Tonight at 5 p.m., Temple Student Government’s presidential candidates will go head-to-head in a live-streamed debate ahead of elections on April 14 and 15.
The two executive teams, ListenTU and BloomTU, announced their candidacies and platforms on Monday and have been campaigning online amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Temple News looked at each campaign’s platform and spoke with Joseph Crespo, a junior financial planning major and ListenTU’s presidential candidate, and Quinn Litsinger, a sophomore political science major and BloomTU’s presidential candidate, to break down the major points.
The winning executive team will take office on April 27 in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic that has shut down significant sectors of American life for an extended period of time.
ListenTU lists demands for partial tuition reimbursement and funding for student workers amid COVID-19 as points on its platform, as well as the implementation of an emergency plan in times of national disasters that “ensures where students will be located, food they can eat, how much and when they will receive reimbursement, and a week off for transition.”
BloomTU does not list any platform points related to COVID-19 but has created a resource list on its website for university and external services available during the pandemic, Litsinger said.
Internal TSG Reforms
ListenTU would create a section on its website for students to provide suggestions and recommendations on how to improve TSG, Crespo said.
BloomTU’s platform states that it would host referendums involving the entire student body, which would likely take place next election cycle, Litsinger said.
Litsinger borrowed the idea from the University of Pittsburgh, whose student government has hosted referendums on topics like fossil fuel divestment and raising the minimum wage for student workers, he said.
“At the end of the day, student government is supposed to be a student voice to the administration, but this gives a much more direct way for the students’ voices to be clearly heard by the university.”
BloomTU would also create a Director of Accessibility position to support students with disabilities, according to its platform. A similar position exists in Parliament.
While BloomTU would also repeat several week-long initiatives of the previous administration, like Sexual Assault Prevention Week, they will examine the length and structure of those weeks to ensure they are well-attended, Litsinger said.
BloomTU’s platform outlines several community-oriented proposals, including co-hosting discussions about pathways to higher education with the College of Education’s student teachers and community members, as well as expanding on existing professional development programs for community members and connecting them to the Career Center.
BloomTU is also committed to holding community meetings as the previous administration has done, Litsinger said.
ListenTU’s platform states plans to hold monthly trash clean-ups run by student organizations and create events that teach students how to be responsible and clean neighbors.
ListenTU opposes the construction of Temple’s proposed 35,000 seat on-campus stadium, Crespo said, but also has proposed that if the stadium is built, it should be free for use for community-related events.
Under ListenTU’s proposal, the community would be able to use the stadium for recreation and programming like concerts or block parties.
BloomTU directly opposes Temple’s planned on-campus stadium, according to its platform.
“The stadium is a black and white issue,” Litsinger said. “You cannot oppose the stadium with an asterisk mark next to it that says that you think that it would provide five or six benefits to the community.”
The future of Temple’s proposal remains uncertain after the Owls recently agreed to a five-year contract extension to play at Lincoln Financial Field, The Temple News reported.
Parliament, TSG’s 30-seat legislative body, has historically struggled with passing resolutions, infighting and filling all of its seats. Just six students are running for seats in Parliament this year, all unopposed, The Temple News reported.
ListenTU recommends bolstering training for Parliament representatives, giving Parliament its own social media and entrusting power in individual student representatives, according to its platform.
“I feel that Temple Student Government is about emphasizing the diversity of the student body, and we have on Parliament, there’s supposed to be seats filled for every school, for everybody … but they are never filled,” said Crespo, Parliament’s former sophomore class representative. “And it’s because people don’t take this seriously.”
BloomTU does not mention of Parliament on its platform, which Litsinger explains as taking “a more hands-off approach” to the executive branch’s relationship with the legislative body.
“We feel every year it’s included in student government campaigns’ platforms, as sort of like, checking off the boxes, right, like ‘We have to include reforms regarding Parliament,’” Litsinger said. “But the problems persist, or the perceived problems persist, I should say.”
ListenTU’s platform outlines a plan to create a graduate student-run mental health service with a 24-hour hotline to supplement the university’s current counseling services.
The hotline would help break down barriers to students receiving therapy who might be more comfortable talking to another student, Crespo said.
If the program was launched, TSG would collaborate with Temple graduate students from Philadelphia-based MTR Therapy, he added.
If elected, BloomTU would advocate for an LGBTQIA+ specialist to be hired within Tuttleman Counseling Services, according to its platform.
In its platform, ListenTU stated it plans to collaborate with the Office of Sustainability and add a SEPTA refill station on campus.
BloomTU has pledged in its platform to demand that the university divest any fossil fuel assets from its $644.1 million endowment within the next five years and stop all new fossil fuel investments.
The team also will advocate for reduced SEPTA student fees and oppose any new non-carbon neutral campus construction, according to its platform.
Both ListenTU and BloomTU advocate for improvement of FLIGHT, Temple’s campus shuttle system, the addition of prayer spaces for religious students on campus, and continuing the celebration of Black History Month by having the Bell Tower lit green, which it was for the first time in its history this year.