RenewTU, the sole campaign contending for Temple Student Government’s executive branch, fielded questions from students and The Temple News about the COVID-19 pandemic, plans for its first day in office and the campaign’s platform pillars at its second and final town hall Monday night.
Voting for the executive branch and Parliament began today and will last through April 8. All candidates running in this year’s elections are unopposed.
The town hall, which 16 people attended, was hosted by John Haldeman, a senior global studies major and TSG’s elections commissioner, and moderated by Jack Danz, a junior journalism major and news editor of The Temple News.
Bradley Smutek, a junior history major and RenewTU’s presidential candidate, and Samantha Quinlan, a sophomore media studies and production major and RenewTU’s vice presidential candidate, previously answered questions from students at a town hall on March 25, The Temple News reported.
Last night’s town hall replaced a previously scheduled debate between RenewTU and FireOwlsTU, who dropped out of the race for the executive branch on March 17 after two days of campaigning.
Here’s what was covered at Monday’s town hall.
Danz asked RenewTU what COVID-19 protocols the campaign supports the university enforcing during the fall semester. Smutek believes that university guidelines should depend on how many Temple students are vaccinated by the semester’s start, he said.
The university began vaccinating eligible students, faculty, staff and community members at its White Hall vaccination clinic on March 31, The Temple News reported. The clinic will be open for two days a week for five more weeks.
As of April 5, more than 556,000 people in Philadelphia have been partially vaccinated and more than 318,000 have been fully vaccinated, according to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.
Danz asked the campaign how it will encourage students to follow COVID-19 guidelines in the fall. Smutek said RenewTU will use their social media platform and student outreach techniques to encourage students to follow Temple’s COVID-19 protocols and promote vaccine awareness.
In response to a question about what consequences students who break COVID-19 protocol should face, Smutek said RenewTU supports penalties for individuals who break Temple’s guidelines and advocates using a “Student Conduct Code process” for those who violate the city’s guidelines.
“In terms of specific punishments, that’s not for us to say,” Smutek said. “But we support a student conduct process regardless because it is wrong for students to be conducting themselves in a manner that is irresponsible, especially in a community that has been disproportionately hurt by COVID-19.”
According to policies outlined by the university last summer, Temple University students who fail to comply with university mask and sanitization requirements will be asked to leave class, The Temple News reported. Students who continue to refuse guidelines may be referred to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards.
Sexual assault awareness and prevention
Danz asked RenewTU what sexual assault awareness and prevention programs the administration will advocate for on campus. RenewTU wants to work with university and government officials to expand Title IX resources on campus, Smutek said. The administration will also collaborate with the Division of Student Affairs to promote sexual assault awareness and prevention in student activities, including at orientation, he added.
“A culture starts when the student gets here, and I think that if we promote a culture where it’s not just assault, because assault is only the worst form of it, it’s harassment, it is discrimination, it is the off-color joke that we make to students that make them uncomfortable, that’s how things get started,” Smutek said.
RenewTU will also advocate to implement programs like Green Dot, an initiative created by the nonprofit Alteristic to provide sexual assault prevention strategies for people of all ages, including college students, on campus, Smutek said.
Danz asked RenewTU about the campaign’s plans to advocate for “Wellness Days” in the 2021-22 academic year. The campaign’s proposal is based on Temple’s canceling of classes on Feb. 23 and March 24 to give students time to rest in lieu of spring break, which was canceled Spring 2021 to reduce travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Temple News reported.
Quinlan said the campaign is unsure how many Wellness Days it can ask the university to add.
“We want to make sure that we’re pushing that and we’re advocating for students get days that they’re able to relax and they’re not, they don’t have to worry about doing work and they’re able to just take a deep breath,” Quinlan said.
To support financially struggling students, RenewTU plans to open a “Cherry Wardrobe” where students will be able to donate and purchase clothes at discounted prices with proceeds going to the Cherry Pantry, which provides emergency food supplies for students in need.
“This benefits our financially insecure students and also be able to donate those proceeds to the Cherry Pantry, allows us to better resource the Cherry Pantry,” Smutek said.
RenewTU does not know yet where the Cherry Wardrobe, if approved, will be on campus, Smutek said. The Cherry Wardrobe could potentially be open to residents as well, Smutek said in response to a question from a student.
Following Danz’s question about why RenewTU believes it’s necessary to have a student voting member on the Board of Trustees, Smutek said that the student voting member will ideally not be affiliated with TSG and would allow students to get involved in important decisions.
BecomingTU, the winning TSG executive campaign in 2019, advocated for a non-TSG student to have a voting seat on the Board of Trustees, though it would require the Board to change its bylaws, The Temple News reported. Currently, the Student Body President sits on the Board but cannot vote.
“This would allow a student voice to come in,” Smutek said. “I could have told the administration that they were going to go online last semester weeks before we did, and a student would have been able to tell them that too, so I think it’s just important to have that voice in the room where it happens.”
Danz asked RenewTU about its plans to advocate for a coalition of student governments from different universities and how this coalition would advocate for students. RenewTU sees this initiative as a way for students to make their voices heard to lawmakers and school administrators, Smutek said.
Smutek believes TSG could partner with universities, like Penn State, in this initiative, he said.
“We feel like it’s important for students to have their voice heard, to lawmakers and to administrators, not only statewide, but nationwide,” Smutek added.
RenewTU plans to rename the executive branch’s director of campus life and diversity position as the director of diversity, equity and inclusion so TSG is more “intentional” about the position’s purpose, Smutek said in response to Danz’s question about the position.
The administration wants students to voice concerns on the TSG website and wants to continue the current TSG administration’s push for student referendums, Smutek said in response to a student’s question about how students can voice concerns or give feedback to TSG.
RenewTU plans to work with the Office of Sustainability to reach the campaign’s proposed carbon neutrality date for the university of 2035, Smutek said in response to Danz’s question about RenewTU’s plans to work with the university on the goal.
In 2019, Temple revised its Climate Action Plan to set a goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050, The Temple News reported.
In response to a question from Danz about who will be a part of RenewTU’s proposed Mental Health Response Team and their responsibilities, Smutek said that RenewTU plans for the Mental Health Response Team to be separate from the university’s police department and will handle mental health crises on campus.
“These would hopefully be mental health professionals, social workers, really something that this is something that we can work with Philly police on, we can work with Temple police on, and again this is an area where we can become a national leader on this,” Smutek said.
Students experiencing a mental health crisis can contact Temple’s Tuttleman Counseling Services during business hours, the mental health crisis service at Campus Safety Services after business hours or their resident assistant for assistance if they live in university housing, according to Tuttleman Counseling Services. Students can also contact 24-hour services, like Campus Safety Services, Temple’s Episcopal Hospital Crisis Response Center or emergency services, and can use a number of hotlines listed on Tuttleman’s website.
Students not in need of immediate assistance can also be referred to the Crisis Assessment, Response and Education Team, a group that supports students in crisis, according to Tuttleman Counseling.
In response to Danz’s question about how RenewTU plans to improve relations between Temple and the North Central community, Quinlan said students should learn to take care of their community.
“This is not our home, like this is not, we’re not going to be here forever, and that there are people who we need to respect in the community,” Quinlan said. “And there are things like when people throw parties and they just trash the entire community, that’s, that’s something that we are all responsible for cleaning up.”
RenewTU supports community cleanup events and opposes the construction of a stadium near Main Campus, according to the campaign website.
In response to a question from a student regarding how RenewTU will connect Temple students and the North Philadelphia community, Smutek said RenewTU has an idea to create a North Philadelphia Advisory Board, which the campaign hopes would allow North Philadelphia residents to give advice on different issues that arise in the neighborhood.
The campaign also has proposals to invite North Philadelphia residents to give tours of the neighborhood at orientation or on Visit Temple days, Smutek added.
Editor’s note: Samantha Quinlan is a freelance reporter for The Temple News. Jack Danz is News Editor at The Temple News. Neither played any role in the reporting, writing or editing of this story.