Meet your 2020-2021 Student Government candidates
Voting ends on April 16 at noon
Meet the candidates running for the 2019-2020 Student Government executive board. Voting begins on April 13 at noon and ends on April 16 at noon. Students can vote online through Campus Labs. More information about the elections process can be found here.
The Eagle asked each candidate to briefly explain their platform. Their responses are below with candidates listed in alphabetical order by position.
The focus of Brock’s campaign is to advocate for the concerns of students, specifically on topics such as reforming AUPD, tuition freeze and accessibility to the Board of Trustees.
Eric Brock is a sophomore majoring in political science in the School of Public Affairs. He wants to advocate for a guaranteed tuition freeze, as well as establish student oversight of AUPD through a committee made up of students, faculty and staff. This would deal with grievances towards AUPD, instead of going through the University’s Human Resources Department, which they currently do. Brock talked about creating access to the Board of Trustees meetings, which are currently private. He said this would allow students to talk to members of the Board of Trustees so their decisions are reflective of the student body, as well as demand AU divest from the fossil fuel industry. He also said he wants to reform mental health services and advocate for more affinity spaces on campus.
“Instead of being the direct representatives of all students, I think it's important to bring students to the table and have them meet the administrators, rather than just me promising to advocate things for things that people have been fighting for for a long time,” Brock said.
Dantlzer is focused on prioritizing the many issues that come along with being a student, such as food insecurity, rights of student workers and divesting from fossil fuels. He also wants to support women of color on campus.
Joshua Dantzler is a junior studying political science in SPA. Dantzler told The Eagle that his campaign is focused on how AU can “move forward and not be stagnant anymore.” He said students should not have to worry about affording food and if elected, he would plan to work with the Office of Campus Life, other nonprofits and grocery stores to establish partnerships that continue to ensure that the food pantry at AU has quality food readily available to the student body. He said he is in support of divesting from the fossil fuel industry and that organizations such as Fossil Free AU should continue to be supported.
Another part of his platform is supporting the rights of student workers by making sure there are an equitable amount of federal work study jobs. He hopes to establish a student workers task force and create a support group for student workers.
Additionally, Dantzler said he is passionate about supporting women of color on campus, and if elected, he would commit to reducing his stipend and establish a summit for women of color on AU’s campus. This part of his platform also included a mentorship program within SG to encourage young women of color to pursue leadership roles, especially given that the current race is very male-dominated, he said.
“It's all about, how do we move forward?” Dantzler said. “How do we not only make it a better campus community for those who are currently here, but for those who are coming in?”
The key aspects of Jok’s campaign are his plans to advocate for international students, student athletes, and improve relationships with Greek life. He also wants to improve mental health services.
Nikola Jok is a sophomore studying economics and finance in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Kogod School of Business. Jok said that the biggest thing he would like to change at AU is the counseling center and students’ access to mental health services. He also said he wants to advocate for transfer students as well as international students. He would like to improve relationships between Greek life, the University and rest of the student body.
Jok said that both transfer and international students should be fully integrated into the AU community. He wants to create what he called “Good Standing” reports for Greek organizations, both social and multicultural, as well as professional. These reports would show that each organization has completed training from the Center for Diversity and Inclusion and Title IX training, what each organization’s philanthropy is and how many community service hours they complete, among other things.
Jok told The Eagle that he also wants to advocate for athletes, give more recognition to female athletes and create a bigger culture around sports. He would like to assign someone in the Center for Advocacy and Student Equity to work directly with student athletes. Finally, he wants to make sure club sports have proper allocation of funds.
“From an outsider's perspective, AUSG kind of seems like a thing where it's very hard to get in. And once you're in, I feel like outside voices aren’t heard very often,” Jok said. “It’s the same people in AUSG who go up the ranks. I wanted to run because of a few things that meant a lot to me.”
Ward’s key priority is to advocate for students on various topics that affect them and hear student voices, as well as reform mental health services.
Jeremy Ward is a sophomore studying political science in the SPA. Ward’s central focus in his campaign is to advocate for the student body. As president, he plans to create a new position in the cabinet with the focus of reaching out to the student body to hear their voices on the matter, as well as working with administrators, serving as a liaison between the two. Additionally, he wants to establish a fund that students can apply for that would cover the copays of those who seek further mental health assistance past the free sessions offered on campus. According to Ward, other universities, such as Georgetown, have already taken this initiative, so it is an achievable goal for AU.
He also plans to focus on the improvement in mental health resources and awareness on campus. Following grievances regarding the counseling center this past semester, Ward wishes to enact reform to facilitate students having a better relationship with the center. He cites his initiative as Speaker of the Senate to create a commission within the Senate regarding mental health as past experience regarding the matter.
“Broader, outside of mental health, really, what I want to do is bring students to the table,” Ward said. “I want to change it to where we’re actually formulating working groups comprised mostly of students, whether it is student leaders and student organizations or just regular students, and allowing them to have a seat at the table.”
Harper wants to improve transparency within SG and make it a more equitable organization by building partnerships around campus.
Tamir Harper is a sophomore studying secondary education and public relations and strategic communication in the School of Communication and the School of Education. Harper said his campaign is focused on improving transparency, direction and structure within SG. Harper wants to generate bimonthly public reports about SG that are easy for students to access, have a post-event survey for events that fall under the direction of his programming board and increase funding for Women’s Initiative. Additionally, Harper said he plans to reimagine Founders Day Ball by hosting discussions about where it should take place to accommodate more students, as well as explore external funding options. Instead of having a Chief of Staff, he wants to have a “Director of Partnerships,” who would be responsible for further building partnerships with campus organizations and implement a collaborative calendar for clubs and Greek organizations. If elected, Harper said he plans to host monthly meetings with clubs, Greek organizations, Student Media Board and AU Club Council.
“We want to figure out how we can make programming funding more equitable and inclusive across the board,” Harper said.
Saldanha is prioritizing using SG to improve the student experience at AU and make student voices feel heard in the process.
Schanelle Saldanha is a sophomore studying communications and political science in SOC and SPA. Saldanha’s platform involves investing in clubs and organizations on campus to make them more visible, bringing student voices to the table, reforming Founders and centering the voices of marginalized communities to ensure that programming is what the student body wants. She said that events that are co-sponsored with campus organizations, specifically affinity organizations, should be more interactive in order to spark conversation on campus and include more than just a speaker.
Saldanha also explained her plan for reforming Founders, which includes establishing a task force of student leaders and administrators to assess the value of the Week and the Ball and putting pressure on the administration to see how much they can contribute to the event. Saldanha also told The Eagle that if change is not made through these methods, that she would use student activism such as petitions, open forums or potentially even a student-wide referendum.
“A really important part of it is ensuring that we as AUSG, specifically the vice president, is the one seeking out those voices, rather than asking for people to come to us with those concerns,” Saldanha said. “The burden shouldn’t fall on students.”
Pillai is focusing on making communication between students and SG more accessible by increasing awareness of what goes on in SG.
Hanya Pillai is a sophomore studying international relations in the School of International Service. Pillai told The Eagle that she wants to improve transparency between SG and the student body, promoting a diverse and inclusive community, and increasing student awareness of what is happening in SG.
If elected, she plans to use social media and the SG website to share resolutions and statements made by SG, as well as office hours for members of all branches of SG. Additionally, Pillai wants to use the SG website to share updates about things happening on campus that may be affecting students.
“My plan is to build a stronger bridge between the student government and the student body and American University, because we deserve to know what our elected officials and appointed student leaders are up to, and the decisions that they're making,” Pillai said.
The key part of Christin’s campaign is to use social media to make SG a more inclusive place as well as make it easier for students to know what is happening.
Grace Christin is a sophomore studying political science in SPA. Christin’s platform centers around the themes of transparency, inclusivity and accessibility. She said that she wants to better publicize undergraduate senate meetings and office hours of SG members. She also said that she wants to form relationships with more clubs on campus, make greater efforts to include transfer students and use social media more to update the student body on what SG is doing.
“It’s really important that every student feels heard, especially for AUSG,” Christin said. “We are the government for the students and by the students, and I think that is really important.”
Robbins wants to use the University’s budget to take on issues that students are often worried about and advocate for students with the Board of Trustees.
Jacob Robbins is a junior studying political science in SPA. Robbins talked about the importance of not just the SG budget, but the University’s budget. He said he wants to push the University to work to lower the cost of tuition and increase the tuition discount rate, divest from fossil fuels and push the University to take on more of the Founders Day budget. He said that all of the issues considered to be “hot button issues” can be tackled through the University’s budget, which will be set next year by the Board of Trustees.
As for issues surrounding Founders, he wants to put a referendum on the ballot to further pressure the University to fund the event, in addition to creating a task force with student leaders and activists to work on this issue.
“We need to have somebody in that room, who has the experience and really knows what they're talking about,” Robbins said. “I have a track record of getting things done, of opening up processes and being the most transparent.”
Levine is focusing on using his background as a student in the Kogod School of Business to deal with SG’s finances.
Justin Levine is a sophomore studying finance in Kogod. Levine wants to focus on inclusion, club engagement and reforming Founders Day Ball. On engaging with clubs, Levine said that the SG Co-sponsorship fund, which takes money from the SG budget and uses it to support clubs, needs to be used more so that student money is properly being put toward students. If elected, Levine also wants to create a new position on the Comptroller’s cabinet, which would be assistant comptroller for financial equity and inclusion. This position would focus on how financial aid and university finances affect low income students and students of color.
Levine said that Founders should not be funded entirely from the Student Activity Fee, especially if not every student has the opportunity to attend, and that the event itself needs to be reevaluated to better serve more students. He proposed creating a task force with the University.
“Time and time again I found myself questioning, “Where's my money going? Like, why isn't this information available?’” Levine said. “That's been one of the biggest things I've wanted to run on. Since this race has begun, I really learned a whole lot more about just the common everyday issues that we have at AU, and we need leaders to solve that.”