Students will vote in IU Student Government elections for student body president and vice president at the end of this week. The Indiana Daily Student spoke with all three tickets about the issues we thought were most important to IU students.
Their responses to our questions are recorded below. They have been lightly edited for length and style.
Topics covered include the current IUSG administration, in-person classes, diversity in student government, mental health, the IU Police Department, residential life, student fees and governing philosophy.
President: Ky Freeman is a junior studying public affairs with a concentration in law and public policy. He is the current president of the Black Student Union and a founding member of the Rainbow Coalition at IU.
Vice President: Madeline Dederichs is a junior studying policy analysis. She is the president of the Student Recreation All Sports Association and a founding member of the Rainbow Coalition at IU.
President: Dorynn Mentor is a junior studying epidemiology. She is the IUSG Director of Health and Wellbeing and the vice president of the School of Public Health’s student government.
Vice President: Carling Louden is a junior studying business. She is the IUSG Deputy Director of City Relations and a former representative in the IUSG Congress.
Note: Louden could not be in attendance for our interview. Ruhan Syed, the current IUSG Vice President and Inspire campaign manager, attended in her place.
President: Carrick Moon is a junior studying political science. He is the founder of the Queer Student Union and is a mentor in the LGBTQ+ Culture Center.
Vice President: Shibani Mody is a junior studying law and public policy. She is currently a teaching assistant and was a legislative intern for Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet.
Current IUSG administration
IDS: What would you do differently from the current IUSG executive branch?
Ky: Listen. I went to every Congress meeting last semester, and at the very first one I was completely ignored. This is something we have to look at, especially when you're talking about communities who have not been afforded the power and the authority to make decisions on their own behalf. The one thing I would not be so reserved about is — if students are hurting — acknowledge they're hurting. Just say Black Lives Matter. Just say it. It's not a political topic.
Madeline: Listening is the first thing. Second one is acting. Acting means you have to bring in impacted leaders. They're the ones that have to push that initiative. Student government's historical background of just trying to push their own initiatives with their own specific background is failing right now.
Dorynn: I would want to communicate with Rachel and Ruhan who have been doing this for a year, seeing what they saw as wins for us and seeing what they would want to improve themselves. They've been doing a great job, and I can see that as director of health and wellbeing. I think there's a lot that I could learn from them. I would make sure we are really working with other student organizations to collaborate together to better the life of students on campus.
Carrick: Something I’d love to see take place over the summer — whether it's virtually or whether it's in-person — is a very clear training structure and team-building mechanism. We’ve talked about staggering our policy — literally writing what we can tackle as exec and what we want Congress to tackle. We'd all be on the same page every step of the way working toward what's better for IU students.
Shibani: One of the most important things we want to do is make sure everyone who is applying to Congress and who would like to be part of IUSG in our administration is getting the proper training they need to draft policy and to understand how IUSG works.
Transition to in-person
IDS: We’ve had two and a half semesters of online school and going back in-person may be difficult for some students. How can you make that transition easier?
Ky: We need to really push the university to introduce a hybrid-flexible course model. That model would give students the opportunity to design the way in which they learn at this institution. We have a lot of students and faculty who are immunocompromised. We have to make sure we’re being the most accommodating in that sense. A hybrid model would allow students to go to class in-person and to have a synchronous and asynchronous option. That needs to be done effectively, efficiently and in the safest way possible for their mental and physical health.
Dorynn: I'm excited to no longer be on Zoom. I know how tiring it can be to our eyes and to our mental health. So we're hoping we can ease that transition for them. We want to have more on-campus activities and advocate for more student-on-student support.
Ruhan: Working with the administration to allow some students to still opt into a hybrid model or to opt into sort of an online model. Maybe they Zoom into class or watch the recordings of the lecture because they just personally aren't comfortable with coming back into a full in-person experience yet.
Carrick: A huge thing students were concerned about in our Hoosier Values survey was academic affairs. A lot of students expressed a concern that, even though we’re now three semesters into online learning, they still weren’t able to properly engage with their faculty and staff. We have got to understand as an IUSG administration and as a school that asking students to reintegrate into college life is going to be a battle of relearning how to be a college student. We need to keep a hybrid model going. We may need to look into S/F grading.
Diversity in IUSG and on campus
IDS: What steps will you take to increase diversity in IUSG?
Dorynn: I will continue what Ruhan and Rachel have done through open hiring. I’m from open hiring. I’m a Haitian immigrant who came here when she was 10, who probably didn’t think she’d be in student government — let alone running for student body president. Learning from other people's culture and seeing how they view the real world will help me be a better president.
Carrick: I think one of the cool things IUSG tackled this year was the multicultural seat bill. I think it was a really important step. I also think we need to be reticent of the fact that it's one thing to bring people to the table, but it's another thing to make sure they feel supported. We need a very conscientious recruiting process for student groups on campus to get involved with IUSG. I don't think it's enough just to have open hiring. You need a recruiting process that encourages diversity of identity and ideas.
IDS to Elevate: You were both founding members of the Rainbow Coalition at IU and helped win the multicultural seat allocation bill. This deals with the legislative body, but what steps would you take to increase diversity within the executive branch?
Madeline: The one thing this executive branch did well was open hiring. They opened up applications to the whole student body to apply for their directorship positions. One of the driving forces of our administration will be opening it to the student body.
Ky: Another big push would be to make sure the multicultural seats are actually filled. One thing Madeline and I want to establish is a social justice office that focuses on all of these intersectional issues that happen on campus and allow leaders from impacted communities to interact with one another.
IDS to Legacy: Multicultural organizations, centers and departments serving underrepresented groups face budget and staff shortages. How can IUSG alleviate this, and how can you pressure the IU administration to increase support for these organizations?
Shibani: We know that there is a problem with not enough minority professors, faculty and staff being hired at IU. Education is one of the most important things that affects the way a student thinks about really serious issues. We want to focus on cluster hiring of minority professors and staff at IU.
IDS: How can the CAPS model be improved and made more accessible to students?
Madeline: One push Ky and I are going to be implementing is a student advisory board within CAPS to recommend ways they can move forward to benefit students.
Ky: We have to get our CAPS advisors to the standard nationally by implementing seven more of them, and with that implementation, make sure we're diversifying that staff. The second part of it is to find ways to provide more expansive therapy. Students on this campus need to be trained so they can be mental health advocates within their organizations.
Madeline: Unfortunately, we've seen no involvement in this process from this current administration. Because now we don't have any student advocates in there, and we don't know what to expect from our health center moving forward.
Dorynn: A lot of people on campus actually don't know a lot about CAPS, or they haven't been told about it. And I'm surprised at how many people are like, “Oh yeah, I didn't know that existed.” So I’d try to bring exposure to CAPS to the forefront. We also need to be increasing the amount of diversity of the counselors. Some people might not feel like their counselor meets their needs or understands their culture. You could have someone who is Black or Latino who understands is one thing that we'd like to do.
Ruhan: One of the big things we want to do is lobby the provost and president’s office to increase the funding that goes to the health center. If we can't get them to do that successfully, then looking at outside sources for more funding, whether that's private philanthropy or working with the Statehouse or federal government to get grants.
Shibani: When I was talking to organizations on campus, students were not really aware of what CAPS had to offer. They didn’t even know how to get an appointment. Expansion is always necessary. Restructuring is always necessary. In order to transform CAPS into a more effective and efficient system, there is room to hire more minority and LGBTQ+ counselors.
IDS: What is your stance on disarming or defunding IUPD?
Ky: This is a very nuanced topic, as you can imagine. The conversation of defunding the police is really saying: Do you want to see people get harmed after a mental health crisis and the police are called? No. OK, do you want students of color at this university to feel targeted? No. Do you want to see the increase of resources around our campus like cultural centers? Yes. So you're down for the conversation of defunding IUPD. After May 25, 2020, IUPD’s mission and goal should have changed, and it should have shifted. We have to figure that out collectively.
Dorynn: I don’t know if it’d be possible to completely get rid of IUPD within my administration because they are a resource if people don’t feel safe on campus. We wouldn’t want to remove that option for them. I think our goal is to take some of that funding and put it into more training so that people feel safer on campus.
Carrick: Personally speaking, I believe in a campus that feels safe. I don’t feel safe around any type of weapon, regardless of who’s carrying it. From our survey, a lot of students don’t feel affected by IUPD in a positive or a negative way. Their opinions are centered on disarming IUPD, which had overwhelming support, and also defunding and putting that money toward community investment.
IDS: How will you improve working conditions for residential staff beyond hazard pay?
Ky: It starts with the top of RPS to be completely honest. No one is truly standing up for the RAs. The first step of advocating is to RAs into the conversation that they have not been in. This is something I've been adamant on voicing at the congress meetings for the last few weeks. My brothers and sisters — who are RAs — their mental health is literally struggling. And that's a problem.
Dorynn: One thing I’ve done this year, as the Director of Health and Wellbeing, was having mental health first aid training for RAs to better help them in their position. I consider them front-line workers. We need to continue those sorts of training to better help them help students. Giving them training for possible career advancement is a great way to help RAs beyond hazard pay.
Shibani: One of the most frightening things RAs have had to go through is living during COVID-19. I remember a few of my friends saying they had put in forms to get more sanitization materials, and it took months for those processes to go through. In the end, a lot of these RAs had to use their own money to buy hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes. RAs are doing everything to make sure residents are being protected during COVID. If you are an RA, you should not have to buy your own materials for other people. The university should be providing that.
The Graduate Workers Coalition and fees
IDS: What is your position on the Graduate Workers Coalition’s fight to end mandatory fees?
Ky: I genuinely love it. One thing I don't think people really highlight is that grad students are also part of the student government. So in a sense, to not support what the grad students are working toward, you're not supporting a whole section of your constituents.
Dorynn: We want to minimize fees for students. We want to be able to eliminate as many fees that students deem they're not using.
Ruhan: Every student, graduate and undergraduate, pays in the same pot for student fees. They support a number of important things. It's about having the conversations to find out what all of us, as students, deem as necessary to the student experience. Then how can we make college more affordable from there? When you do take away from the pot, in one part, it does affect students on all parts of campus. So it may not necessarily mean ending the fees, but it may mean working to increase their stipends.
Carrick: I entirely support their work. I think it is absolutely ridiculous we are asking students to engage with the graduate program, and we refuse to pay them an adequate wage. An IUSG administration we are part of is absolutely going to have their back.
Shibani: We do support making sure IU is economically feasible to all students who wish to access any resources and any services they want. When you are pursuing an education, it should not drive you into poverty.
IDS: What will you do when the wants and needs of students and IU administration conflict?
Ky: Being the students' representative, you also have to be the students’ champion. If you thought you were going to get anything at this university by asking please, you are probably going to be sadly mistaken. It's easy for the administration to tell one student no, but when you have a coalition of students it's a lot harder for that to happen. In that case, you start to do some agitation, and I specialize in agitation. That is my thing here at this university, and that is when you begin to make some substantive change.
Dorynn: We'll try to work as much as we can to find a compromise. I think there is power in numbers. IU Student Government likes to work with other organizations. We're the voice of the students. I think there's power in numbers. As long as we work together to bring up those issues that really matter to us we'll be able to come to a compromise with IU.
Ruhan: Whenever there's disagreements, the philosophy is always try to make growth. Maybe we don't get to level 100 immediately, but if we can get to 25 or 50 or 75 that's a win for the students. That has a snowball effect and builds up to bigger wins in the future.
Carrick: I think the first step honestly is to rebuild trust in IUSG. When conflict like that arises, we can fall back on the small successes we've had so students know they can look to us to continue fighting to pursue those often bigger, more contentious directives. A huge point of our campaign is listening. The really important thing to consider here is leading with questions and not with answers. What we want to do is engage with administration through working groups, ask the right questions and then form our solutions from there.
All IU students will receive an email from the IUSG Election Commission April 1, and voting will remain open until April 2.
Kyle Linder (he/him) is a senior studying journalism and international relations. He wants everyone to join a union.
Allyson McBride (she/her) is a junior studying English and political science. She is a member of the IU Student Government Congress.
Evan Shaw (he/they) is a sophomore studying journalism. He also minors in Arabic and Spanish and hopes to one day become a polyglot.