Campus-wide voting for the 2017 ASG Election will open on April 6 at 5 p.m. and close at 5 p.m. the next day. NBN spoke with the the presidential candidate Nehaarika Mulukutla, who is running unopposed alongside vice presidential candidate Rosalie Gambrah, about their campaign's goals and aspirations for improving ASG, among many other things.
NBN: Why did you decide to run?
Nehaarika Mulukutla: Coming to this campus, I experienced some of the hardest times of my life. My freshmen year I had a really difficult time in terms of mental health. Had I not had the family income level that I did, I wouldn't have been able to get the care that I needed. Most of the time if I needed access to resources it was by my own volition, through my own difficulty and because I had the identities that were privileged enough to get access to them. So I want to do something to change that for others.
Rosalie Gambrah: I'm currently ASG's student activities vice president, through which I head the Student Activity Resource Committee. My entire purpose is to provide resources for the student community. By that role, I was able to look more critically at NU as an institution, and how it exacerbates problems of not prioritizing mental wellness, its pervasive sexual assault culture and how marginalized voices are not heard — and even ignored. Our campaign has adapted the desire to attack those issues, and I felt like what I was doing in my role as SA-VP has a lot of overlap with what I would be able to do as executive VP. I feel like I could do what I was doing in the SA-VP role to a greater capacity as E-VP.
NBN: What are the key points of your platform for the upcoming year?
NM: If you look at our logo it’s what you'd call the domino effect. That's the phrase I’d use to talk about our platform itself — its key point being the holistic well-being of students. Individually, what comprises that are the experiences that make up your time here at NU through your mental health, through your sexual health and through the inclusivity and accessibility that you feel based on the various identities that you hold. Our platform is about toppling the oppressive culture that higher education systems institute towards student wellness by addressing each and every one of those individual pillars and recognizing that you can't tackle the institution without toppling them all over because they are so intersectional and interconnected.
NBN: What’s one goal that you have if elected, and how would you achieve it?
NM: My personal favorite is with regards to the mental wellness platform NU Listens. I would really love to see that become a powerful and structured support on our campus that is backed by not just ASG, but the administration itself.
RG: I hear how disillusioned students are with ASG, thinking that ASG is really ineffective and that we don't do anything... I want to prove them wrong. I want students to see ASG as a resource, as an institution that primarily serves students' needs. What I hope to do is [to] implement as many of our policy proposals in order to show students that ASG does in fact have the potential to do this.
NBN: Can you elaborate a bit on your initiative addressing the alcohol policy on campus?
RG: Northwestern... actively ignores that there's alcohol consumption on campus. By doing that, the administration doesn't understand the root causes of why sexual assault is prevalent on this campus because they're not addressing the fact that alcohol consumption is relegated to male-dominated spaces predominantly in Greek life. [Limiting alcohol consumption in certain areas] removes students from places that they are comfortable drinking in, and moves them to these male-dominated spaces. Not acknowledging that there is alcohol consumption on campus doesn't allow for proactive measures to be taken in order to make this campus safer.
NBN: Does your campaign plan on responding to the University’s decision to not take disciplinary action against SAE?
NM: We were encouraged in a number of capacities to think of creative ways to respond when the initiatives that we pushed for are shut down by administrators. Since we have already experienced our first 'No', we’ve had to think of inventive ways to actually respond. I think the biggest thing we want to do is push this administration to recognize what it means to say that they will "stand with survivors and prevent sexual assault" — to push them to understand what sexual assault culture even is. As long as they continue treating these incidents as isolated events, they will never effectively address the problem. Our whole goal in running this campaign about root causes and campus culture is to say that mini therapy horses only go so far. Similarly, sending out an email saying "We're going to conclude an investigation however we see fit or however legal precedent allows us to" is not standing with survivors.
NBN: What do you think ASG's strongest aspects are? What do you think ASG could improve on, and how would you make those improvements?
RG: I think ASG as an institution is strongest in its capacity to recruit individuals who are passionate about the same messages that we have. With that also comes its weakness, but ASG does have the potential and resources to foster the policy proposals that we're trying to implement, and I believe that we can do it.
NM: Our weakest aspect is our internal efficiency, and our organizational structure. ASG is too decentralized and too large. So much goes on behind the scene that we neither publicize nor actually know how to effectively organize around. It doesn't really garner the student body's attention or trust. Trust is really what I want to hinge on: It's not about making ASG a public figure; it's about making ASG an accessible resource that you as a student or individual trust to actually effectively meet your needs.
NBN: If you could be any person in the NU administration, who would it be?
NM: I would be PTI (Patricia Telles-Irwin), because she is responsible for everything: From where you shit, to what you eat — your entire student experience. I say that because I like to think that I am bold and courageous enough to do the right thing when it gets to the end of the line. I don't know if I actually would be, but I do know that during my time as president in this coming year I'm going to work my hardest to always push for what is the morally and judicially right thing.
RG: I'm going to go with the head of Sodexo, Bruce Gonzalez. I met with Bruce, and I think he genuinely wants to help students. There's a contract ramification that states that if student groups have events in Norris, the food has to be catered by Sodexo. That's really difficult for cultural groups because it's like — do the chefs of Sodexo have the experience/expertise to be cooking the cultural foods that students want to have at events? The answer is no, they do not. That dichotomy of trying to have the best event with food that represents our cultures but having to go through red tape in order to do so, is something I think can really be worked on. As the head of Sodexo, I would be focused on trying my best to understand ways in which I can go around all these liabilities in order to do my job and better help the student community.
Students can vote to elect Mulukutla and Gambrah online through Wildcat Connection.