Temple Student Government Parliament candidates discuss university expansion, COVID-19

Parliament candidates talked plans for communicating with the student body and student organizations.

Parliament candidates discuss their plans for the 2020-21 school year over a virtual forum.

Temple Student Government held a Parliament forum on Monday evening on Facebook Live. Parliament candidates for the 2020-21 election answered questions about TSG issues like student inclusion, COVID-19 and their plans for Parliament. 

Arshadullah Shaik, a candidate for representative at-large, was not in attendance. Only six students are running for the available 30 Parliament seats.

Brianna Gordon, TSG Ethics Board constitutional judge, moderated the panel. Approximately ten people tuned in to the forum.

This forum comes after two candidates for Parliament dropped out of the race.

Here’s how the forum played out:


Haajrah Gilani, a Klein College of Media and Communication representative candidate and freshman journalism major, said the university should not expand unless it’s necessary out of respect for the neighboring North Philadelphia community.

April Merdon, a sophomore data science major and the College of Science and Technology representative candidate, said the university does not need to expand further since it already takes up a lot of space.

Jonathon Atiencia, a film and media arts major, said he wants to make sure that the voices of students with disabilities are heard.

While Jewel Thomas, a sophomore political science major and junior class representative candidate, opposes Temple’s proposed on-campus stadium,  but she is not completely against university expansion.

Issa Kabeer, a graduate diversity leadership student and an at-large representative candidate, said while expansion should be considered on a case-by-case basis, the university needs to be aware of how it impacts North Philadelphia.

“We want to be careful of things like gentrification,” Kabeer said. “We don’t want people to lose their homes.”


ListenTU has proposed promoting the use of free food from local off-campus sources to address food insecurity. Thomas said that instead of using the local resources and taking food for the community, the university needs to expand Cherry Pantry, the university’s on-campus food pantry, by increasing the number of volunteers, awareness and making the pantry available more often.

Kabeer said that he hopes to create initiatives that address food and shelter insecurity.

“I’m hoping this is an opportunity that we can develop initiatives like the cherry pantry, making sure about food insecurity, shelter insecurity,” Kabeer said.


All candidates were asked what they would do to promote diversity and inclusion within TSG.

Kabeer said Parliament resolutions should account for diversity. 

Atiencia said he agrees with Executive branch candidate BloomTU’s platform goal to create an ADA director of accessibility position within the TSG administration. 

“I actually believe what Quinn said, I like his platform.  He wants to help physical disability to get on campus to buildings, classrooms or anything like that, so I actually like the platform to have an ADA director like to be an advocate for all students with physical disabilities,” Atiencia said.

Other candidates said Parliament should work with the student organizations to promote diversity and inclusion. 

Merdon said Parliament should reach out to multicultural organizations to hear their opinions on what resolutions Parliament should be passing. 

Parliament needs to have dialogues with multicultural organizations about what they need from TSG, Thomas said. 

Similarly, Gilani said she would like to organize a “student organization workshop” in which the organizations can talk about the issues they face on campus.

“I’m hoping that by making student organizations a resource to people dealing with the same issues, that could definitely be something that Parliament works for,” Gilani said.


The candidates were asked about their opinion on BloomTU’s proposed referendum system, in which the executive team pledges to take polls on student’s opinions on certain issues if elected. TSG would then show the results of these polls to the Temple administration, so the university could be informed about the student body’s opinion, The Temple News reported. 

The candidates were also asked about whether they think this system would interfere with Parliament’s responsibilities.

Merdon, Thomas, Kabeer and Gilani said they support BloomTU’s proposed system. 

“I don’t think working with them and them doing that is stepping on Parliament’s toes at all, I think it’s showing initiative and showing that they care about the student body,” Thomas said.

Atiencia said there has been good communication between Parliament and the executive branch this year.

Gordon asked the candidates about the executive platform points that they are interested in implementing in collaboration with the executive board.

Merdon and Kabeer said that they want to work having open communication between Parliament and the student body. Gilani said that she is excited about the initiatives aimed at helping international students.


For the final question, Gordon asked the candidates how they would continue to gauge the interests and needs of the student body amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Temple canceled all in-person classes and moved learning online in March due to the COVID-19 outbreak, The Temple News reported. 

Thomas said Parliament should hold office hours, listen to its constituents and be more visible to students. She suggested that Parliament set up a question-and-answer booth during busy times at the Bell Tower, so students can talk to representatives, follow them on Instagram and find out what is happening in Parliament.

Atiencia said he wants students registered with DRS to approach him with problems, trust him to connect them with resources and know they’re not alone.

“I want them to know that there’s someone who cares about you, who wants to fix your issues and solve them,” Atiencia said.

Merdon said having open lines of communication through email or office hours is important during this time. 

“Without communication, we don’t know how the student body’s feeling about particular things specifically regarding COVID,” Merdon said.

Gilani said it is important to examine issues that may not be of the majority’s opinion.

The second executive TSG debate will be on April 13 and moderated by The Temple News.

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