A recap of Tuesday's JEC debate

On Tuesday evening the GW Joint Elections Commission (JEC) hosted a debate between candidates for SA President and Executive Vice President (EVP). Candidates were questioned by campus media representatives regarding their experience, platforms, and proposed initiatives.

In their opening statements, the candidates explained why they decided to run for office and what they hope to accomplish if elected. EVP candidate Ojani Walthrust explained that he hopes to support students “who are part of underrepresented groups” on campus. He emphasized addressing issues of diversity and inclusion, mental health, and sustainability. Brady Forrest, also a candidate for EVP, said that he wants to foster greater involvement among students, especially first-year and graduate students. He also noted that he wants to create a diversity and inclusion task force and improve sustainability at GW.

Presidential candidate Imani Ross said that there are “too many communities on campus that are overlooked” and she hopes to “amplify their voices.” She also delineated parts of her platform, which includes creating a policy for students to earn experiential credit and beginning a “village program” that would allow students to be assigned housing based on their interests. Presidential candidate Ashley Le said that she hopes to help the GW community “learn together, advocate together, and grow together.” Le emphasized that inclusion should be a part of everyday life on campus and that students should “move forward and work together because we care about each other.”

Candidates responded to questions about specific issues that they would face if elected, including GW’s Title IX policies, improving affordability, and promoting diversity and inclusion.

Regarding Title IX and sexual assault issues on campus, a common sentiment among all four candidates was that the university has not taken enough action to prevent sexual assault and support students. Walthrust said that he would be “committed to facilitating dialogue with administrators” to develop “common sense efforts” to address the issue. Forrest emphasized that sexual assault has been a “long-term issue” but said that he hopes President LeBlanc will provide opportunities for reform and change.

Forrest emphasized that Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA) plays a significant role on campus but that the group should not be alone in confronting the issue. Le suggested that GW needs to emphasize a culture of consent and bystander intervention to incoming freshmen. Ross noted that the SA should “continue to be proactive and support students directly” instead of depending on administrators.

The candidates also discussed the financial challenges that students at GW face, including the increasing costs of housing and the dining plan. Forrest said that he hopes to address food insecurity on campus, partly by using the “meal deals” program to incentivize graduate students to use GWorld, allowing vendors to lower their prices. Walthrust discussed his proposal to cooperate with administrators and vendors to lower meal deals by $1. Le and Ross both noted that there should be an increase in financial aid to correspond with higher housing prices. All of the candidates indicated that they plan to discuss issues of affordability and solutions with administrators.

Throughout the debate, all four candidates emphasized the importance of improving inclusion on campus. Forrest said that, in the past, action regarding issues of diversity and inclusion has been reactionary, emphasizing the need for proactive action to prevent incidents from occurring. Ross emphasized her role in developing the Alpha Phi Bigotry Act and how administrators “took immediate action” as a result of the SA resolution. She also noted that she hopes to implement an executive committee relating to diversity and inclusion to help student organizations engage in dialogue with administrators. Le emphasized that “diversity means we need to include students’ voices” to promote constructive dialogue and solutions. Walthrust shared that he has been personally affected by diversity issues and said he hopes to develop a more professional organization to support the efforts of the Multicultural Student Services Center (MSSC).

All of the candidates emphasized that they want to address students’ concerns and discussed how they plan to work towards positive change. Students will vote to select GW’s next SA President and Executive Vice President on March 27 and 28.

Originally published on gw.therival.news by Stephanie Gemmell on 3.21.18.

CampusStephanie Gemmell