ASCSU campaign: Presidential debate

Serena Bettis

Editor’s Note: Hannah Taylor works on the Rocky Mountain Student Media Corporation Board of Directors as the alumni coordinator.

Seven candidates for president and vice president of the Associated Students of Colorado State University engaged in the only presidential debate of the election season Wednesday night. 

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The ASCSU candidates running on a joint president/vice president ticket include: Adam Pena and Merry Gebretsadik; Jasper Sloss and Mkay Armbrust; Hannah Taylor and Noah Schindler; and Diego Tovar and Rachel Jackson. Armbrust was not present at the debate, as Sloss said he was recovering from a surgery and watching from home.

Throughout the debate, which was Livestreamed on YouTube by CTV Channel 11, candidates hit on the campaign platforms most important to them and questioned the other candidates on the viability of their promises, as well as answered questions sent in by students via YouTube. 

Response to COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt student life — and is the reason the ASCSU elections were postponed — ASCSU’s response was an important topic in the debate.

Taylor and Schindler said their first campaign platform that they plan to prioritize is the creation of a COVID-19 relief fund. 

“We’d have to work with other departments at CSU to collect those funds and then donate them to the CSU financial aid office where they are able to disperse those funds to students in need right now,” Taylor said.

Taylor said they would also create a committee that would hand out masks, hand sanitizer and thermometers to students so they can accurately fill out the daily symptom checker.

Sloss touched on his platform to ensure that students are safe on campus and said he served on a social-norming task force to create health messaging for students. Sloss said that providing appropriate messaging and engagement with students about COVID-19 safety concerns is vital in maintaining student safety. 

In addition to safety during COVID-19, candidates discussed ways they would engage the students in a virtual environment. 

Tovar said that he and Jackson have done this already as the respective president and vice president for Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences

“We’re not going to hide in our office and pretend that we’re not a part of the student community. We’re going to be out there, and we’re going to be involved,” Tovar said.

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Pena said he and Gebretsadik already have plans to hold biweekly meetings between the president and vice president of ASCSU and students “so you can feel your voices are heard.” 

Diversity, inclusion and hate speech on campus

Tovar and Jackson reiterated throughout the debate that one of their key campaign platforms is belonging on campus. Tovar said that the first thing they plan to do when elected is to work with CSU students to create a definition of hate speech and a plan of education for those who violate that definition, which would be in the student code of conduct.

Other candidates expressed issues with this idea, voicing concerns over the violations this might present to students’ first amendment rights.

“We have a problem with the culture that we’ve created on campus,” Taylor said. “And there does need to be a solution for that. But I would say that running on the idea that you are going to outlaw, by the code of conduct, certain words, but not create an actual list of those words … isn’t being fully transparent to students.”

Tovar said he disagrees, because “you need student involvement to create a student code of conduct.” 

Sloss said that he and Armbrust believe the community should stand for certain values and that a revision of the code of ethics and the code of conduct is a great way to reinforce those ideals. 

“To Diego Tovar, enforcing hate speech sounds like you intend to then punish those (who) have violated the policies you will create,” Sloss said.

Sloss questioned if this was within Tovar’s power to do and how he would do that as a fellow student. 

“We’re not out here to punish anyone,” Tovar said. “It’s about education. We’re an institution of education, and it’s about understanding bias and discrimination is a real issue on our campus, and it needs to be addressed.” 

Later on in the debate when the question of hate speech was brought up again, Pena added, “We are for freedom of speech, but we are not for speech that incites people to violence, and we are not for slander, we are not for libel, and that is where we stand on that issue.”

ASCSU voting opens on RAMweb Sept. 14 and will continue through 4 p.m. Sept. 16.

Serena Bettis can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @serenaroseb.