Temple Student Government held its first executive debate of election season on Facebook Live on Thursday evening.
With about 65 people tuning in, Joseph Crespo, ListenTU’s presidential candidate and a junior financial planning major, and Quinn Litsinger, BloomTU’s presidential candidate and sophomore political science major, participated in the debate. Rofiat Oseni, TSG’s chief judge moderated the debate.
The candidates discussed their platforms over Zoom, a teleconferencing software, as a result of social distancing guidelines advised by local officials amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The tone of the debate was fairly mild, with some rebuttals from each candidate, as they made their case for why their team should be elected.
Here’s how the debate transpired:
In his opening statement, Litsinger emphasized various areas of BloomTU’s platform, including their pledge to press the university to divest from fossil fuels, efforts to increase TSG’s accountability to the student body and opposition to the construction of an on-campus stadium.
In his opening statement, Crespo criticized the current TSG administration’s decision not to postpone the elections due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Crespo mentioned that all other organizations and activities he is involved with have stopped working.
“This has all been rightfully halted by COVID-19 other than this election,” Crespo said. “Through the last month, I have personally lost my mental health care, job and didn’t have a home to go back to.”
Litsinger said Temple’s proposed on-campus stadium would have a detrimental impact on community residents and that BloomTU opposes the stadium just as Temple’s undergraduate students do, referencing a poll by TSG in 2018 in which 58% of respondents said they opposed the stadium.
Crespo said that while ListenTU opposes the stadium and would work with the Stadium Stompers, an organization of residents, students and faculty against the stadium, to organize against the plan. ListenTU’s platform stated if the stadium is built the administration would work to give the community access to it.
Crespo said he would be more transparent and act quicker than the current TSG administration to respond to student needs amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He would have wanted to continue updating students through the crisis, Crespo said.
BloomTU would have achieved transparency by organizing a referendum system in which the administration would take polls of student’s opinions on issues, Litsinger said. The administration would then present the data from these polls to the university on different issues, like postponing commencement due to the outbreak, which the university announced it would do last week.
“This is a way to provide a legitimized sort of petition,” Litsinger said. “Being as transparent as possible and making sure as little as possible is behind the scenes.”
Dealing with COVID-19 in Fall 2020
A Temple student submitted a question asking about the candidates’ plans for the possibility the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact Temple in Fall 2020.
Litsinger said BloomTU would work to ensure that online classes are accessible to students in different time zones. Their administration would also work with local elected officials and external organizations to make sure that students are not left without food or housing security.
Crespo said ListenTU would connect students with housing relief, food relief, free legal aid if students need it and mental health resources.
“More than anything, I would emphasize the mental health of students through this,” Crespo said.
ListenTU would like Temple to start a mental health hotline for students run by student workers called Tuttleman Talks, Crespo said. The executive team wants to implement this in an effort to alleviate long wait times for appointments at Tuttleman Counseling Services, Crespo said.
Establishing a hotline for students would not be as efficient as improving on Tuttleman’s current services, Litsinger said.
Identity based Living Learning Communities
Crespo and Litsinger debated about whether Living Learning Communities, or groups of students who live in the same section of on-campus housing that all have similar majors, interests or are part of the honors program, can be based on identity.
Advocating for LGBTQ LLCs is a part of BloomTU’s agenda in addition to pushing for more gender neutral bathrooms and hiring an LGBTQ specialist at Tuttleman Counseling Services, Litsinger said.
In response to this, Crespo said that the LLC would be segregation.
“LLCs are not demographically based and that would be modern segregation,” Crespo said.
Later in the debate, a Temple student submitted a question to TSG about Crespo’s statement and why an LGBTQ LLC would be “modern segregation.”
“Wouldn’t that then mean any identity-based organization or spaces are also modern day segregation,” Oseni said as she read the student’s question.
Crespo said that it was not his intention to say that.
“You don’t have an LLC that’s called an African American LLC,” Crespo said.
In his closing statement, Litsinger summarized his team’s platform and mentioned that BloomTU will listen to students’ feedback, ensure that there’s an in-person graduate ceremony for Spring 2020 seniors and advocate for partial reimbursements for university service fees.
Crespo mentioned ListenTU will work to build better relations with the community, better mental health resources and promote local and fresh food options.
“Quinn mentioned various key platform points that are important to us and can ensure that each student and member of our Temple Community is being represented whether it’s through initiating referendums, advocating for a polling place on campus, meeting with local community members to talk about how we can ensure that our community is doing the best it can, to even advocating for the University’s divestment of fossil fuels,” said Jess Torres, BloomTU’s communications director. “We hope that viewers were able to see how we plan to make a positive change for everyone on our campus.”
Will Careri, ListenTU’s communications director, said Crespo was successful in advocating for mental health during the debate.
“While I want to commend both candidates, I felt Joseph did an excellent job while touching on hot topics such as diversifying Temple Student Government, advocating for mental health care on campus and overall inclusion university-wide,” Careri said. “Running a grassroots campaign, worked on by a truly diverse group of campus and community leaders, I believe Joseph represented ListenTU and the student body well.”