A crowd of around 60 people gathered in Mitten Hall’s Owl Cove on Thursday evening for Temple Student Government’s second and final debate before elections are held on Tuesday and Wednesday next week.
The event – which was moderated by The Temple News – featured RepresenTU and Future TU, the two tickets running on TSG’s ballot this year. Each group answered questions on a variety of issues, including campus safety, diversity, community relations and athletics.
The first topic covered was Campus Safety. Future TU said one of the ways it would improve safety is through a student-led task force, and that communication between this group and Temple Police is essential.
“I think the core of this issue is communication,” said Ryan Rinaldi, Future TU’s candidate for student body president. “Students have a voice, and we need to make sure that voice is heard by administrators on [campus] security.”
RepresenTU said that although several initiatives are already in place for campus security, increasing awareness and improving those initiatives will help combat crime and better safety. One such initiative is Owl Watch: a program where TSG members report on findings in security cameras, lights and streets on and near Main Campus.
“We want to open up [Owl Watch] to everyone university-wide,” said Aaliyah Ahmad, RepresenTU’s candidate for vice president of external affairs. “As of right now, it’s just student government, so that’s why some people don’t know about it. So we want to open it up to everyone.”
One topic that has gained a lot of awareness is diversity on campus. Both parties said that recognizing and catering to the LGBTQIA population is important to the student body. Binh Nguyen, Future TU’s candidate for vice president of external affairs, said that more gender-neutral bathrooms and housing are needed on Temple’s campuses.
“There are only 17 gender-neutral bathrooms on Temple’s campuses,” Nguyen said. “That’s an extremely low amount, because they’re a extremely distinct population on our campus, and we want to make sure that we represent them to the fullest potential.”
Amber O’Brien, RepresenTU’s candidate for student body president, said that gender-neutral housing is already being tested this year.
“What [the university] is doing is taking a few students, and putting them in a few rooms for gender-neutral housing,” O’Brien said. “It’s going to be experimented, and we’ll see feedback from the specific students involved … then we’ll be able to make an educated answer to ‘Should we implement gender neutral housing in the future?’”
One topic the candidates disagreed on was improving attendance at athletic events. While RepresenTU said the solution is through its Home Field Advantage Committee – which centers on asking why students aren’t attending games – Future TU said that raising attendance is dependent on more than just one factor.
“We feel this is more than a one step process,” Rinaldi said. “We feel that if we do the things on our platform … school pride will naturally go up. People will feel more proud and want to go cheer on our teams.”
RepresenTU argued that fixing the problem needs to happen more directly through higher administration.
“We want to bring [groups] in and sit them down before athletic administrators,” O’Brien said. “We want them to have conversations, hopefully on a monthly basis, to see if there’s better ways to market and promote these events.”
In both teams’ closing statements, the candidates reminded the audience of their platform’s goals – RepresenTU said they want to represent each individual on campus equally, and Future TU explained how its three-pillar plan would make Temple better in the future.
After the debate, both candidates for student body president told The Temple News that the final stretch before elections start on Tuesday is vital. O’Brien said that meeting with as many student organizations as possible is most important for her team.
“Our main goal is to hit as many organizations as we possibly can,” she said. “That’s our biggest plan, to keep talking to other organizations, and separating ourselves from [Future TU], and being unique.”
Rinaldi said the key for Future TU will be continuing to spread its platform.
“We’re going to go out, and talk about the vision we have here at Future TU,” he said. “It’s something that we’re very proud of, and that’s what is going to motivate us into this upcoming week.”
Steve Bohnel can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @Steve_Bohnel.