid is going to increase or decrease.”
Dantzler advocated for longer financial aid office hours beyond regular business hours, suggesting possible open houses with extended operation times several times per semester. As a low-income student, Dantlzer said, he has noticed how other expenses outside of tuition, including textbooks, laundry and health center costs, contribute to students’ concerns about affordability.
“When we start talking about financial aid again, we need to start thinking comprehensively and thinking about how the other factors, not just tuition, go into expenses here at AU,” Dantzler said.
Chen argued that Student Government should address the root causes of challenges with financial aid and affordability, citing a lack of “transparency” from the financial aid office about why students have their aid packages reduced.
“I think also the root of the problem is that financial aid counselors aren't always helping their students the way they should be,” Chen said. “There needs to be allowing for more transparency within the financial aid system itself.”
Textbook affordability was also a major topic, with Dantzler advocating for a more visible price tag on textbooks so low-income students could make course decisions based on affordability. Chen said this change would not address the root of the issue, and that students shouldn’t be forced to choose classes based on whether they can afford the textbooks.
“While it’s not the root or the cause, it’s a start to the conversation about being accessible when it comes to navigating this AU experience,” Dantzler said.
Candidates talk inclusion of international students, diversifying SG
A major point of discussion between the candidates was the importance of recognizing and working with international students. Chen touted her experiences as an Explore DC leader, where she learned with and taught international students about life in the District.
“We must bring them into the conversation, especially considering the fact that international students are not eligible for financial aid,” Chen said.
During the ATV town hall, Chen was asked about statements she had made in the Black Student Caucus AUSG Debate about increasing representation of people of color and other marginalized groups in SG by recruiting and reaching out to those communities.
“What I mean by recruiting is basically providing resources for students to feel comfortable running,” Chen said. “I feel like a lot of students don’t feel like they are qualified enough or confident enough, or that they’re intimidated by other candidates joining the race.”
Dantzler advocated for “meeting students where they are,” instead of passively waiting for them to reach out themselves. He spoke about his experience with international students through the Center for Diversity and Inclusion as well as his passion for making AU more accessible for physically disabled people.
“I wish to have more expanding of our shuttle routes so that we can be accessible,” Dantzler said. “[This is] especially [for] students who may have wheelchairs or who might be on crutches or any other physical restriction.”
How candidates would improve relationships between SG and students
Asked by the moderators about how they would improve relationships between the three branches of Student Activities — SG, the AU Club Council and AU Student Media — Danztler and Chen agreed on the importance of improving how funds from the student activity fee are allocated.
“We have to make sure that we're having AU Club Council and student media in those conversations about what the budget looks like,” Dantzler said. “What are the needs of our media organizations, what are the needs of our clubs?”
At the ATV town hall, Dantzler re-emphasized his support for student media, explaining that he would always be willing to invite reporters into discussions.
In regards to how SG can be held accountable, Chen advocated for a constitutional change that would allow the student body to impeach or remove the SG president, a power that is currently held by the Senate.
Chen also advocated for a review of SG’s budget and spending, and emphasized that organizations like Club Council and Student Media Board should be allocated more money. She wants to begin dialogues with student leaders to understand their goals and responsibilities, which, she hoped, could result in a better budget process.
During the ATV town hall, both candidates were asked what quality they liked and respected in their opponent.
“I think that Josh is a great public speaker,” Chen said. “I think Josh does a great job of being both approachable and a great public speaker.”
Dantzler said he admired Chen’s perseverance.
“I admire Angela’s ability to … never give up,” Dantzler said. “She’s mentioned that there have been a lot of doors closed in her face, but she’s never given up.”