With the campaign period now underway for Northwestern’s Associated Student Government president and vice presidential positions, The Daily sat down with the two pairs of candidates, Medill junior Matt Bellassai and Communication sophomore Jazzy Johnson, and Weinberg juniors Austin Young and Ash Jaidev to ask a few questions about their previous experience, plans for change and thoughts on Claire and Hiro. Election day is Wednesday, April 13.
Daily: What is your previous involvement in student government, and with which other organizations are you involved on campus?
Austin Young: Within ASG I was a senator for four quarters, representing A&O (Productions), Mayfest and Niteskool. I was a ground team member for the New Student Center Initiative. This past year I haven’t had a specific title, but I put forth legislation. I called myself an ASG lobbyist (laughs).
Ash Jaidev: I’ve spent the majority of my time as director of New Student Center Initiative. It’s an initiative that falls under ASG and something I’ve become passionate about. I’ve been communicating with students and the administration and focusing on campus more than I ever have in the past. And I’ve been on the Student Activities Finance Committee since the beginning of sophomore year.
Matt Bellassai: Right now I’m the public relations vice president for ASG. Last year I was the ASG student life vice president. The year before that I was a senator, representing residential colleges PARC, Shepard and Willard. I’ve been on several different committees in ASG and served on 15 different advisory boards.
Jazzy Johnson: My freshman year I was in the Presidential Leadership Initiative Committee, and I continue to be in that committee this year as a sophomore. I’m the ground director for the New Student Center Initiative. As far as outside ASG, I am the president of House on the Rock Christian Ministry (a part of InterVarsity), Access To Opportunity Movement (ATOM), which is a social justice group that works toward education and immigration reform and youth violence prevention and the student movement for undocumented students at NU.
Daily: How did you meet your running mate and decide to collaborate?
AY: We met living in Allison freshman year. Fourth floor!
MB: We met through ASG. I think Jazzy, I saw from the beginning she was one of the most dedicated and dependable members, and whatever she committed to for better or worse she stuck with.
Daily: What do you think of current ASG President Claire Lew’s proposal to reduce the number of senators by half?
AJ: Essentially, Senate reconstruction is something that’s been talked about for the past few months. We’ve looked at Claire’s proposal and talked to senators currently and a lot of students at large about Senate’s place in ASG and the community overall. We’ve wanted to look at the motivation behind doing it. That’s really important. We want Senate to become – and ASG overall to become – a participatory member of the student community. Is it because Senate suffers from some inefficiencies? Maybe. Or is it too large? There are a number of motivating factors that can affect the way senators feel. Is it a representation issue? Are not enough people on campus represented and some overly represented? These are things we need to have conversations with senators and non-senators to understand the ‘why’ behind it. Once we understand the ‘why,’ we have a good idea moving forward to collaborate with as many senators and non-senators to create an effective solution.
JJ: I definitely want to say we’re not completely married to that specific idea of cutting to 20 (senators). We want to make sure we find a solution that is going to effectively represent all students. We don’t want to rush that solution either. We want to keep the conversation open.
Daily: How do you think your time in office would compare to that of Claire Lew and Hiro Kawashima?
AY: We don’t want to compare ourselves and speak to their time in office specifically. But if I had the privilege of being elected, I would want my time in office spent not in the office. I would want to be seen more immersed at NU and if I’m meeting with people, meeting at Norbucks or chatting at Lisa’s (Cafe). I want to be involved where students are and meet students where they’re at. We want to have dorm dialogues where we would go – and other members of ASG would go – to munchies or firesides and use that as a point of discussion with that specific community on campus.
MB: We want to do it better. The things we’ve talked about a lot are the fact that there aren’t a lot of really tangible things students can point to and say, “This is how ASG improved my life this year.” That’s not to say ASG hasn’t made tremendous progress on a lot of things. But we want students to hear we’re listening to them and campus life is improving.
Daily: What do you think is a main issue students at NU are facing in general, and how can ASG work to solve it?
AJ: Well, just one of the many we’re tackling is that for a long time, NU has talked about the issue of community on campus and the fact that we really have many niche regional communities which are great … but we lack an underlying Northwestern-wide community. It’s something I’ve looked at firsthand, the idea of community. We want to focus on it in some way, and this goes back to one of our key tenants of the campaign as a whole. And with regard to Greek life, one of the things we’ve talked about is the need to unite the Greek community with the non-Greek community.
MB: I think the main thing we want to talk about is empowerment and engaging people to raise their voices and let us know what their concerns are throughout the year. The overall sentiment is the concept of empowerment, with whatever the issue may be. The way you get that done is reaching out and acting on what you hear. That’s the reality when it comes to these campaigns. The issues are the same across the board. It’s a matter of executing them.