Structural racism, socioeconomic status and the intersectionality of identity – these were some of the many topics discussed at Monday night’s ASG Presidential and Vice Presidential debate, hosted by Northwestern’s Coalition of Colors.
Weinberg junior Cinthya Rodriguez, the co-chair of the Coalition, kicked off the debate with a disclaimer that the Coalition hasn’t endorsed either ticket. Rather, the point of the debate was to address issues of importance to student groups who are often marginalized on campus.
“We’ve seen how candidates, to be really honest, haven’t kept all of their promises. We’re here to remind people that we are important and we’re here to keep you accountable,” Rodriguez said.
The debate began with candidates introducing themselves and their platforms.
Weinberg junior Noah Star and McCormick junior Christina Kim are running with the slogan that ASG needs a “healthy dose of humility.”
“The process by which ASG decides what it takes on and what its leadership looks like needs to be much more focused on what we’re hearing from students,” said Star, who recently served as ASG's Speaker of the Senate.
Following Star, candidates Medill junior Haley Hinkle and SESP junior Chris Harlow spoke briefly about their motivation for running.
“As much as we can, as white privileged students, we feel the pain and the disappointment that comes with the system letting students down over and over again,” Hinkle said. “For us, it’s really about how can we make students’ lives better and creating a culture shift within ASG."
Harlow, the outgoing VP of Student Life, spoke about the projects he and Hinkle had achieved in the past few years which have impacted students, such as adding shuttle stops near Elder.
“What we can do and challenge ourselves to do, is to meet with people in different communities and understand what they want from Northwestern and critically engage with them,” Hinkle said. “How do we make sure that the cost of laptops, textbooks, the cost of pre-Wildcat Welcome programs don’t preclude students from having the best experience possible academically?”
The candidates all emphasized the need to bring student leaders into ASG’s insulated processes, prompting moderator and SESP senior Sarah Watson to ask how they would ensure that those same leaders weren’t “extractive or burdensome” for those student leaders, who might feel the need to constantly explain aspects of their identity in relation to controversial issues.
“As Haley and I have really begun to build friendships and engage in these issues, one of the most helpful things is when students are comfortable calling us out,” Harlow said. “We don’t know everything, but we are willing to try and learn. The burden is on us to be thankful to those people who are taking the time to come in to ASG or those spaces.”
Star countered that ASG “can’t be starting and stopping communication as it relates to their projects.”
He advocated for a more collaborative process. “We’re not just coming to a given organization and saying, ‘Help us with this project’ and moving on.”
The recent divestment resolution was a popular topic from the audience as well. The candidates were asked about how they would work with administrators once resolutions had been passed, and how they would or could maintain neutrality on issues such as this.
Star said it would be the job of the President and Vice President to continue to push the resolution since it was passed by the Senate.
“Regardless of how many public articles [Schapiro] writes, we believe that it is ASG’s job to push the administration and show them that this is what students are saying, here’s what they want,” Kim said.
“Noah and I are excited to push the administration on tougher issues, on issues that students are calling for. It doesn’t matter what I personally think,” Kim added.
Hinkle and Harlow also emphasized the fact that when the Senate passes such resolutions, it would be their job to respond with action.
“We have a lot of experience pushing back on the administration,” Harlow said. “Ultimately, it’s going to require mobilizing students a second time. Greater transparency in the endowment and budget process is absolutely necessary.”
Elections for President and Executive Vice President will be held on April 9. A debate between the candidates will also be held on Tuesday night.
Editor's note: Hinkle previously contributed to North by Northwestern.