IU Student Government presidential and vice presidential candidates focused on sustainability, mental health and inclusion during the debate Tuesday night ahead of the election Thursday and Friday.
Three tickets participated in the debate: Elevate, Inspire and Legacy. All candidates are juniors, but the tickets offer a range of experience with IUSG.
Inspire presidential and vice presidential candidates Dorynn Mentor and Carling Louden are both current members of IUSG, and Legacy presidential and vice presidential candidates Carrick Moon and Shibani Mody are both new to student government. The Elevate ticket falls somewhere in between, with presidential candidate Ky Freeman coming from outside IUSG and vice presidential candidate Madeline Dederichs currently serving as an IUSG Congress member.
The debate began with moderator and IU professor Paul Helmke asking candidates about the previous successes and failures of IUSG.
Candidates responded to Helmke’s questions as well as questions sent in from the audience through the Facebook livestream chat.
Moon said sustainability is one of the most important issues IUSG needs to address. His campaign, Legacy, supports larger initiatives such as divesting from fossil fuels, but Moon said he wanted to create a campus culture that emphasized doing even sustainable small actions. For instance, encouraging bike use and second-hand clothes are easy and immediate ways Legacy can make a change, Moon said.
“With the name of Legacy, leaving something behind, we’ve got to make sure there is actually a student government and a campus and a world for future students to enjoy,” Moon said.
Mentor said Inspire aims to continue pushing current IUSG sustainability initiatives forward, including carbon neutrality by 2030 and a plastic bag ban. Adding additional recycling bins and compost sites around campus is another way to help the environment, Mentor said.
Elevate’s Freeman said the key to achieving sustainability is amplifying the voices of student advocates. Elevate also strives to motivate more students to care about the environment, he said. Freeman said many students do not understand the ways sustainability affects other aspects of their lives, such as racial equality or health. Freeman used recent mold discovered in IU dorm buildings as an example of how environmental initiatives such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified buildings can improve IU students’ lives.
“We have to make sustainability a conversation that students feel like they can engage in,” Freeman said.
Legacy is committed to making students more aware of IU mental health services, Mody said. Mody said Legacy plans to work with the IU psychology department to expand the mental health services available and prepare for the psychological consequences of the pandemic.
“Once we come back from COVID-19, there is going to be a mental health epidemic that we need to be prepared for,” Mody said.
Mody said Legacy wants to introduce a Hoosier Choice Wellness Plan, which would give students the ability to take three to five mental health days of their choice rather than having pre-planned Wellness Days.
“Last time I checked, our mental health doesn’t check the syllabus for a day off,” Mody said.
Mentor served as IUSG director of health and wellbeing this semester and focused on mental health. During her term, Mentor created a mental health training program for residential assistants.
“I wanted RAs as our front line workers to have the training to alleviate some of the strain COVID has put on students,” Mentor said.
Mentor also said she wants to diversify the Counseling and Psychological Services staff so that students from all backgrounds feel comfortable going to CAPS for help.
Elevate plans to create a CAPS student advisory board to include more student voices in IU’s mental health programming, Dederichs said. Dederichs also said that the model of three Wellness Days a semester does not sufficiently protect students’ mental health.
Diversity, equity and inclusion
Legacy wants to continue progress made by the multicultural bill passed in January, Moon said. Moon said the ticket plans to develop a recruitment structure that will reach out to multicultural organizations.
“Not only how we can empower them once they are already in the IUSG apparatus, but how we can get them to the table to begin with,” Moon said.
Mentor said Inspire intends to focus on internal diversity, equity and inclusion training through creating a DEI committee and DEI captain which will monitor IUSG committees.
“As a Black woman, as an immigrant, it does not exempt me from doing diversity, equity and inclusion training,” Mentor said. “I am here to listen to all students whether their opinion aligns with mine or not, whether their culture aligns with mine or not. I’m here for everyone.”
Freeman and Dederichs both championed the recently passed bill reserving at least one-third of IUSG Congress seats for multicultural student organizations. Freeman helped found Rainbow Coalition, a group consisting of representatives from various campus multicultural groups, and he co-organized the “Unite to Ignite” rally to demand more minority representation in IUSG.
During the closing remarks, all tickets emphasized the importance of listening to student voices and working together with a number of student organizations.
“IUSG isn’t broken, it’s just unfinished,” Freeman said. “We are growth-focused, and we will get there as a family.”