Presidential and vice presidential candidates for the upcoming IU Student Government elections went head to head Tuesday night in a heated debate.
The debate included discussion between the candidates about how their campaigns will respond to COVID-19, diversity and inclusion on campus, sustainability, mental health and advocating for sexual assault survivors and indigenous communities.
Sophomores Madeline Garcia and Arianna Hoye are running for student body president and vice president, respectively, for the Defy campaign. Presidential candidate Rachel Aranyi and vice president candidate Ruhan Syed, both sophomores, are running the Inspire campaign.
The IUSG Election Commission livestreamed the debate at 7 p.m. Tuesday on Facebook. The livestream had about 480 views as of Tuesday night. Senior and IUSG election commission chair Quinn Gordon moderated the event and asked the candidates questions submitted by students.
Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic
The candidates debated how their campaigns will respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, touching on topics of financial security, academics and access to basic necessities such as food and housing.
Garcia of the Defy campaign said her first priority is to advocate for COVID-19 relief by ensuring students are financially secure during this crisis and academically prepared with technology and other resources.
Aranyi of the Inspire campaign said one of the differences between her campaign and Defy is that Inspire is not seeking a fee refund because she said some mandatory student fees are allocated to pay student workers.
“We are requesting a partial tuition refund in order to make sure that students are made whole and that the student workers are protected,” Aranyi said.
The Inspire campaign sent out a petition April 2 calling for a 25% tuition refund. As of Saturday, it had more than 10,000 signatures. The campaign plans to send the petition to the Board of Trustees, but IU officials have said they have no plans to refund any part of tuition or mandatory fees.
Garcia said petitions lack concrete policy implementation. She said her campaign is trying to make sure students who are not receiving a paycheck can still get access to food and housing in Bloomington.
Advocating for diversity, equity and inclusion on campus
Garcia said the Defy campaign wants to have conversations with First Nations programs and do formal land acknowledgements. These acknowledgements would recognize that IU was built on land that previously belonged to indigenous people and would be made at public ceremonies, such as the graduation commencement ceremony.
“Diversity, equity and inclusion conversations are not the only things that diverse groups belong at,” Garcia said. “Diverse populations should impact every one of our decisions.”
Hoye also said she wants to implement diversity training for faculty, staff and students. According to the campaign's website, training would include conflict resolution related to discriminatory acts based on race, sex, ability, religion and sexual orientation.
Aranyi said the Inspire campaign is creating a diversity, equity and inclusion council to make sure the necessary voices are heard.
Syed said the Inspire campaign also believes indigenous people should have their voices heard. He said they want to increase collaboration with indigenous people to address ignorance about the lack of indigenous recognition and representation.
Prioritizing mental health initiatives
Garcia said she hopes to increase funding for Counseling and Psychological Services and destigmatize mental health issues.
Syed said the Inspire campaign wants to extend the hours of operation for the IU Health Center to make it available to students on weekends and outside of standard business hours.
The candidates also discussed how they will advocate for sexual assault survivors on campus.
Garcia said the Defy campaign has four policies addressing this, including implementing trigger warnings, reporting assaults, preventing online sexual assault harassment and clarifying IU's definition of consent.
Syed said there is a lack of transparency about sexual assault on campus and his campaign hopes to work with IU’s Sexual Assault Crisis Service to make students aware of the resources they have access to.
Combating food security on and off campus
Aranyi said IU’s meal plans are confusing and need to be made simpler and more transparent. Syed said his campaign wants to ensure a $15 minimum wage for student workers.
Hoye said the Defy campaign wants to advocate for students who don’t have meal plans.
“There’s a lot of students who don’t have a meal plan that attend a university,” Hoye said. “And that’s where the students fall through the cracks.”
Garcia said her campaign want to ensure the basic needs of all students on campus are met by educating students about resources available to them.
Making campus more sustainable
Syed said divestment from fossil fuels is a core policy for the Inspire campaign. Garcia said the Defy campaign is committed to investing in solar energy.
Voting for the IUSG election will start at 10 a.m. Wednesday and end at 10 p.m. Thursday, according to IUSG’s website. All students can vote and should receive a link to vote in their IU emails through BeInvolved.