In Their Own Words: the 2020 AUSG candidates

DISCLAIMER: The Agora's Editor-in-Chief, Mark Lu, ran an unsuccessful campaign for AUSG Comptroller this cycle. Therefore, he was not involved in the formulation of these questions.

Q1: How would you justify the practicality of AUSG, based on the little enumerated powers SG is endowed with? How do you think you can enact real change?

Q2: When you hear the phrase “moving forward,” what does that mean to you and how would you define that in policy?

Q3: How would you increase transparency and accountability in the role you are running for?

Q4: What do you see as the responsibilities of your desired position in two sentences or less?

Q5: Which policies will you prioritize during discussions with the Budget Advisory Committee?

Q6: How do you plan on reforming the AUSG budget?

Q7: Many students find the Founders Day ball budget to be bloated. How would you respond to or address those criticisms?

Q8: How would you address a potential conflict of interest that may arise during your tenure? For example, if you or a member of your cabinet has a stake in a specific club, how would you ensure that this would not affect your budgeting priorities?

How would you justify the practicality of AUSG, based on the little enumerated powers SG is endowed with? How do you think you can enact real change?

"I think that AUSG can change a lot with its powers when it works with student organizations on campus to put pressure on the administration for tangible change in issues that we are all working on. I think I could enact real change because I would be reaching out to student organizations large and small as well as students directly including those who are a part of communities that AUSG often forgets and work together in the issues that their particular communities face. I would then use that unity to show administration that this isn’t just something that AUSG is doing but something that the whole student body wants in order to make our campus a better place." —Jeremy Ward, Candidate for President.

"As Vice President, the AUSG Constitution and Bylaws actually provide such little guidance on what to do in the role. It has specific language on the core responsibilities of the VP, such as appointing programming directors, holding required meetings/trainings, and putting on required events. Those responsibilities, however, are simple and often front-loaded during transition.

"This may seem incredibly limiting, however it can actually be the opposite if the person in the position takes advantage of them. The lack of clear guidance for the VP leaves the office holder with the opportunity to interpret the role as they wish, which includes expanding it.

"That’s exactly what I plan to do. I want to authorize budget changes to create specific allocations for clubs, reimagine the way we celebrate and fund founders, hold monthly collaboration events with club leaders, and much more. But it takes someone with vision and experience to accomplish this, which is why I am running." —Schanelle Saldanha, Candidate for Vice President.

"As a representative of AUSG, I will have access to everyone in the AU administration, such as staff, faculty and department heads. In my role as Secretary, I am responsible for controlling communication and messaging. This role has the power and authority to impact real change, since I will control the communication and the messaging going out to the student body and the entire university. I plan to enact real change by using technology and social media in new ways, such as creating an interactive real-time calendar on the AUSG website showing office hours and meeting times. For more details on my ideas please visit my “Transparency” post on my Instagram: @grace.christin4secretary." —Grace Christin, Candidate for Secretary.

"The American University Student Government is a student-run, student-led organization that serves the student body. It is designed to unify the student body as well as provide information, resources, and access to an array of educational and professional opportunities. The practicality of AUSG lies in its role as a bridge between AU students and the administration. Members of AUSG meet with the board of trustees and advocates for students with administrators about key issues. AUSG has made a difference before, from leading the effort to create the UPass program to changing dining vendors from Aramark to Chartwells.

"I plan to enact real change through the three key parts of my platform which are Working Towards Improving Transparency Between AUSG and the Student Body, Promoting Our Diverse and Inclusive Community, and Increase Awareness for Students Through Social Media and the AUSG Website." —Hanya Pillai, Candidate for Secretary.

"In the past, AUSG Presidents have been hesitant to take on the administration, and I won’t shy away from advocating for all students.There should be a healthy degree of tension between the AUSG President and the administration. I respect the AU administration, but they have to answer to the board of trustees. The AUSG president has to answer directly to students. On the Black Affinity Housing project, we worked closely with the administration to get it done, and I’m going to continue to engage with them as President. But I’m not running for AUSG to become best friends with President Burwell. And I’m not looking to sell out for a letter of recommendation." —Eric Brock, Jr., Candidate for President.

"I have worked within AUSG for two years and have seen it shine as an amazing advocacy group. I have also seen it be treated as an exclusive club for social-climbers whose only mantra is to move fast and break things quickly with little disregard. I've seen well-intentioned people get steamrolled by negativity and bullying. For all the cons, however, I still believe in the power of government to do good. I believe in it because I have been a part of that good in AUSG and also seen it happen.

"What it takes is no buzzwords or a focus on egotism. Real thought-out plans that are actually informed by real experience and understanding of how government works. My campaign's focus has been on those fundamentals I just mentioned.

"The role the Comptroller will play this year makes it the most important election you will vote in when the polls open. The University budget is upon us and that means the Comptroller will be in the room where talks about divestment, tution, fees, and founder's will be brought up. We need someone who knows what they're talking about and has real plans rooted in their experiences. That person, I believe, is me." —Jacob Robbins, Candidate for Comptroller.

"Enacting real change when the system continues to work against you is nothing new for me. Philadelphia schools were under a state takeover for over a decade, my non-profit and many others across the city worked to change that by pressuring the Mayor and Governor to return local control. Nobody could believe that a new student-run, student-led non-profit could make a change. There’s a saying that I really like; “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” I quickly became comfortable in the squeaky wheel role, relentlessly pushing and advocating for issues that were meaningful to the school students and teachers of Philadelphia.

"As AUSG VP, I will make sure the most pressing issues for students are always at the top of AU’s agenda, and I will not stop until they are addressed and fixed. Planning programming on campus is to me is a huge power, it allows the student body to convene and to hear ideas from activists. I will actually bring transparency, direction, and structure to AUSG and will never forget I report to the student body and no one else!" —Tamir Harper, Candidate for Vice President.

When you hear the phrase “moving forward,” what does that mean to you and how would you define that in policy?

"Moving forward to me means identifying where the problems are, coming up with good ideas with student organizations to fix it, and then working with and pressuring administration for tangible results. In policy that would be to acknowledge the poor status of mental health resources on campus but pushing for and achieving tangible results such as extended emergency hours and more clinicians in the counseling center as well as a mental health fund to cover co-pays for students who are referred for counseling appointments. Another example would be to acknowledge the lack of resources regarding our Title IX process and get tangible results like more staff in the Title IX office to handle cases, requiring Title IX staff to have a mandatory meeting with both parties separately to explain the Title IX process, and making a more thorough presentation to incoming freshman about the Title IX process and resources on our campus." —Jeremy Ward, Candidate for President.

"To me, the phrase 'moving forward' is defined by having a vision for something and creating mechanisms by which to achieve said visions. AU and AUSG are built as structural systems, whether we realize it or not. It’s easy to make huge promises about transforming AUSG and any given role. The reality is that it is hard to actually accomplish these things without understanding how AUSG, and more broadly, AU work. To move forward, you have to create policies that are bold, yet utilize new or existing systems to accomplish them.

"Let’s take take founders for example. Last year, the current VP ran on a platform of immediately slashing the founders ball budget. After taking the position and asking for such a change, the AU administration refused and founders continued as usual without a blink of an eye by the rest of AUSG. As VP, I have proposed a long-term plan for founders that does the due diligence for the issue. I will establish a task force that looks at immediate changes we can make, but also analyzes the value of founders to AU students. If the AU administration does not listen to student concerns, I have already thought through how we as a student body and put pressure on them publicly and what those next steps will be, including alternative options. This is how we move issues forward in AUSG. Not just by making big promises, but by creating systems in place to achieve those policies." —Schanelle Saldanha, Candidate for Vice President.

"The only real constant is change. To me, 'moving forward' means evolution. It is refreshing to see new construction on campus because that means our university is growing and evolving. I will continue to build upon what my predecessors have started while injecting my own ideas about how we can move forward and improve campus culture." —Grace Christin, Candidate for Secretary.

"The phrase 'moving forward' means we as a community are working towards change that will positively impact the quality of life for the student body. A key part of my platform is partnering with and co-sponsoring multicultural organizations to bring our diverse community together. I plan to promote and highlight important dates, student leaders, and organizations across campus such as Black History Month, National Hispanic Heritage Month, Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month, LGBTQ+ History Month, Women's History Month, and more. By promoting diversity on campus, I hope to create a community that rejects racism and xenophobia and elevates voices from communities of color." —Hanya Pillai, Candidate for Secretary.

“'Moving forward' means that you’re picking up right where AUSG left us. And for a lot of students, that’s no where. We’re fighting for A New Direction because students are tired of the same hidden agendas and wonky politics. We need structural change. And that starts with freezing tuition, establishing student oversight over AUPD, and redefining Title IX so that the University protects survivors." —Eric Brock, Jr., Candidate for President.

"It means actually getting shit done. For years now we have been focused on and contending with the same hot-button political issues. Moving forward is finally doing something about those issues. This is the year with the University Budget upon us for us to finally tackle divestment, the skyrocketing cost of attendance, and our unfair Founder's Ball Budget." —Jacob Robbins, Candidate for Comptroller.

"Hearing the phase moving forward, is the phrase that candidates continue to use. While the Vice President doesn't get to vote or write policy I will work with the Programming Directors to ensure that the speakers and performers we bring to campus are advocates for important causes and will spread a message of change. Furthermore, I will continue to work with students and administrators to actually make the change on campus by having monthly meetings and increasing partnerships by appointing the first-ever Partnerships Director which would replace the Chief of Staff role. I will also ensure that I am at Senate meetings so that I stay informed and share the information with the student body. Finally, I will work closely with the student body, clubs, Greek organizations, the President, and Senators to support initiatives so we can actually move not only AUSG but AU forward together. We can’t keep giving people roles in AUSG who have time and time again has proven their ineffectiveness to lead. It’s time to get things done, because many students like myself are sick and tired of being sick and tired." —Tamir Harper, Candidate for Vice President.

How would you increase transparency and accountability in the role you are running for?

"Along with weekly roaming office hours, I would have weekly Instagram live Q &A”s as well as have a biweekly fireside chat. I would also work with the secretary to make sure that when the weekly newsletter is sent out, it describes in detail what issues the e-board was working on and our plan to get results on the issues that we were working on any given week. I would ask for the Undergraduate Senate to allow for a student recall which would allow students to remove the president if students felt that the president was not working on behalf of students." —Jeremy Ward, Candidate for President.

"Having been Director of Executive Board Accountability this year, I have seen first hand the challenges and importance of ensuring that AUSG leaders are being held accountable. For me, accountability is not just a glamorous title and buzzword, it is about being behind the scenes and ensuring the work gets done. From sitting in e-board meetings and publicizing the minutes to organizing AUSG mixers to increase transparency between student leaders and the student body, I know that there is so much more work to be done.

"We must be proactive as well as reactive. Specifically, I will be mandating that google forms be filled out by every Director prior to an event asking the following questions: what is the total cost of the event, what is the intention of the event, and how is the event contributing to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Because it is not possible to publicize financial reports due to NDAs and contracts, will also be directly overseeing each of the programming boards campus labs pages to ensure there is legitimate and equitable spending." —Schanelle Saldanha, Candidate for Vice President.

"In addition to the interactive calendar I would add to the AUSG website, I would increase transparency by streaming all meetings on our social media pages, increasing the amount of newsletters released, and working with all clubs to form an AUSG involvement app. I plan to be involved at the grassroots level while being a visible and approachable resource for all students. In order to keep our elected leaders accountable, I will also host town hall meetings as well as frequent Q&A sessions with the executive board that will be open to anyone on campus." —Grace Christin, Candidate for Secretary.

"A key part of my platform is working towards improving transparency and accountability between AUSG and the student body. We deserve to know what our elected and appointed student government leaders are up to, the decisions they are making and hold them accountable. I plan to create a more refined and sophisticated website that clearly displays resolutions, press releases, and statements made on behalf of AUSG. In addition, include office hours for all branches of government for students to contact. On the Homepage of the website, I plan to show clear, real-time updates about any changes taking place on campus that are affecting students. For example, during the coronavirus pandemic, it would have been helpful to have all the latest news regarding move out, contacts, and resources that can be all located on the website for students to easily access. I will create a seamless and efficient contacting system for students to get in touch with members of student government by providing their First and last name, pronouns, email, which branch they would like to contact, and their message. Lastly, advertise 'AUSG listens' as a resource for students and expand the 'What We Do' page to let students know what student government has accomplished over the academic year." —Hanya Pillai, Candidate for Secretary.

"One area I particularly admire President Angela Chen's role has been how approachable she has been. People need a president that they can talk to about real issues, and I hope to continue that into my term as AUSG President. But I also think AUSG leaders should feel comfortable in joining the fight. I want to bring activists to the table so that we can advocate---not alone, but together." —Eric Brock, Jr., Candidate for President.

"There are several initiatives I want to undertake. Weekly roundtables with University officials and student leaders and advocates. A regular "traveling" column about AUSG financials that could be published in different student media outlets. I want to also make videos explaining different budget things and answering peoples questions." —Jacob Robbins, Candidate for Comptroller.

"Transparency and accountability are fundamentally important to me. AUSG should be reporting directly to the student body. I plan on increasing transparency and accountability by doing multiple things: 1) start releasing easily accessible public reports that just aren't on but are also sent to clubs, Greek organizations, student media, on email signatures, and are clearly found on campus. 2) send post-event surveys within 48 hours of each programming event, the feedback provided will also be released in our public reports. 3) work to ensure that all spending is released on the website within one week with a justification next to every item 4) host open monthly meetings with AUCC, Student Media Board, club leaders, and Greek Organizations. 5) At the end of each semester, my team and I will release a report on how much each person is stipend with a clear description of what they have worked on and if their stipend should be lowered or remain the same. 6) I think it is important to mention that we are reviewing adding a Director of Public Reporting & Data to the cabinet, this role will be added so we can ensure we are releasing data properly and effectively. Transparency and accountability need to be done in multiple ways and we have clear ways on how we are going to increase transparency & accountability. The other candidate running for the Vice President position served as the Accountability Director for AUSG and to be quite frank we didn't see any change. The Instagram account (@dea_schanellesaldanha) has two posts and the executive board meeting notes cannot be found or the policy tracker she said she was going to implement according to The Eagle article (“New SG accountability position aims to offer transparency with the student body”). We know what transparency and accountability look like, I have to do it as the Executive Director of a non-profit to not only my team but to my board of directors, granters, and the government." —Tamir Harper, Candidate for Vice President.

What do you see the responsibilities of your desired position in two sentences or less?

"I believe the president is responsible for listening to the voices of students and working with them to get administration to give tangible results on issues to make our campus have a brighter future." —Jeremy Ward, Candidate for President.

"The job of the Vice President is to ensure representative programming that is guided by the voices of students and student organizations. It is the VP’s responsibility to actively listen and seek out student voices so that our programming reflects our community, not the desires of a few." —Schanelle Saldanha, Candidate for Vice President.

"The Chief Communication Officer’s responsibilities include: creating an accessible and efficient channel of communication between AUSG and the student body, frequently updating our social media accounts and highlighting student leaders, and broadcasting all records and meetings to the student body. Through these tactics, I vow to create a more transparent and inclusive student government." —Grace Christin, Candidate for Secretary.

"As the Chief of Communications, this branch of student government is the primary liaison between AUSG and the Student body providing me with the ability to connect, inform, and promote all aspects of AU. A priority of mine is to emphasize our diverse student body and inclusive environment by creating a stronger connection among the AU community that will bring us together by bridging the gap." —Hanya Pillai, Candidate for Secretary.

"My focus is on bringing my experience in activism and community organizing to the position. Past AUSG boards have focused on responding to incidents, I’m looking forward to being on the front lines, in activism and protests." —Eric Brock, Jr., Candidate for President.

"To be the fiercest chief advocate of club community building as well as safeguarding and representing the financial well-being of the undergraduate student body." —Jacob Robbins, Candidate for Comptroller.

"To serve the student body and coordinate programming that the student body wants. Moreover, to actually reimagine founders and bring transparency to the Vice Presidency." —Tamir Harper, Candidate for Vice President.

Which policies will you prioritize during discussions with the Budget Advisory Committee?

"I would prioritize mental health, Title IX, and diversity of classes and faculty and staff on campus in the Budget Advisory Committee." —Jeremy Ward, Candidate for President.

"As Vice President, my priorities lie completely with making sure programming boards are funded fairly and equitably. This means increasing WI’s budget so they are able to do even more valuable programming. I will also push for a modest cut to the Founders budget and use the entirety of my tenure to take a critical look at the tradition." —Schanelle Saldanha, Candidate for Vice President.

"I will prioritize the communications and advertising budgets. In addition, I will try to be a voice for any smaller club that does not have access to the budget process." —Grace Christin, Candidate for Secretary.

"I will not personally be on BAC, the student government representatives are usually the Comptroller and/or the President. However, I will make it clear to the other members of the executive board (if elected secretary) that we must reevaluate AUSG spending, especially towards costly and exclusive events such as Founders." —Hanya Pillai, Candidate for Secretary.

"The priority of the Budget has to be increased resources for student clubs and organizations. When I talk to student boards, a lot of organizations are running out of space to operate, and the funding that normally comes from AUCC has been denying critical ethnic organizations. I’m prepared to continue the experience I had in co-approving grants with the President’s Council for Diversity and Inclusion for student organizations, so that student organizations aren’t left behind." —Eric Brock, Jr., Candidate for President.

"Depending on the results of the Founder's referendum and talks that will occur during the University Budget talks I will prioritize diverting money to go to AUCC and Student Media. Our student-run publications in particular are critical tools to help set up our community members with experience and jobs when they graduate. I would prioritize those organization's well-being and stability." —Jacob Robbins, Candidate for Comptroller.

"When so fortunate enough to meet with the Budget Advisory Committee I will 1) push for them to reimagine the Founders Day Budget and 2) increase funding for clubs on campus so that they can take their events and programming to the next level. 3) Work to ensure that the Budget Advisory Committee meeting notes are easily accessible for the student body. While the Vice President doesn’t have a seat on the Budget Advisory Committee I will push the President, Comptroller, and other members of the Budget Advisory Council to stand with me on advocating for such policy changes." —Tamir Harper, Candidate for Vice President

How do you plan on reforming the AUSG budget?