IUSA debate raises question of role of student government



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IUSA tickets debate over various issues within the current administration such as transparency, diversity, and inclusion during the IUSA Debate Tuesday evening in Hodge Hall. Andrew Williams and Andrew Williams Buy Photos

The remaining five tickets at the IU Student Association debate on Tuesday night had much to agree on and little disagreement.

Candidates discussed wide-ranging issues in their opening and closing statements, but questions from professor Paul Helmke revolved around IUSA’s specific role on campus and the tickets’ plans to address the issues they discussed.

“I’m proud of the things we did,” Helmke said of his time in student government “Why’d you get in this? What do you want folks to remember 30, 40 years from now, what you did when you were in student government?”

Though undocumented students do not make up the majority of the population, positions on whether IU should be declared a sanctuary campus appeared to be the main source of disagreement among the tickets.

Engage, IGNITE and Psych Up supported a resolution to make IU a sanctuary campus. Empower suggested waiting to assess the legislative environment on a national and state level before making any decisions, and Focus’ 
presidential candidate, junior Brandon Sakbun, said there was a middle ground between the two “polarizing” positions.

Similar to his points during the rest of the debate, Psych Up’s presidential candidate, sophomore Jake McWilliams, said it might not be within IUSA’s capacity to pass this resolution and, in rebuttals, Empower’s presidential candidate, junior Dan Niersbach, said assessing the situation did not mean his ticket was against 
undocumented students.

“IU is a sanctuary campus, basically, but not in name, and that’s the problem that I have with the administration to be honest with you all,” IGNITE’s presidential candidate, sophomore Will 
McKinney, said.

He said the campus is also a wet campus in everything but name, and IU student government should be bold enough to be the first in the Big Ten Conference to take these steps. McKinney’s ticket was the only one at the debate to propose increasing the IUSA budget. He said this is achievable by selling alcohol at sports games and eliminating the dry-campus designation.

Other tickets proposed policy to move funds from other 
programs, and McWilliams said any budgetary items which solely benefit executives, like scholarships and “ludicrous banquets” should be eliminated. 
McWilliams kept his statements and answers short and focused around the driving pillars of his ticket: increasing mental health funding and curbing IUSA budget items.

“Psych Up is not about mental health awareness,” McWilliams said. “It’s about saving lives.”

Sakbun emphasized campus safety with his proposal for a Walk with Cadets program, where students would be able to walk home with an IU Police Department cadet. This would be an addition to the current IU SafeRides program that is in place.

Helmke asked the candidates a follow-up 
question on their positions on concealed carry on campus, which McWilliams said may not be within IUSA’s authority, and other candidates rejected.

Though the concealed carry question was not a prominent talking point of any campaign, Sakbun was prepared with an answer. As a member of Army ROTC, he is required to train regularly with firearms. He walked a fine line between support for personal freedom and agreement with the other tickets like Engage, which focused on the reason why students feel unsafe, but not necessarily promote concealed carry as a primary safety measure.

Among the various 
topics discussed, the greatest source of tension appeared to be between the Engage and Empower ticket. Niersbach said it would be best to wait on deciding how to handle issues faced by undocumented people on campus, which Engage’s presidential candidate Michelle Long, junior, said she could not disagree more with, though 
Sakbun said these views ignored how much the two had in 
common.

“We’re not going to wait for FERPA violations and state policy to hit our campus to think ‘maybe we should take a stand,’” Long said. “We’re doing this now, we will not wait, we’ve never waited, and that’s just how it’s going to be.”

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