Student government’s engagement on campus was the main topic of a debate Tuesday night among candidates running to represent the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Only nine people attended the debate, which was held in the Memorial Union.
Most of them were Associated Student Government senators or staff. Two of the attendees were students in LA&S departments.
The discussion centered on ASG’s communication, involvement, presence and accessibility.
There are six candidates running to be LA&S senators, and three of them were at Tuesday’s debate, according to Dylan Schneider, ASG election commissioner and sophomore elementary education major. There are five positions available, so all but one of the candidates are likely assured a seat in this spring’s election, March 5-7.
The three in attendance were Jacob Gerber, Julissa Razo and Christina Wankum.
Joanna Strecker, sophomore chemistry major, Lucy Steyer, freshman political science major, and Erin Buckner, junior nursing major, were unable to attend, according to Schneider.
All three mentioned a perceived lack of student involvement in ASG and the student government’s lack of presence and accessibility on campus.
“I’m going to be honest, I’m not even quite sure who the current Liberal Arts and Sciences senators are,” said Gerber, a junior political science major. “We are supposed to be figures on campus, and not just figures on controversy, but figures in the good times as well.”
Gerber said that he would like to see more student input on issues and wants students to be able to vote on issues.
“I think the communication between ASG and the student body is lacking,” said Razo, a junior nursing major. “I think there should be a better connection between the students and ASG since, at the end of the day, that’s who ASG is representing.”
Wankum, a junior communication major, said she wanted ASG to be able to communicate with organizations and emphasize one-to-one communication.
“I believe that ASG has been representing the student population pretty well, but I haven’t heard a lot from the senators ,and I think that is something that can be improved on,” Wankum said. “I think a lot of times I hear from the president, which is great and I love that, but I think that a lot of times the students want to hear from their representatives also.”
Victoria Goetzinger, current ASG senator and junior sociology major, was also in attendance to present her and Paul Frost’s platform, according to Schneider, who introduced her. Frost and Goetzinger are the only people running for ASG president and vice president, respectively.
Goetzinger also addressed ASG’s involvement.
“We really want to focus on relationship building and making ASG just more accessible to students, but also making sure they trust the organization,” Goetzinger said. “We have that relationship with them where they feel comfortable giving us feedback and sharing their concerns with us.”
The senators also talked about their specific platforms and things they would like to see changed.
Wankum talked about addressing student burnout and dropout rates.
“I think one of the most challenging issues that we face as students is burnout,” Wankum said. “I know that probably everyone in this room has dealt with before and that is something that I have dealt with personally so just recognizing the opportunities there are to combat that I think will help with involvement.”
Gerber wanted to focus on ASG’s involvement and engaging students, especially on social media.
“My first weekend here, freshman year, the parking lot for the dorms just emptied out and I have never been able to figure out why,” Gerber said. “I don’t know what the solution to that is, to be quite honest, but I think that more connection with the community could be a pathway to that (solution). I think just being able to come together and being excited about being here would be amazing for the university.”
Razo’s focus was on the importance of diversity and the lack of diversity in ASG.
“I think that diversity is also an issue in ASG,” Razo said. “I don’t think that it’s diverse enough, therefore I don’t think that every voice is being heard and included on campus, so hopefully that will change next semester.”
Razo said she would like to see ASG talk to specific groups and encourage them to join in, participate and share their perspectives.
“I think the biggest challenge for students is not only getting involved, but acting on that involvement,” Razo said. “Especially for underrepresented or minorities on campus. I think it’s difficult for us to be involved in things like this and I think it would be useful for them to start being involved and being part of that planning and implementing action.”
LA&S was the only represented group that had enough candidates to have a debate.
ASG elections begin Tuesday, March 5, according to Schneider. Students can vote in voting centers in the Memorial Union, Cremer Hall or Visser Hall or vote online through Hornet Life.