Temple Student Government’s election season officially kicked off Monday with the announcement of two executive teams, ListenTU and BloomTU, and six candidates running for Parliament unopposed.
Campaigning, which is limited to online messaging amid the COVID-19 pandemic, will last for two weeks until elections are held on April 14 and 15. The winning candidates will be inaugurated on April 27.
Unlike past election seasons, there will be no full executive team debates due to the difficulty of having that many people on Zoom, the teleconferencing platform that will be used for the debates, said Rofiat Oseni, TSG’s chief judge.
The two presidential candidates will debate via Zoom on April 2 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. A “meet the Parliament” forum will take place on April 6 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Finally, a vice presidential debate will take place on Zoom on April 13 from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
Here are the candidates and their platforms:
President – Joseph Crespo
Joseph Crespo, a junior financial planning major from East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, has served as a Parliament representative and chair, a resident assistant and a Cherry Pantry coordinator. Crespo has also worked with Americorps and NextGen America to promote youth development and voter registration.
“I’m interested in this position because of my ability to advocate and collaborate with marginalized groups,” Crespo said. “I’m always educating myself and others on intersecting identities and how to lead authentically in all I do. I can help engage, enact and unify the student body with the surrounding community.”
Vice President Of Services – Muhammad Hernandez
Muhammad Herandez, an English major from Philadelphia, has served as a resident assistant and a member of Strong Men Overcoming Obstacles Through Hard Work.
Vice President of External Affairs – Aalayah Taylor
Aalayah Taylor, a sophomore English major from Philadelphia, has served as the events coordinator for Feminist Alliance, the secretary of the Queer People of Color, is a sister of Tri Delta Epsilon Phi chapter and volunteered at Philadelphia’s Youth Advocate Program.
“I’m interested in this position because as a Philadelphia native I deeply care about the surrounding communities and the manners in which we, as an institution, can become a collaborative force when creating and maintaining a productive and healthy relationship with the residents of North Philadelphia,” Taylor said.
ListenTU focuses its mission in three specific areas: student mental health services, community relations and safe spaces for marginalized groups, said Joseph Crespo, ListenTU’s presidential candidate.
ListenTU intends to collaborate with The Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy and Leadership, the Office of Sustainability, Office of Leadership Development, and the Wellness Resource Center, among others. Together, they would develop programming on diversity, waste disposal in the outlying community, professional development and student wellness, Crespo said.
In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, ListenTU wants to assist students who are worried about the job market and where their next meal might come from.
“ListenTU is here to listen to and advocate for the student’s most serious issues, especially during times like these,” Crespo said. “ListenTU is committed to work with community members, clubs, traditional and nontraditional students alike, and to improve the life of every student we can on this campus.”
While ListenTU intends to continue current initiatives such as WalkTU, Good Morning Commuter, and Mental Health Awareness Week, they also hope to implement a 24/7 mental health hotline operated by and for students, an off-campus trash cleaning task force, and expand financial and food insecurity resources, Crespo said.
View ListenTU’s platform here.
President – Quinn Litsinger
Quinn Litsinger, a sophomore political science major from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, served as this year as TSG’s director of government affairs. He has also worked as an Owl Team leader and programming coordinator of Temple Sleep Out, during which students camped out near the Bell Tower to raise awareness of homelessness.
“I am interested in this position because I have done my best to act as an agent for change throughout my time here at Temple, and this position is the best opportunity to continue striving to achieve that goal,” Litsinger said.
Vice President of Services – Mark Rey
Mark Rey, a junior public health major from Orlando, Florida, is a resident assistant, a Cherry Pantry volunteer and an ambassador for the College of Public Health.
“Recognizing students’ needs and wants in multiple areas is a great way to help the next administration both shape and implement changes that will further sustain the goals of the student body, TSG, and the university itself,” Rey said.
Vice President of External Affairs – Larice Mejia
Larice Mejia, a junior human resource management major from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, has served with the Owl Team and works as a program assistant for the Office of Leadership Development.
“As BloomTU, we take the time to listen to our team, making sure we give agency to those involved so they are part of our decision-making process and it’s resulted in a campaign that I can 100-percent support,” Mejia said.
“BloomTU’s platform can best be summed up as a commitment to growing the voice of our student body,” Litsinger said.
BloomTU can reach this goal by implementing student referendums, tracking progress on campaign promises and increasing community engagement on and off campus in the North Philadelphia community, Litsinger said.
BloomTU emphasizes upholding the work of the current TSG administration, he added.
“I have seen first hand how hard so many individuals have worked on various initiatives,” Litsinger said. “It is only right that we commit ourselves to carrying on the legacy of previous administrations and their successes.”
“As a campaign, we felt it was necessary to include a ‘legacy’ sub-section on our platform,” Mejia said. “Those points are dedicated to recognizing initiatives created by this year’s administration and the ones before them.”
View BloomTU’s platform here.
Parliament is TSG’s legislative branch, passing resolutions on behalf of the student body that are then acted upon by the executive branch.
But since its inception, Parliament has struggled with infighting, passing resolutions and filling all of its seats. In Spring 2019, with the Speaker and Vice Speaker included, just seven of 32 possible seats were filled through elections, said Drew Gardner, the current speaker of Parliament.
Like last year, this year’s slate of Parliament candidates are all running unopposed.
Here are the candidates who are running:
At-large Representative – Arshadullah Shaik
Running to return to his second term as an at-large representative, Shaik, a neuroscience major, is continuing his work on fixing students’ needs on campus, he indicated in his application to TSG.
Shaik has previously been involved with the club Swipes for Philadelphia, which allows students to donate their leftover meal swipes to help combat food insecurity on campus and the surrounding community.
“I would wish to get involved with this initiative to make sure food insecurity is less of an issue here on campus,” he said in his application.
Shaik is also looking to improve the app for FLIGHT, Temple’s on-campus shuttle service, to help students get home safely and avoid waiting at odd hours to get home.
“This is a pressing issue, and it will take a lot of time to complete, but I foresee with my background and the help of others, this can be done,” he said in his application.
Disability Resources and Services Representative – Jonathan Atiencia
In what will be his second term in Parliament, Atiencia, a non-matriculated film and media arts major, is continuing his focus on being an advocate for students with disabilities, he said.
“I want them to come to me and discuss the problems so I can fix those problems,” Atiencia said. “I’m here as a guidance. I’m here to help them through Temple for the next four years.”
He hopes to help Temple’s students with disabilities find jobs and have more inclusive classrooms, Atiencia said.
At-large Representative – Issa Kabeer
Kabeer, a graduate diversity leadership student running for his third term in Parliament, is bringing his major studies into TSG by focusing on school-wide diversity, he said. Kabeer is the current vice speaker of Parliament.
“Diversity is not just people of different ethnicities. Like, sometimes that’s what people think diversity is, but it’s so much more,” Kabeer said. “There’s so many different elements that include diversity and politics being able to include people different voices, and allowing them to be heard is very important.”
The problems with filling the seats in Parliament has partly to do with students not being aware of what it is, Kabeer said.
“So it’s like, [students] barely know the executive board, how are they going to know Parliament?” Kabeer said.
College of Science and Technology – April Merdon
Merdon, a sophomore data science major, wants to focus her term on bringing representation to the students of the College of Science and Technology, she said.
In her time in TSG, she hopes to share some insight about unpopular majors and give these students a voice, Merdon said.
“I think diversity of ideas is always important,” Merdon added. “If you’re making decisions for an entire school, you don’t want to make decisions that will just benefit people that are similar to you. You want to try to benefit as many people as possible.”
Klein College of Media and Communication – Haajrah Gilani
Gilani, a freshman journalism major, wants to amplify Klein’s diverse voices while in Parliament, she wrote in an email to The Temple News.
“From all of my classes and involvements in Klein I’ve seen a strive for inclusivity and commitment to creativity,” Gilani wrote. “I truly believe those qualities are crucial in problem solving and decision making, and that’s why I’m running to represent Klein in Parliament.”
Junior Representative – Jewel Thomas
Thomas, a junior political science major, wants to bring light to first-generation Temple students.
“I’m a first-generation college student and when I got here, I didn’t really know what to expect,” Thomas said. “And I was looking at all the stuff that TSG does, and they do help their students out a lot. But, it seems in one area they’re like lacking is resources for first-generation college students.”
“We come with a unique set of struggles and understanding of collegiate life,” she added. “We deserve a guide too, you know.”
Thomas hopes to start a mentorship program for first-generation college students to help guide them through college, she said.
“So our main goal would be to…pass an act to get some sort of first-generation college students mentor program going for people who are first-year generation college students coming in completely blind and help them know what to expect, and like, how to deal with all the unique stresses that come with college,” Thomas said.
Editor’s note: Haajrah Gilani is a reporter for The Temple News. She played no role in the editing or writing of this story.