Temple Student Government debate: what you might have missed

Temple Student Government tickets Activate TU and Connecting TU met to debate for the first time since announcing their campaigns on Monday. The debate, co-moderated by The Temple News and Temple Update, was held from 5-7 p.m. on Thursday in the Student Center. The candidates were asked about several points including community relations, their positions on the potential on-campus football stadium, their view of the current TSG administration. The Temple News reviewed and transcribed selected portions of the debate to further understanding of the topics discussed.

Potential on-campus football stadium

JULIE CHRISTIE, MODERATOR FROM THE TEMPLE NEWS: This is going to go to both teams, but with slightly different questions. Activate TU, you oppose the proposed on-campus stadium, unless it benefits the residential community. Why do you oppose this stadium? And moving forward, how will you ensure that it truly benefits the residential community. Connect TU, when it is your turn to answer this question, can you tell us what your stance is on the stadium and why?

ACTIVATE TU

KAYLA MARTIN, CANDIDATE FOR VP OF SERVICES: So we actively oppose the stadium because you can’t care about the community and put the platform on your community when you are going to disproportionately impact the community by the implication of a stadium. So we are going to actively support this community, which does not support this stadium, by opposing it with them.  This is going to displace many people and make it very inconvenient for people to live in the city. 1 It will no longer be just north Philadelphia, because North Philadelphia residents won’t be living here. It’ll be Temple University only and Temple University students only. We want to make sure that we are not displacing students, or, not displacing neighbors at the Temple Community, including the North Philadelphia residents, here at Temple University.

CONNECTING TU

DALIA AL-BATAINEH, CANDIDATE FOR VP OF SERVICES: So, the role of student government is to represent all of our student body. There are voices that are pro-stadium, and there are voices that are against the stadium in our student body. We don’t feel that it is appropriate to take one side of this discussion, because that alienates another side of our student body. Furthermore, we need more transparency with this process.  The administration hasn’t released any more information for months, I think. 2 This is unacceptable. We all need to be informed on what is happening in our community and also how we can involve the community in these discussions. At that town hall meeting,  they were upset that they weren’t involved and invited to the table to talk with our president and our Board of Trustees 3 about what’s going to happen in their neighborhood, and this is something that needs to happen.  

CHRISTIE: Thank you. Rebuttal?

ACTIVATE TU

MARTIN: Just to reiterate, community members are not only upset about not being invited to the space, but they are upset that they stadium is even being proposed. So to bring it back to what I said, you cannot support the community and say you’re going to respect the community when you’re not respecting that they don’t want a stadium that’s going to displace them.

CONNECTING TU

AL-BATAINEH: Again, our role as Temple Student Government is to connect the students, the community and the administration together as a united voice for all Temple University. We cannot — we need to equally represent all three sides of what I just mentioned,  the students, the community and the government. And see what resolutions can be happening. These talks are happening, whether we like it or not, and this is something we need to be real and active about and make sure all voices are heard in this discussion. Everyone needs to be at the table. Our students, our administration and our community. All three of us need to work together to provide a resolution that everyone can get behind.

ACTIVATE TU

TYRELL MANN-BARNES, CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT: At the end of the day, right is right, and wrong is wrong. For many of us Temple students, we will be here for four, or maybe five or six years. For many members of the North Philadelphia community, this is their home, permanently. Some people have been here for several generations. When you say — I just want to quote you exactly— Where did I write it? Well, you said something specifically about representing both sides of the spectrum. If the North Philadelphia  community already expressed that they don’t want this stadium 4 how do you accurately represent that while still wanting to have a stadium? You can’t be neutral on this, I don’t think you can be neutral on the side of right and wrong.

PAIGE HILL, CANDIDATE FOR VP OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS: I also believe that she quoted me when she said we are together on this. We are both Temple students and residents of North Philadelphia. We do not separate the two. We are here as temporary residents most of the time, and to say the community is not also a voice, um, is ridiculous. If you want to do that, suppose, mathematically, you want to represent three different sides of the issue, take the community as one side,  plus at least half the student body 5, if not more, that’s still more than 50 percent of people who oppose the stadium, that’s enough for us to say, we oppose it. Even if we didn’t have that backing, we realize there is no possible way to say this stadium can benefit the community, and we strongly oppose it.

CONNECTING TU

SHIVEN SHAH, CANDIDATE FOR VP OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS: So, what we have here at Temple, is we’re located in a community that has a rich, rich culture, and we really get that. However, the student body, too, has a voice and what Dalia mentioned earlier is that we don’t want to take either side because this is an issue that has our student body split, and we don’t want to further this division. And to bring us together, and what we believe as Temple Student Government, what our job is to do, is amplify the concerns of either issue, and bring them to the administration to make sure that every concern, whether it be the community, either side of the student body, we want to make sure it’s equally voiced to the administration.  

ACTIVATE TU

MANN-BARNES: Temple University was founded in 1884, as class sizes grew, we became an official university in 1907.  When did we have a stadium? The student body has already existed without a stadium. 6 We have done well without a stadium. It is not going to hurt the student body not to have it, however it will hurt the community, and that is why we actively oppose the initiation or in the implementation of the stadium. In a residential area where people live, they’ve thrived, they raise their children, they should not be displaced. This university has been here for over a hundred years without a stadium, I don’t see a necessary point that shows it will displace or separate students anymore.

CHRISTIE: I would like to, actually, correct you. A Temple stadium did exist, it had a maximum capacity of 30,000 seats, that vary, according to many press releases and history books. And it was competed for the 1928 season, according to the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin.

CROWD: That wasn’t on campus. That was on Cheltenham Avenue.

CHRISTIE: My apologies. Temple had a stadium, but it wasn’t on campus.

Community relations

TAGGART HOUCK, MODERATOR FROM TEMPLE UPDATEOne of the evergreen discussions is the university’s relationship with the residential community. What are way you plan to improve that relationship between students and the community? And some initiatives are in place, but how do you plan to get students to participate in those initiatives. And we can start with Activate TU, you have the mic first.

ACTIVATE TU

HILL: When it comes to building the relationship with the community, I think it’s important to point out that we’ve been building relationships with the community the second we got to Temple. We believe that there’s no such thing as a separation of Temple students and North Philadelphia. We are together here sharing the same space and we are here together as one unit. In terms of explicit things we can do, to really develop and engage with those relationships that we’ve already established we believe that things like Tyrell was mentioning before, the Alternative Spring Break Program. A lot of the people that come to Temple aren’t aware of the rich history that is available right here in Philadelphia.  For example Cecil B. Moore, was a huge Civil Rights activist. 7 I don’t think many Temple students even know about that. We want to create a campaign to promote awareness about this rich history from North Philadelphia from the very beginning.  This includes changing the rhetoric of how Temple talks about the community in general. 8 I think my teammates can talk a little more about our explicit actions we plan to take as well.

MARTIN: We have already been getting students involved with the community. Like I already said, I am a member of the Black Diamonds Union, we volunteer at 17th and GESU [School] every week. I am also the president of the Black Law Students Association and we actually just had a gala that brought together the community as well as students. We have already been activating those relationships we just want to bring them to the general student body as a whole. After talking to students I feel like a lot of students are interested in getting involved, they just don’t know how to. We’ve already created those relationships and are here to extend them to the student body.

HOUCK: Alright, thank you.

CONNECTING TU

SHAH: So, first and foremost, we really want to acknowledge the Campus Safety Service and how much they do to maintain a good relationship between the community and the student body. So, we want to bring more attention to the  Good Neighbor Initiative. 9 It’s often mentioned when you first come to Temple, however in the later years when you start to move off campus, people tend to forget that there are families living in our community and what Paige said was totally right, that this community isn’t just Temple and a totally different community. You know, we are one and the same. And so what we want to do is we want to create student block captains and we want to have a student block captain for every block and they would be responsible for responding to the block captains that are part of our community. This is sort of similar to the system that we see in residence halls today and we would hope that this would create a dynamic relationship between the student body and the community as well.

ARI ABRAMSON, CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT: The other day I was volunteering at the Honickman Learning Center at 25th and Norris and I stumbled on a guide, titled  ‘The Guide to Community Resources Offered at Temple University.’ 10 This is a comprehensive document that’s about 20 pages long and talks about all that Temple University does and all the resources that members of the community can take advantage of. Supporting these resources are exactly what Temple Student Government should be doing and also applauding the work that Campus Safety Services does to build relationships with the community and make sure that the community is aware of all the resources they can take advantage of at Temple University.

HOUCK: Rebuttal?

ACTIVATE TU

MARTIN: The issue is not whether or not the community knows about the resources, it’s if they feel welcome here at this university, and they do not. We have spoken to community members left and right, because we have worked with them, they know our faces they know our names. Our idea is to make sure that we are adding an inclusive environment at Temple Student Government, we are actually activating those relationships with the community. Like I said, we are already connected. We are already connected with the North Philadelphia community because we live in it. We need to activate those relationships. They know about the resources, they just don’t feel like they are for them and they do not feel welcome here. We need to make sure they feel that way.

CONNECTING TU

AL-BATAINEH: A few weeks ago I was actually at a town hall meeting hosted by Temple Student Government and a few members of the local community at Temple University and the North Philadelphia area. At this meeting, I was really disappointed to see I was one of maybe five other students at this meeting discussing with our neighbors what we can do to enhance our relationship with the community. This happened at 16th and Berks, I believe. And it’s sad that, it’s sad that none of our students were there and that no one wanted to meet with them. The other platform mentioned that they wanted to hold more of these town hall meetings, however how are we going to hold more of these town hall meetings when only three to five students showed up in the first place to one that was held? We can’t waste our time and we need to make sure that we’re actively utilizing our connections with the community and building them and maintaining them with students, the student body government as well as our community.

CHRISTIE: Rebuttal.

ACTIVATE TU

MARTIN: Alright, show of hands, how many students in here were aware of that community meeting? Okay, that’s not even half of the room. Now, my point is, the point is, people are not aware of what’s going on because TSG is not accessible to them. We have been having these relationships, we are creating these relationships, we want to invite community members into our spaces to have these meetings as well. If you had access to this information, if you felt like you can go to Temple Student Government to have these conversations, we are confident that you would feel more accessible to these community meetings and you would make sure that you can actually attend those spaces.

MANN-BARNES: Just to add on even a little bit further, as an Owl Ambassador, I give tours every day when I work. And a lot of students, what they asked about first is safety. So conditioned into the minds of many Temple students is that when they walk into the North Philadelphia community they should fear these people, which is absurd to me. I think that what TSG needs to do is take a more active role and rebrand how we look at North Philadelphia. Rather than talking about campus safety, we need to talk about the people we need to respect who have been here for multiple generations. That rich history is how we change how we interact with the community, that is how we get students into the community and learning more and building those relationships. It’s not talking about campus safety.

HILL: Additionally, students are already doing great work in the community. We don’t want to discount the amazing organizations that Temple has right here that are doing work in the community. We just want to make sure that those connections are taken to the next steps, that these organizations also feel comfortable coming to us as TSG. Lastly, any initiative to create dialogue with community members is never a waste of time.

 Sexual assault 11

 

CHRISTIE: Both of your platforms call for sexual assault resources. Connecting TU, your platform says you will develop resources and initiatives to help survivors. What will those resources and initiatives be that you develop?

CONNECTING TU

AL-BATAINEH: Yes. Sexual assault is the first and foremost bullet of our platform. It’s something that we take seriously and something that we want to make sure all of our students have access to at Temple University. Not a lot of our students know that Temple University recently partnered with Women Organized Against Rape … no one really knows that that is an office that has been built and that we have a satellite office on campus with a 24/7 hotline for all survivors of sexual assault to contact and receive a representative that will help them with the process and take them to Tuttleman Counseling Center, which has a unit for sexual assault survivors and help them get the help they need. We want to make sure that this hotline number is implanted in all incoming freshmen phone numbers as well as the Temple Police Department phone number. That happens in orientation, but this phone number, since this office just opened February 1, is not made available to students or people don’t really know about it. And we want to increase outreach and accessibility to this office. Furthermore, we want to make sure that the Women Organized Against Rape has our full support as Temple Student Government and we want to help them increase outreach as well during Welcome Week at Temple University. We want to get them a table during Welcome Week and have them discuss, handout information and pamphlets about what they are about and what resources they can provide and work along with them to further develop this program at Temple University since it’s fairly new.

CHRISTIE: Activate TU, this is your question about creating resources for survivors of sexual assault. Your platform says you will “support the demand for a sexual assault and domestic violence center that is separate from Tuttleman Counseling Center. What would your administration do that is beyond what has already been established?

ACTIVATE TU

MANN-BARNES: Definitely. I can speak directly toward sexual assault resources because I’m currently vice president of Student Activists Against Sexual Assault, an organization that deals directly with sexual assault resources and expanding access to that. On our platform, we talk about creating that resource center because we understand that students who are survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence actively want this center. We understand that Wellness Resource Center and Tuttleman Resource Center are understaffed and it is not enough to actively and adequately support these students. In addition to that, we also want to implement a sexual assault prevention awareness campaign during the first two weeks of the semester in the fall of every year. This is because we know that in the first six weeks of every semester, this is the heightened period where people experience sexual assault the most. We understand that there are 50 percent more likely to be sexually assaulted then robbed on our campus, however, when you first come here, you hear about robberies, but you don’t hear anything about sexual assault. The only way that Temple Student Government can actively take a role in that is by taking a stance to spread awareness about sexual assault through our campaign, through the resource center and through actively promoting pamphlets, posters and different TUPortal announcements to show people that this is something we take very seriously and that this is something our campaign has done before we decided to campaign about this. Sexual assault has always been important.

MARTIN: Parliament would like to implement a director of health and wellbeing on Temple Student Government’s administration. Currently, we have no one that actually deals with the health and wellbeing on Temple Student Government’s administration. Once we have that director, they will work consistently to make sure that students are taken care of on this campus.

CHRISTIE: Could you please let us know where you got that statistic that they are 50 percent more likely to be sexually assaulted then robbed?

MANN-BARNES: This statistic is directly from the National Crime Victimization Survey.

CHRISTIE: And it is specific to Temple University?

MANN-BARNES: It is specific to colleges nationwide.

 TSG’s relationship with the Board of Trustees 12

 

CHRISTIE: TSG has wanted a voting position on the Board of Trustees for a while now. How would you make your Board of Trustees vote count when you know that almost every decision that they make is a unanimous vote and oftentimes without public discussion? And will you oppose decisions that are not favored by the student body?

CONNECTING TU

ABRAMSON: I do think this is important to speak to as the presidential candidate on the Connecting TU ticket because if I’m elected I am the one that will be going to these meetings and building the relationships with the Board of Trustees. If it is a unanimous vote and we are given voting rights, that one vote isn’t going to mean anything. There are 36 members on the Board of Trustees, one vote won’t make a difference, make or break that vote, unfortunately. But I do want to stress the importance that in recent years, we have been getting a little more exposure on behalf of student government to the Board of Trustees. We have been able to build relationships with specific members of the Board of Trustees and give student addresses to the Board of Trustees at their open committee meetings and in some private meetings as well. I also do want to point out that it is the job of student government to serve as a conduit for the opinions of the student body. I would not feel comfortable going to the Board of Trustees speaking on an issue that I believe the student body is split on. Rather we should be sort of rising up the voices of students that stand on both sides of the issues and make sure the board understands the split student body opinion.

ACTIVATE TU

MANN-BARNES: Historically, Temple Student Government walks in a room and people just see the president. If you look at the number of students who go to Temple University, it is exactly 39,581 students. By activating the student body, that means we are coming to you throughout the entire year to understand your concerns, what is important to you and how we can best represent you in those meetings. By giving us a voting seat on the Board of Trustees, that is how we represent you. When we walk into that room, it is not just one figurehead, you are walking in there knowing you are representing all 39,000+ students. That is what we need to do and as a presidential candidate, you should feel comfortable going in there to do that because that is what your role is to do. And that is what we will do if we were to be elected as the new administration.

Structure of TSG

HOUCK: How would your Parliament look and more specifically, we’ll start with ActivateTU, why are you proposing the addition of a communications director for Parliament, increased responsibility to the Speaker and the elimination of the two bridge roles between Parliament and Executive? And also, why are you proposing to establish an Ethics Board for the Executive Board?

ACTIVATE TU

MARTIN: Well, just to clarify, the ethics board would be for the entire Temple Student Government, including the Parliament. But because we listen to Parliament concerns, I attended multiple Parliament meetings and I’ve actually heard of a lot of concerns of the Parliament members. One of those is a lack of independence. So by making the speaker have a lot of roles, a lot of responsibility and eliminating that Parliamentarian role, it’s giving the speaker, the person that the Parliament elects, the position in leading that body. Also, when it comes to the ethics board, we think it is important because Parliament has also complained that Temple Student Government is actually not holding itself accountable. By making those roles consist of people who are appointed and confirmed by both entities at Temple Student Government, we ensure that those three individuals will make sure they are holding everybody accountable here in Temple Student Government.

CONNECTING TU

ABRAMSON: I do briefly want to touch on the idea of a committee system. Temple Student Government used to have a committee system where every other Monday they would meet as committees and every other Monday would be a GA meeting. Personally, I had my first meeting at Temple Student Government two years ago was at a committee meeting and I felt like a complete outsider. I had no idea what was going on and they were just working on work that had been done all semester and I was expected to join a random committee and sort of provide input and as freshman I had nothing to say. I do believe it is important that there are committees on Temple Student Government next year to relieve the directors of all the work that they are tasked with taking on. However, I don’t believe that these should be taking place of GAs next year. They should be acting independently similar to how Parliament meetings are independent.

ACTIVATE TU

MARTINIt’s unfortunate that some people feel uncomfortable at those General Assembly meetings for Temple Student Government. But we are not interested in creating an environment like that. We are completely dedicated to inclusion and making sure that all students feel comfortable and activated and engaged in those committees will be the utmost importance to us. In regards to the ethics board, if I may just briefly review about that, if you know anything about federal government, it’s three branches: Legislative, Executive, Judiciary. That system of checks and balances is absolutely necessary to ensure the proper rule of our government. It is absurd to think that we can have a student government without accountability, and this ethics board will create that in a way that will promote not only the initiatives of the Executive Board and legislative as independent bodies, but as a student body as a whole.

Turnout in elections?

CHRISTIE: Voting for Parliament has resulted in a very low turnout and there was also some frustration to how ballots were structured. When you went to vote for say, just one position you had to vote for every single position you were eligible to vote for. So do you think that the structure for Parliament elections, and voting, and the ballot structure need to change? And if so, why would you change them? Or, why wouldn’t you change them?

ACTIVATE TU

MARTIN: We think it’s extremely important that the elections commissioner takes care of that entire situation, however we also want to make sure that we’re also creating an open dialogue so that students can voice their concerns about the voting system within the Parliament. We think a part of that is being approachable. Actually having that visibility within Temple Student Government and not creating that idea of elitism in Temple Student Government. Making sure that people understand we are students first and not a government first and that we’re here to work with you as Temple Student Government. In order to actually change that elections process, that is something that we don’t want to have control of, that’s another point of that Ethics Board is making sure that elections commissioner is making that decision. We want to make sure we actually have that dialogue and have that open discussion as an approachable student government. That elections commissioner can listen to student feedback.

How does your campaign feel about the current TSG administration?

Social media question from Quinn Heath: How does each campaign feel about the work the current TSG administration has done?

CONNECTING TU

ABRAMSON: We do want to absolutely recognize the work that Temple Student Government has done this year, however we do want to note that there has been a lack of transparency as we’ve mentioned. They have not given enough updates with initiatives that they’re working on and directors aren’t held accountable to work on specific platform points that Empower TU mentioned in their platform last year. So next year in office, like I said, again we want to be more transparent with students. We want every student to have access to Temple Student Government with increased office walk-in hours and through more transparency on our website.

ACTIVATE TU

MARTIN: Because me and Tyrell are on the current Temple Student Government administration, we are very familiar with how things have been going within that administration which is specifically why we created an Ethics Board. That Ethics Board would consist of the auditor general, which is my role right now, the Parliamentarian and the elections commissioner. We wanted it to be a third entity that didn’t necessarily work within the Executive Branch, or with the Parliament. It would be a second, or, it would be a third branch and basically ensure accountability. That auditor general and Parliamentarian would be appointed by the Temple Student Government administration, the Executive Branch, but then confirmed by the Parliament. Those two people would then work together to choose the Elections Commissioner. We feel like Temple Student Government did a great job this year getting initiatives passed, but we need to make sure that transparency and accountability is there and we have worked with Temple Student Government so we know what needs to be fixed.

Involvement with LGBTQ organizations

CHRISTIE: This next question is to both teams, Temple QPoC, their official Twitter,  just tweeted

 13out that both of your teams claim to have spoken to them and their organization about LGBT resources and they are claiming that that is false. Can you give us dates and people that you spoke to in QPoC, so Queer People of Color?

ACTIVATE TU

MANN-BARNES: I am in class with two people who are members of QPoC, Carmella, who I believe is an e-Board member and Charlie?, who is in my piano class. Both of them are already aware of this. And I’ve talked to them about LGBTQ resources and I’ve already told them about our administration. So yeah, we’ve definitely talked to members of QPoC. Maybe not the person who is tweeting —

CHRISTIE: This is from their official Twitter account.

MANN-BARNES: But I’ve had conversations with members who are enrolled in QPoC and I just messaged someone who is in QPoC last night named Nadia Sanchez, I believe, and she’s on the E-Board as well.

FROM AUDIENCE: Nadia Torro?

MANN-BARNES: Nadia, yes, thank you for your last name. So yes, I’ve had conversations with people in QPoC for example.

CONNECTING TU

ABRAMSON: I do want to say that that tweet is factually incorrect. Nowhere in  our platform 14 does it say we spoke to QPoC. We are going in to meet with them next week to talk about how our organizations can work together in Temple Student Government next year. I did meet with the president of Queer Student Union, Jennifer Lawrence, recently to talk about how we can address the LGBTQIA+ community needs in Temple Student Government.

This post was created by Joe Brandt, Paige Gross, Julie Christie, Emily Scott and Evan Easterling. Produced by Donna Fanelle. Portions of these responses have been edited for length and clarity.