Candidates for Associated Student Government executive positions took questions from students Friday night in the third and final debate of the 2021 election, prompting conversations about inclusivity, student safety and accountability of campus leaders.
The presidential, vice-presidential, treasurer and secretary candidates on the Vision and Make it Matter tickets shared the stage in a town-hall-style forum moderated by Honors College Dean Lynda Coon. To accommodate COVID-19 restrictions, the event was live-streamed to a virtual crowd, and students were asked to submit questions through Instagram and Twitter.
Much of the discussion was geared toward improving the presence of ASG agents on campus, particularly within student-led organizations, and creating a more accessible student government. The prospective leaders were asked how they plan to ensure that Registered Student Organizations will receive the funds and resources needed to operate successfully.
Treasurer candidate Hanna Patel, of the Vision ticket, said she plans to be proactive in her approach to RSO funding by working to increase awareness of the resources available to students through the Office of Financial Affairs.
“We are here to reach out to students, rather than make them come to us,” Patel said. “We will meet students where they are at and set them up for success in the future.”
Candidates on both tickets emphasized a need for change concerning the political nature of ASG, agreeing that the next executive administration should work to make the organization less exclusive and more approachable.
Student safety was also a major discussion point during the town hall debate. When asked about ASG’s role in sexual assault prevention, candidates took a firm stance.
Presidential candidate Caleb Parker, of the Make it Matter ticket, criticized the university’s response to the multiple cases of sexual assault that have been reported on campus since January. The email sent out by UA officials Feb. 17 garnered social media backlash from a large number of students.
“If you are going to put something in (an email), you have to consult the students that would be affected by this, as well as the student leaders who are supposed to be in the conversation,” Parker said.
Vice-presidential candidate Teia Anderson, of the Vision ticket, underlined the importance of bringing student leaders into conversations about student safety and holding them accountable.
“All students should feel safe when they step foot on the University of Arkansas campus,” Anderson said. “It is our job as student leaders to make sure that this happens.”
Presidential candidate Coleman Warren, of the Vision ticket, said the email was a step in the right direction.
“It’s a great step for the (UofA) to acknowledge that this is a perpetual and pervasive problem,” Warren said.
Candidates on both tickets expressed support for renaming Brough Commons, named after former governor Charles Hillman Brough, and condemned Brough’s involvement in the 1921 Elaine Massacre, which resulted in the death of more than 200 Black Arkansans.
Vice-presidential candidate Andrew Kutchka, of the Make it Matter ticket, suggested Hattie Caraway, the first woman to serve a full term in the U.S. Senate, as an alternative eponym for the dining hall. Caraway defeated Brough in the 1932 Arkansas Senate race.
“I think it would be in everyone’s best interest that (Brough’s) name be redacted from the University of Arkansas,” Kutchka said.
Warren agreed with Kutchka, encouraging students to research the Elaine Massacre as he spoke.
“Governor Brough’s name should absolutely be removed from that dining hall,” Warren said. “That’s something we (Vision) fully support, and we’re ready to have conversations with students on this campus to ensure that your voices are heard on this issue.”
Throughout the debate, candidates emphasized the inviolable role of ASG in the fight for social justice on campus, particularly regarding the treatment of Black students and the demands issued by the Black Student Caucus in June.
Voting for the ASG General election will be open March 1-3.
Students can vote online at asg.uark.edu/elections or fill out a paper ballot at polling stations around campus.
Editor’s Note: Nabiha Khetani, a staff reporter at The Arkansas Traveler, is employed by the Make it Matter campaign. Khetani is not involved in 2021 election coverage, and The Arkansas Traveler strives for comprehensive coverage of all election tickets.