By Anna Edlund
Associated Students vice presidential candidates squared off over issues of diversity, sustainability and transparency at Western’s AS VP Forum, held Thursday, April 14.
There are six different VP positions: Academic Affairs, Activities, Business and Operations, Diversity, Governmental Affairs and Student Life. Unlike the 2015 election, which had five AS positions elected unopposed, each VP position is hosting at least two candidates. ASVP of Student Life has the most with four candidates.
Junior Adam Oberstadt attended the debate and said the issue that needed to be addressed was inclusion on campus.
“The biggest theme of this year’s election is definitely diversity and inclusiveness. It’s something that’s on the minds of the students as we’re changing school administration,” Oberstadt said. “It’s very interesting, seeing the different thoughts the candidates have on these issues.”
It was the desire for change that candidates stressed most of all during the debate.
Candidate for VP of Student Life Hannah Spencer said it was objectionable that students did not feel safe on campus.
“It’s time for staff, faculty and the overall campus to be held accountable for its actions,” Spencer said. “It’s unacceptable that sexual assault survivors aren’t having their voices heard; that bus stops are not well-lit for the safety of students or difficult to access for students with disabilities due to cracked or unkept sidewalks. It’s unacceptable that students of Edens North went without hot water for a month.”
Candidates running for the offices of Diversity, Academic Affairs and Business and Operations were all asked if they would support the building of a new Multicultural Center. All candidates pledged support.
“The Multicultural Center is such an important place for students to come to,” Academic Affairs VP Candidate Fahren Mansour said. “Western is such a big and beautiful campus; let’s make our Multicultural center a big and beautiful place.”
Aleyda Cervantes is an Ethnic Student Center member running for VP of Diversity and highlighted the failures of the current ESC.
“In my time at Western, I’ve noticed that the AS is closed off; it’s not transparent, and that’s something I do hope to work on.”
AS Candidate for VP of Business and Operations Mary Moeller
“We need to understand that this Multicultural Center will not be here while we are here, but people made it possible for us to be here,” she said. “You know that there’s no restroom down there; there’s no services. The only academic support we had officially retired a few days ago. So, we really don’t have that much support.”
A constant theme brought up throughout the debate was the desire for more student input into the AS. Multiple candidates discussed transparency problems with the AS bureaucracy and a lack of access to its meetings.
“These meetings need to be consistent,” VP for Academic Affairs candidate Erick Yanzon said. “There needs to be a transparent communication between the Board of Trustees, the Faculty Senate and the Board of Directors about when these meetings are taking place.”
Governmental Affairs candidate Bryce Hammer said she would advocate for a student trustee with full voting rights.
“Right now, our student trustee who sits on the Board of Trustees can be in the room for some conversations and can vote on some things,” Hammer said. “Anything involving the faculty [the student] has to leave for, which is not fair. If we are paying to be here, we are paying to be represented.”
Many of the candidates described themselves as outsiders to the AS. Candidate for VP of Business and Operations Mary Moeller discussed why this should be viewed as a positive characteristic.
“It’s true that both of us are AS outsiders, which I see as a bonus,” Moeller said, referencing opponent Bill Martin. “That way, you know we are going to be fighting for you and for your voices…In my time at Western, I’ve noticed that the AS is closed off; it’s not transparent, and that’s something I do hope to work on.”
The topics of allocation of funding and programs were explored by the candidates running for ASVP of Student Life. Candidate Wayne Rocque discussed the importance of these issues.
“We can’t build castles on loose sand,” Rocque said. “We need to reinforce the programs that already exist and give them the institutional power to be able to carry out their own tasks. We can’t be instituting a lot of far-fetched ideas, because if we build on those, the institution will collapse.”
A presidential forum is scheduled for Wednesday, April 20. Voting will begin Monday, April 25, and closes Friday, April 29.