Brandon Rey Ramirez is just like most Temple students. He stays up all night in the TECH Center, subsequently thinks he eats too much pizza and says he would rather wear a sweatshirt and jeans over a suit any day. The only difference? Ramirez is running for Temple Student Government student body president.
Ramirez, a junior political science major and economics minor, wasn’t always involved with politics. In high school, he was the managing editor of Delaware Valley High School’s student newspaper, and came to Temple as a freshman with an interest in The Temple News.
Though his journalistic endeavors were never actualized, Ramirez said the activist aspect of journalism and culture of uncovering the truth attracted him to TSG.
“I decided to run because I’ve seen [TSG] as a place of advocacy,” he said. “My freshman year, there was a lot of fighting about the [Pennsylvania Association of School Nurses and Practitioners] and Temple Nurse’s Union, the year before that there were strikes and the passing of the DREAM Act.”
While Ramirez acknowledged that not every TSG resolution was successful, he said at least it was something, and that TSG was seen as a hub for activism. Students of various involvements and interests could come to TSG and get a connection with the administration to possibly get a resolution passed.
“That’s been lost completely,” he said, reflecting on TSG’s current administration.
What Ramirez said he sees now is a student government that acts as an extension of the university’s administration, protecting administrators’ interests.
“President Ann Weaver Hart has done a really tremendous job at making members of Temple Student Government think that they work in Sullivan Hall, too,” he said. “They don’t. They work in the Student Center and they’re here to work on behalf of students.”
“The reason why I’m running is I really want to change that whole mindset, I want to change that culture where we’re working on behalf of administrators,” Ramirez added. “We need to start working on behalf of students.”
Aside from the political makeup of Main Campus, Ramirez declared an interest in the struggles between the North Philadelphia community and Temple, as well.
“Students go to bed at 5 a.m., and people that live in North Philadelphia wake up at 5 a.m., and that’s where the conflict arises,” Ramirez said, quoting President Hart. “I think there’s an issue of [local] people thinking that Temple is pretty much just pushing through their space. And we want to take Temple and put it back on Broad Street, but where does everybody else go? It is gentrification. I don’t think we should be afraid to have that be part of our dialogue, because let’s be frank, that’s what it is.”
Ramirez said he’s disappointed with the lack of consciousness many students have, especially concerning this relationship.
“Last year on Senate, we debated among each other on what needed to change,” he said. “And everyone said that students were apathetic. I stood up and said students are not apathetic, I said students are actually – when it comes to an issue they care about – active.”
“But I think it’s disheartening when you see [people act] as if, the North Philadelphia community doesn’t matter,” Ramirez added. “When people don’t think that mass inequality doesn’t matter to them. They act as if these issues don’t really matter to them, and it really does…What we’re supposed to be learning here is not just how to make money, we should also be learning how to respect the community, how do we start treating people with respect, how do we start uplifting ourselves and people around us.”
Ramirez stressed that as the future policy makers of America, students need to start cultivating a sense of civic duty and responsibility, lest they become leaders who don’t care about increasing access to resources or housing.
Despite this, Ramirez said it’s the diversity of Temple that brought him here.
“I’m happy that I came to Temple…because it’s a university where a lot of students come from backgrounds that are a lot like mine,” he said. “You know, lower-middle class or middle class families where the students are brilliant, but couldn’t afford the same luxuries as someone from Penn or Villanova.”
“I would want to work with a Temple student first than anyone else…we’re a little bit grittier, and I like that, because we got more fight in us,” he added. “I’m very happy to be at Temple, very proud to be a Temple Owl.”
“The best part about it is you really find out how little we really are different,” he said. “We have so much more in common, and…the more you learn you start breaking down those barriers, and realizing that we all just have the same struggles every day.”
That diversity is also represented on Ramirez’s ticket – Run Temple. Rutaraj Rana, Ramirez’s freshman year roommate in 1940 residence hall, is running for vice president of services, and Jaimee Swift, the president and founder of Temple’s chapter of HerCampus and a member of the Temple Association of Black Journalists, is running for the vice president of external affairs.
Ramirez said he and his ticket are trying to make this election message-based rather than based on popularity. Displeased with the way TSG is currently run and regarded, they intend on radically changing its structure and public perception.
Alexis Sachdev can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.