The presidential candidates for Iowa State’s Student Government focused on a number of issues, including campus diversity, Student Government renewal, financial success and recent events on campus during Tuesday night’s livestream debate.
The presidential candidates for the 2021 election are Julia Campbell, senior in agricultural business, and Anna Olson, junior in journalism and political science.
Campbell is the current Student Government director of affordability, and her running mate is Megan Decker, a sophomore in agriculture and society and journalism and mass communication. Together, they are running on a platform of lowering costs for students, promoting community and inclusion and focusing on the mental health and well-being of students.
Campbell emphasized the importance of advocating for students and educating them on financial success as the COVID-19 pandemic forces Iowa State to cut programs to save money.
“We want to continue to encourage students to utilize campus resources, such as scholarships and grants,” Campbell said. “Continuing to connect students on campus to scholarship and grant opportunities is going to be critical … I want to bring light to a program we spent time on [in] the past year with what is an income share program. That’s something we worked on that would be an alternative to private loans.”
Campbell also highlighted how their campaign is focused on increasing engagement and communication with Student Government.
“We want people to establish personal relationships and also that trust that is so essential for personal relationships and a working environment,” Campbell said. “If elected, [Decker] and I would set up meetings with every senator and member of Student Government to understand what excites them. Why are they happy to be here?”
During the debate, both candidates responded to student body President Morgan Fritz and Vice President Jacob Schrader’s statement regarding tweets from Women’s Week panelist Rita Mookerjee, assistant teaching professor of sociology. Campbell said she would not have released the statement and that the tweets did not warrant an escalation in that way.
“The statement released last week was an incredibly painful statement that affected many individuals in our Iowa State community,” she said. “I am glad that they made the decision to keep the professor on the panel.”
Campbell also focused on the First Amendment and how it impacts students on campus in response to both Mookerjee’s tweets and tweets from Iowa State College Republicans in October, to which the current Student Government president did not release a statement.
“We do not have the ability to pick and choose what events we respond to," Campbell said. "Going forward and knowing our rights but also knowing the limitations of the First Amendment … we would like to extend [First Amendment] training to have it as a requirement for Student Government members to be involved in First Amendment training to know, number one, the protections it has, but also the limitations of that amendment."
During her response time, Olson questioned why Campbell did not initially have diversity and inclusion as a focus on her platform. Campbell answered that diversity and inclusion is ingrained in her platform.
“As we continue to apply the Principles of Community as Cyclones, we want to continue to support and foster a strong sense of community,” Campbell said.
A question from the audience asked about both candidates’ sustainability initiatives. Campbell responded that while sustainability is not a central focus of their campaign, the concept is ingrained in a few of their initiatives, including increasing the percentage of locally sourced foods in dining centers.
“We want to keep growth and jobs in the local economy … reduce single-use plastics and reduce carbon emissions by increasing that locally sourced food,” she said.
Olson is the current Student Government senior director of communications, and her running mate is Mariana Gonzalez, current vice speaker and a senior in political science, marketing and public relations. Their platform is based on diversity and inclusion, sustainability, affordability and mental and physical health.
During the debate, Olson emphasized the importance of diversity at all levels on campus, noting that diversity and inclusion is the number one priority on Olson and Gonzalez’s platform.
“You cannot put diversity and inclusion as a buzzword; you cannot put it in a box because there are so many students on this campus that are affected by the things that are occurring every single day," Olson said. "If we don’t properly address these things, then we will never be able to be the most inclusive campus that we can be, and that’s what [Gonzalez] and I will both strive for.”
When asked about Student Government’s response to Mookerjee’s tweets, Olson responded by pointing out that she had advised Fritz and Schrader not to issue a statement at all. Olson put together the Women’s Week conference alongside Director of Outreach Eliana Crabb.
“This is something that I personally dealt with and advised against from the beginning,” Olson said. “For me, Dr. Mookerjee’s experiences are all of her own. She is a BIPOC woman on a predominantly white campus here at Iowa State University, and all of her opinions and ideas about things that are occurring to her on campus are valid … I do not condone [Fritz and Schrader’s] statement; I do not agree with [their] statement.”
Like Campbell, Olson also emphasized the importance of the First Amendment and educating students on what the First Amendment means.
“We have to make sure that everyone on our campus is ensuring that they know their rights and go through ‘know their rights’ campaigns in order to make sure that they know how the First Amendment can be applied equally to everyone on this campus,” Olson said.
During the debate, Olson detailed the sustainability initiatives on their platform, which includes house training to teach students how to properly recycle.
“We’re also going to create a campus sustainability review walk in order to see what areas we can reduce our carbon footprint on,” Olson said.
After Campbell noted that a campus sustainability review walk is currently being implemented by other students, Olson responded that having Student Government involved would raise awareness within Student Government itself.
Olson also emphasized the importance of affordability for students on campus.
“[Gonzalez] and I are both very committed to both lobbying at the local and state level in order to make sure that students receive the funding that they need and that the university receives the funding that they need,” Olson said.
One question from the audience, directed at both candidates, asked whether racism is a severe issue on campus. Olson responded in the positive, claiming that the issue is very prevalent on campus.
“It is seen over and over and over every single year that students are coming to Student Government expressing their concerns from Student Government members, from actions that Student Government is making, and that’s not even considering anything that happens on or off campus,” Olson said. “We need to make sure that this is a number one priority, and that’s why our platform was the only platform to have diversity and inclusion as our main point right off the bat.”