Staff editorial: Student Life endorses Truong, Plump, Ashie, Walker for SU exec

Last week, the Student Life Editorial Board applauded Student Union for its recognition of student interests when passing its general budget for the 2019-2020 school year. While the extensive debate surrounding contested allocations highlighted the care that many representatives put into their positions, it came after the disappointing realization that others failed to recognize the value of some student groups.

Luckily for Washington University, the candidates running for executive board positions this year are those that invest time in working to make Student Union, and Washington University as a whole, a better, more welcoming place for all students.

Despite the role of president being an uncontested race, our Editorial Board wants to note its wholehearted endorsement of sophomore Tyrin Truong, and specifically commend how well-qualified he is for the role. Truong presents lofty goals, but has a personal track record to back them up. Having served as speaker of the Senate, Truong helped improve SU’s transparency through the establishment of roll call votes and live-streamed Senate meetings. His institutional knowledge of how SU functions and ability to enact change within its framework will benefit him greatly as he works to achieve his outreach-focused goals and ideas for an internal restructuring of SU.

Truong seems uniquely qualified to achieve his goal of elevating the voices of marginalized groups on campus. As an outspoken critic of SU’s treatment of these groups and founder of the Black Caucus, Truong’s experience listening to student group concerns and advocating on their behalf will be essential moving forward. His idea to establish a Presidential Advisory Board of student activists demonstrates this commitment.

That being said, we urge Truong to clarify his plan for a merger of SU’s legislative bodies. Without a robust plan and specific reasons why all students—including those less in tune with SU’s internal functions—should vote to combine Senate and Treasury, we fear his plan will fail to garner support. The discordant messaging from Senate and Treasury during the general budget sessions show that they are two disparate groups in need of a connection, but we have yet to be convinced that a total merger of the two is the best way to do this.

Sophomore Nia Plump, a current senator and chair of the Black Caucus, is similarly well-suited to address the needs of students through the role of vice president of administration. Her focus on changing the internal culture of Student Union to become more attentive and considerate is a step in the right direction to ensure that all students feel their voices are heard by SU. Specifically, her plans to mandate facilitations by Teaching Racial Understanding Through Honesty (T.R.U.T.H.), SafeZones and Leaders in Interpersonal Violence Education (LIVE) for all SU members and her mental health “check-ins” for campus leaders have the potential to help improve SU’s often-noted recruitment and retention problem.

While we commend freshman Kyle Hsiao’s intention to approach the position as an impartial outsider, we feel his lack of experience within SU poses a risk to someone in this high-profile of a role. We hope those elected to exec positions consider implementing his ideas for SU to be more openly self-critical to assess if they are best-serving the student body.

Vice president of finance is also a contested position, with sophomores Ariel Ashie and current Treasury representative Zachary Sorenson vying for the role. While both the candidates for VP finance each bring strengths to the table, we feel that sophomore Ariel Ashie the better fit for the position. To us, Ashie’s experience places an emphasis on the “human” aspect of the position, which is necessary to address the concerns and needs of marginalized students on campus.

The recent discourse surrounding the allocation of money to the Affinity Groups Event Fund highlights the necessity of having a VP finance equipped to address those concerns. Ashie’s experience through Uncle Joe’s exec and her participation in SU’s Opportunity Fund and Mental Health Task Forces make her well-suited to fill that role. Her proposal to create a report evaluating the financial experience of marginalized groups on campus would allow SU to have quantitative data with which to track their effectiveness at ensuring that their budget is equitable for all campus groups. We will note that Ashie’s lack of direct experience in Senate and Treasury is a source of hesitation, but her knowledge of SU and willingness to learn turn her “outsider” status into a strength.

Sophomore Zachary Sorenson, though experienced, lacks key relationships with students we feel is necessary in order to adequately address the issues of underfunding referenced earlier. His suggestion to restructure the budget process gives us pause because it would allow the VP of finance to singlehandedly balance the general budget without consideration from Senate and Treasury until after a draft has been produced. While it could be more efficient, we see potential backlash within the legislative bodies, which may not save much time in the long run.

The final contested position, vice president of programming, features two candidates with varied backgrounds. Sophomore Charlotte Pohl would be an incumbent, having served the position after a write-in campaign last year, while sophomore Randal Walker is a current senator. Both have identified the expansion of Game Day to include other sports, such as men’s and women’s basketball, as a priority for their term. While we recognize the value of continuity, we find it concerning that Pohl offered no solutions for addressing the needs of marginalized students. As an incumbent candidate, we expected that Pohl would have more awareness of the primary source of criticism SU has received this year.

As a founder of Black Caucus, Walker has proven her commitment to outreach on behalf of SU and her ability to foster change within the legislative bodies. As a varsity athlete, we have full confidence in her ability to further expand on Pohl’s work this year. Her extensive experience with other affinity groups will allow her to leverage those relationships and create a more inclusive and transparent executive team.

For the second year in a row, one of five executive board positions may remain unfilled after the election on Tuesday (unless a write-in candidate succeeds in meeting the 75-signature threshold). SU’s vice president of public relations is an essential component to making the outward-facing aspects of each exec member’s plans a reality. We encourage students to learn more about the opportunities that exist within this position. The vice president of public relations functions as the voice of SU, and such a position carries both immense power and opportunity to foster change. Considering the calls for unity and more outreach from both candidates and students, we are surprised that more individuals do not run for this position each year. We challenge both the current and future SU administrations to work to increase student interest in this and all other SU exec positions in the future.

Contrasting with exec boards in recent years, if elected, the candidates described here have uniquely well-aligned platforms for their respective positions. All described an emphasis on outreach based on listening to student concerns with a goal of improving SU’s ability to represent the campus community. We at Student Life feel that the emergence of the endorsed candidates is the result of years of student dissatisfaction with the advocacy branch of Student Union.

This election has the potential to represent a change in the tide and a return to the activist roots upon which Student Union was founded more than 40 years ago. We are excited for the election results, and we hope that the incoming SU exec will take steps to ensure that the voices of marginalized students on campus are heard.

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