Belina Seare was the only Associated Students presidential candidate who sat on the stage of the Viking Union Multi-Purpose Room Thursday, April 23, for what would have been the presidential debate leading up to next week’s AS elections.
That’s because Seare is now running unopposed after her one opponent, AS Communications Director Josie Ellison, announced the end of their campaign Tuesday, April 21.
The event instead served as a forum for Seare to answer questions from moderator Kendra Thomas and from the approximately 40 students in attendance.
“This is kind of a challenging, and I think it reflects on a larger issue that students are not finding the Associated Students representing them,” Seare said.
Seare got her start in the AS as a freshman in the Black Student Union and the African-Caribbean Club before serving as Assistant Coordinator in the Social Issues Resource Center.
During her opening statement, Seare spoke candidly about the circumstances of her election.
“I want to acknowledge that when somebody is running for a position, students have the power to elect the students, and I feel like in this scenario students’ power has been taken away in a sense,” she said. “I want to extend myself in any way that I can, and for you all to know you can make an impression on any decision I make.”
Ellison attended the debate and voiced support for Seare.
“The position was something that I was interested in doing, something I thought I could do well,” they said. “When Belina signed up, it gave me a chance to step back from that decision and decide whether I want to do it if I knew there was someone else that could do the job really well.”
Seare described herself as somebody who was disillusioned about the AS as a freshman, but talked about the importance of seeing Annika Wolters serve as AS President.
Seare said she plans to focus on representation for students of color and student autonomy, with one of her goals being to allow students to shape what they want in an AS President.
Seare discussed representation as one of the biggest issues that need to be addressed on campus, but acknowledged the importance of student input in deciding what actions to pursue.
“I think [lack of representation] has to do with student autonomy. I also think that students who hold marginalized identities are silenced on this campus,” she said. “But the nature of being one person is that I don’t know what the largest issue on this campus is. I’m willing to hear what people think the largest issue is.”
Seare also addressed the divestment campaign on campus.
“I think that’s one of the most silencing things I’ve seen happen to the student body,” she said.
That brought up the issue of student representation in the Western Foundation and Board of Trustees meetings.
“To hear conversations about fees being increased and decisions being made that the larger campus body didn’t know about, I thought that was really problematic,” Seare said. “To have an overwhelming majority of students want divestment, and for the foundation to ignore that, and that needs to be addressed on a large platform.”
Seare also discussed affordability and her plan to approach fee increases.
“I think we need to critically assess what affordability means,” she said. “When we’re talking about a fee increase of $10, that might be a deciding factor for another student who comes from a different financial background coming to this school.”
Current AS President Annika Wolters has worked with Seare during both of their tenures at the AS.
“I think she’ll do a fantastic job. I’m going to do my best to prepare her for the journey ahead,” Wolters said. “I’m also really excited that we have a candidate that’s a woman of color, and I look forward to trusting her with a bunch of efforts and issues that need to be represented in the student body.”
AS election voting opens Monday, April 27 online through myWestern and at polling stations on campus. Polls will be open until 2 p.m. on Friday, May 1.
In a previous version of this article, The Western Front misstated the name of the African-Caribbean Club. The article has been amended to reflect this change.