The Student Elections Commission within Boston University Student Government held a debate for the upcoming elections Monday night via video conferencing platform Zoom. The debate was open to all BU students and all five slates were present to answer questions posed by the SEC.
The debate began with opening statements from each of the slates: 4BU, BeLoudBU, ConnectBU, IgniteBU and OneBU. Each slate was given equal speaking time for opening statements and for responses to the five questions posed by the SEC co-chair, Minji Kwak, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences.
The SEC’s questions related to each slate’s policy and outlook on school spirit, popping the “BU bubble,” mental health, student involvement and their most important initiative for student government next year.
In response to the SEC’s first question on school spirit and inclusion, Daniel Kelly, a sophomore in CAS running for president on the 4BU slate, said his party wants to emphasize student inclusion in the SG decision making process, especially for students who are typically underrepresented in SG and senate.
“Adding senator positions for minority, LGBTQIA and international students is going to help expand the conversation,” Kelly said. “People don’t feel like student government is working for them, and that’s because there’s not that inclusivity.”
Kelly also said he believes low voter turnout in SG elections signifies the need for greater inclusivity and outreach on behalf of SG, as well as greater productivity in SG.
“More than 16,000 students don’t vote in the elections,” Kelly said. “That says something about the faith students have in the processes and outcomes of student government.”
All slates mentioned partnering with other student groups to enhance student voice in SG affairs, and several of the slates, including BeLoudBU and IgniteBU, said they hope to organize more on-campus events for BU students aimed at community building and school spirit.
On how to burst the “BU bubble,” Nyah Jordan, a sophomore in the College of Communication running for vice president of internal affairs on the OneBU slate, said her party hopes to focus on greater integration with the city of Boston through professional development and networking events for students.
“There shouldn’t be a reason that we don’t have access to all of the resources that Boston provides,” Jordan said.
Archelle Thelemaque, a junior in COM running for president on the BeLoudBU slate, said she hopes to fill the gap between BU’s campus and Boston through community service.
“I love this question,” Thelemaque said. “We are planning a ‘Shop with a Terrier Event’ where BU students would take underprivileged kids from Boston Public Schools holiday shopping during December.”
Collin McCormick, a junior in CAS running for president on the IgniteBU slate, said he believes a crucial action in connecting BU students with the city of Boston is reduced or free fare for the MBTA green line.
“We have to remind ourselves that the BU bubble is a self imposed barrier,” McCormick said. “We want to encourage students to go into Boston using the green line.”
All five slates said they wanted to prioritize the accessibility of mental health and general health services for BU students. All representatives said they were disappointed by the number of complaints posed by BU students about Student Health Services, and said they would aim to collaborate with BU administration, using that student input, to create more accessible and effective behavioral health services on campus.
Aditya Jain, a junior in the College of Engineering running for president on the ConnectBU slate, said his team has compiled a five part action plan to address inadequacies in BU’s health services.
“We actually attended a disability town hall put on by the student activist union and have put together a list of action items,” Jain said. “Decrease wait times, remove the anxiety of making appointments over the phone, better counselor training, walk-in options and a second Student Health Services building in East Campus.”
On improving student involvement in SG, Kelly said he believes the transparency of SG is important.
“If you don’t see what your student government is doing for you, what is the purpose of going out and making your voice heard?” Kelly said.
McCormick, who has served as a senator for CAS, said he has witnessed firsthand how inefficient senate can be in reflecting the wants of the student body.
“I’ve sat in senate as they debate things that the student body doesn’t care about,” McCormick said. “Let’s have a little bit of flexibility, let’s pump things up and push things through.”
Kwak’s final question called on slate representatives to choose what they believed to be their most important initiative, or the first issue they would tackle once in office.
Jordan said she believes the abrupt cancellation of on-campus life at BU requires an even stronger start from SG next year, especially when it comes to student outreach.
“When we come back, that’s going to be an extremely important time for us to actually be a community,” Jordan said, “and to provide different outlets for students to talk about what we just went through.”
Thelemaque said part of BeLoudBU’s earliest efforts will be aimed at collaborating with SHS to address students’ issues with the current health services system.
“SHS is on every slate’s platform,” Thelemaque said. “The most important thing is to take student concerns, see through petitions and bring it all to SHS and start to talk about how we’re going to do that.”
Jain said ConnectBU hopes to first look inward at senate productivity, and then find a way to ensure senate proceedings are recognized by the administration.
“Right now, the administration is allowed to get away with ignoring senate,” Jain said. “We want a new policy that requires administration to respond to senate resolutions.”
Voting for SG’s 2020-2021 executive board begins Wednesday and closes April 14. Students can access the voting platform on the Student Link, and winners will be announced via email and social media April 15.
CORRECTION: A previous version of the article reflected Minji Kwak as a sophomore.