Debate kicks off crowded field for TSG election

Four teams—Believe in TU, Empower TU, Owl Opportunity and Take TU—are vying to become the next executive team for Temple Student Government .

Sophomore psychology major Caroline O’Brien (right) writes a question for the audience question-and-answer portion of Tuesday’s Temple Student Government debate. | EVAN EASTERLING TTN

The four candidates for Temple Student Government debated Tuesday evening in the Student Center about many issues, including student safety, the proposed stadium and community relations.

Owl Opportunity, Believe in TU, Empower TU and Take TU presented their platforms to students at the debate, as well as challenged each other on how solutions should be implemented.

Moderators Joe Brandt and Paige Gross, chief copy editor and opinion editor of The Temple News respectively, and Supervising Producer for Temple Update Melissa Steininger started the debate with the discussion of gender-inclusive housing for students.

All four candidates agreed that there needs to be a push for gender inclusive housing and bathrooms, each with different plans to implement. Believe in TU’s platform proposed the creation of a gender-inclusive LLC for students by simply converting residence hall bathrooms.

“There was not enough focus on minority involvement, especially the LGBT community,” said Titus Knox after the debate, who is running for vice president of services for Owl Opportunity. “With the gender inclusivity issue, no one gave a real response with what they would do.”

Steininger then asked candidates how Greek life would be included in each of their platforms.

Both Empower TU and Owl Opportunity advocated for further inclusion of Greek life into other organizations and better recruitment during the first semester, when freshmen are not allowed to pledge. Believe in TU said the first issue would be to take away the stigma around Greek life in order to encourage student involvement while Take TU said exploring why there is a stigma around Greek life is more important.

Candidates then answered Brandt’s question of how they believed TSG should take a role in fighting sexual assault on campus.

Believe in TU pushed the White House’s initiative It’s On Us and an increased awareness of already existing resources. Take TU said it would build a sexual and dating violence center, which was similar to Owl Opportunity’s proposal to create a central location for people to use in Paley Library once all the books were moved to the new library. Empower TU stressed that Tuttleman Counseling Services along with Temple EMS, who are “on the front lines” are severely understaffed.

“A lot of the things [we talked about] exist, but they’re not promoted well,” said Empower TU’s Vice President of Services Kelly Dawson after the debate.

Take TU and Empower TU broke out in a short argument over which candidate included sexual assault first and most prominently in their platforms.

Gross turned the debate to the budget crisis in Harrisburg asking how the candidates would advocate for Temple. All four platforms pledged to continue going to legislators and fight for a resolution as well as encourage students to get involved.

“I was surprised we didn’t talk about the budget crisis,” said Take TU presidential hopeful Tina Ngo once the debate finished. “If the budget isn’t fixed, it’s hard to advance anything.”

Steininger next asked how candidates would enhance security around Temple, each giving a different take on what needed reform.

Owl Opportunity encouraged Temple Police to follow Philadelphia Police’s move to implement body cameras on their officers. Empower TU stressed the need for collaboration and cooperation between Temple, students and the community. Believe in TU proposed research into where students live in the community to help Temple Police streamline their service while at the same time taking pressure off Philadelphia Police. Take TU said more police officers were not the answer, but instead a chance for the community to police itself instead of Temple.

The debate focused on the community when Brandt asked about TSG’s involvement in community relations, and then representation when Steininger asked if the candidates could put their personal views and platforms aside to represent the views of the student body.

Take TU proposed not only voting rights in the Board of Trustees but also to install a North Philadelphia community member on the board.

Owl Opportunity said its intention to create a student senate would help keep TSG unbiased. Empower TU emphasized its belief that the role of TSG is not to push its views on students.

Each platform had different plans for implementing sustainability on campus with Empower TU advocating for the construction of buildings that are designed like the SERC which are energy efficient and cost-effective. Encourage TU said on-campus recycling initiatives would help keep the community cleaner and looking better. Owl Opportunity and Take TU focused more on food for students. Take TU wants to increase the number of dining options for vegetarian and vegan eaters. Owl Opportunity proposed a competition among food providers for the soon-to-expire contract Temple has with Sodexo.

The candidates were not able to touch upon every subject they wished to at the debate.

Déja Lighty, vice president of services for Believe in TU, said mental health needs to be a discussion at the next debate.

“There’s a lot more to [mental health],” Lighty said. “A lot of people don’t talk about it, and a lot suffer in school.”

The next debate will be held Monday, March 28 at 6 p.m. in room 200 of the Student Center.

Julie Christie can be reached at or on Twitter @ChristieJules.

Video by Aaron Windhorst, Harrison Brink and Margo Reed.

Editor’s Note: This article previously said the first debate was on a Monday. It has been fixed to reflect the correct date.

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