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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 giv