BY: ZSHEKINAH COLLIER
American University Student Government presidential candidates gathered in the ATV Studio for a live debate on Monday night. The candidates convened for the first time, discussing diversity and inclusion, mental health and communication between the university and student government.
Mariah Espada and Max Aboko-Cole moderated the debate between candidates, Valentina FernÃ¡ndez, Jarryd Delaney and Sam Rogers. Each candidate had the opportunity to answer questions and explain their platforms. From their responses, it 's clear each candidate wants to make big changes to the community. These are the key points discussed at the debate.
Diversity & Inclusion
The candidates were asked about which strategies they plan to use to hold AU accountable to its Plan for Inclusive Excellence that was introduced this semester by President Burwell. Candidates also discussed their plans to ensure people of color and other minority groups feel safe on campus.
Rogers explained that it will be easy for him to hold the administration accountable because of the relationships he has built with university leadership through his position as Residence Hall Association president. Rogers said his relationships will allow him "to push back a little bit more than a normal student would."
"I'm not afraid of damaging that relationship in the process and it allows me to hold folks accountable, because I know if we disagree on a particular issue, Dr. Aw is still gonna pick up the phone from me and send me emails," Rogers said.
As a student of color, FernÃ¡ndez said she has first-hand experience dealing with issues related to diversity and inclusion. FernÃ¡ndez plans to create a student-led council to help with university-wide decision making. Her strategy for accountability is focused on the hiring of the new provost.
"I want to make sure students, and especially a diverse set of students, are involved in the selection [of the new provost], but also the transition of the provost to make sure they incorporate all of our inclusive goals," FernÃ¡ndez said. Provost Scott Bass announced in March he would step down as provost after spending 10 years in the position.
Delaney said his strategy for accountability will bring students into the meetings with administrators.
"Bring the students who actually are experiencing these things to the table, and make sure that the students of colors who are afraid on campus are in the conversation, and it's not just two people with titles."
Mental Health Services
Aboko-Cole asked students how they would allocate school resources to improve access to mental health needs for students.
FernÃ¡ndez addressed that this year is a budget year and she plans to demand more allocations to support student services, focusing on the Counseling Center and expanding the services and staff.
Delaney also felt that budgeting and funding are important, but also included that we need to make sure that the university is allocating funds for hiring staff trained in specific areas. He also expressed, that funds need to go towards longer Counseling Center hours.
Agreeing with his fellow candidates on the importance of funding, Rogers included that another important part is awareness of the services. He said, " If people aren't using them they might as well not exist." His plan is to create a mental health bulletin to publicize the services.
Communication between the University and AUSG
When discussing their plan to build a positive relationship between the student body and AUPD.
Delany suggested that the police department gives tours and host events that allow the officers to get to know the students. He said, " It's very important that we start to build more of a community with the AU Police Department."
Rogers said that it's important to go past clarifying the department's policies but also allow students to engage by having a say in what's appropriate. " That's why I'm proposing an advisory board, to help connect students to AUPD," Rogers said.
FernÃ¡ndez plans to work with AUPD to have conversations that will clarify their procedures to students and establish a formal grievance policy. This policy will work as guidance and a follow-up procedure for students targeted by an officer. She said, "we have these conversations when an incident happens on campus and we never revisit them.
To watch the full debate, go to the ATV Youtube channel.The AUSG election will take place Apr. 4 to 6. Cast your ballot through your My AU portal.