RenewTU, the lone campaign running for Temple Student Government’s executive branch, answered questions from an audience of approximately 26 students at a town hall Thursday night.
The 45-minute town hall replaced a previously scheduled debate between RenewTU and FireOwlsTU, who suspended their campaign on March 17, just two days after campaigning began, The Temple News reported.
The town hall was hosted by John Haldeman, TSG’s elections commissioner and a senior global studies major, and moderated by Zaria Glenn, chief judge of the Constitutionality Council of TSG’s Ethics Board and a senior English and Spanish major, and Zoe Raney, vice chief judge of the Constitutionality Council and a senior global studies major.
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, discussed the campaign’s plans for improving Temple’s relationship with the North Central community, working with TSG’s other branches and mitigating the spread of COVID-19 on campus during the Fall 2021 semester.
Here is what was covered at Thursday’s town hall.
Resources for students
RenewTU will advocate for Temple to incorporate Wellness Days into each semester of the 2021-22 academic year, where classes will be cancelled and assignments will not be due, Smutek said.
Temple created two Wellness Days during the Spring 2021 semester during which classes were canceled in lieu of spring break, which was canceled to prevent students from traveling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, TSG received more than 30 anonymous reports of professors holding classes or otherwise violating the university’s Wellness Day policies on Feb. 23, The Temple News reported.
RenewTU will additionally advocate for Temple to hire an LGBTQ counseling specialist for Tuttleman Counseling Services, Smutek said. Tuttleman Counseling Services currently offers specialized services for alcohol and substance awareness, eating and body image concerns and sexual assault counseling and education, according to its website.
RenewTU also plans to raise awareness of the existing mental health resources available for students and expand the university’s sexual assault awareness, prevention and survivor support resources, Smutek added.
“This is a serious issue in our world,” Quinlan said. “This is something that’s extremely important to us, and we want to try to continue bringing up these conversations as much as possible and not shy away from it.”
RenewTU plans to reduce food insecurity among the student population by creating an initiative for students to donate their unused meal swipes and equivalencies to students experiencing food insecurity, Smutek said.
The initiative will expand on the work of Swipes for Philadelphia, Temple’s chapter of the national nonprofit Swipe Out Hunger, to provide unused meal swipes and other donated items to students and people experiencing homelessness throughout the city, The Temple News reported.
“Food, housing and financial security is an issue that hits people in our campaign,” Quinlan said. “It’s not an issue that we’re just seeing from afar, we live through it.”
RenewTU also plans to work with Temple to provide menstrual products for students and help students research local landlords so they can make informed decisions when signing leases for off-campus apartments, Smutek said.
Equity, diversity and inclusion
RenewTU will hold its administration accountable to promoting equity, diversity and inclusion by assembling a team with a broad range of perspectives, Quinlan said.
To do this, RenewTU will increase TSG’s recruitment efforts to reach and engage with a larger portion of the student body, Smutek added.
“As we look to fill our Executive Branch, we are certainly guided by the vision of an administration that reflects what a walk through Main Campus looks like for you in terms of diversity, backgrounds and perspectives,” Smutek said.
COVID-19 safety measures
Temple announced plans to hold primarily in-person classes for the Fall 2021 semester on March 1, The Temple News reported.
As Temple expands its in-person operations, RenewTU will push the university to de-densify classrooms and encourage people to receive COVID-19 vaccines, Smutek said.
“There’s some communities that are hesitant to get the vaccine for different reasons,” Smutek said. “So we want to hear them out, give them the respect of hearing them out and show them the science to show them that the vaccine is safe.”
People may feel hesitant to receive a COVID-19 vaccine because of reported side effects like fever and muscle aches, and because COVID-19 vaccines were developed significantly more quickly than the typical five- to 10-year vaccine creation process, according to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. However, the United States Food and Drug Administration has determined that all vaccines currently available are safe, and is continuing to test and monitor their safety, according to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
As of March 23, roughly 2,161 people per 10,000 residents in the 19121 ZIP code and 2,353 people per 10,000 residents in the 19122 ZIP code have been partially vaccinated against COVID-19, The Temple News reported.
Temple will administer COVID-19 vaccines twice a week for six weeks to eligible students, faculty and staff beginning on March 31 and city residents on April 1 at White Hall, The Temple News reported.
Smutek believes one of the greatest challenges for TSG’s next executive administration will be redefining the role of student government in the Temple community when the COVID-19 pandemic ends, he said.
“There are going to be changes,” Smutek said. “There’s going to be a new normal, and I think that uncertainty is certainly a challenge for us.”
North Central relations
One way RenewTU plans to improve Temple’s relationship with the North Central community is through anti-littering initiatives like block clean-up events and potentially working with university administrators to punish or fine students who litter, Smutek said.
Previous TSG administrations, including the current administration, have also hosted block clean-up events in recent years to reduce the amount of litter Temple students leave in the North Central community, The Temple News reported.
In response to a question from a student, Smutek said he would like to create a university-sponsored day of service every semester in addition to TSG’s efforts to promote volunteerism on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. On this day of service, TSG will “highly encourage” students to participate in volunteer projects for the local community, Smutek added.
“Being at college is such a privilege, to have this opportunity to learn, to live and to network,” Smutek said. “This is your way of giving back for that privilege.”
RenewTU plans to incorporate an informational session at orientation for incoming students to learn about the history of the North Central community, Quinlan said.
“A simple, informational walk down Broad Street would give incoming students insight and respect for the history of North Philadelphia and also Temple University,” Quinlan said.
RenewTU plans to collaborate with other local colleges’ student governments on issues they are all impacted by, like the COVID-19 pandemic, Smutek said. Smutek hopes these collaborations will lead to the student governments forming a “coalition” to collaborate on writing resolutions that will ultimately impact local, state and federal legislation, he said.
“I describe it as almost like a [United Nations] for colleges,” Smutek said.
In response to a student question, Smutek said that RenewTU plans to increase Parliament’s membership retention rates by creating an onboarding process to teach representatives about writing resolutions and the impact of resolutions on the student body.
Interest in running for Parliament has remained relatively low in the past three TSG elections, with only five students running to fill Parliament’s 30 seats for the 2021-22 academic year, The Temple News reported.
TSG’s next town hall with RenewTU will be on April 5, The Temple News reported. Voting for the executive team and five unopposed Parliament candidates will take place on April 6, 7 and 8 on Temple’s online voting platform.