Patterson, Kim discuss mental health, ASG reform at first debate


(Kate Salvidio/Daily Senior Staffer)

SESP junior Justine Kim (left) and Weinberg junior Sky Patterson speak during Tuesday’s debate. The candidates for ASG president discussed mental health and the role of ASG structure in policy.

Gabby Birenbaum, Assistant Campus Editor

Associated Student Government presidential and executive vice presidential candidates debated mental health policy and the merits of internal ASG reform at their first debate Tuesday.

About 30 people gathered in Technological Institute for the debate, which was moderated by The Daily.

The candidates spent significant time on mental health. SESP junior Justine Kim and her running mate, SESP sophomore Austin Gardner, said they aim to change campus culture through initiatives such as reinstating a former Counseling and Psychological Services policy of bringing therapists from Evanston and Chicago to campus. In addition, Kim said she plans to make a comprehensive guide to AccessibleNU for students and faculty that is specific to each undergraduate school in order for all parties to better navigate the office’s resources.

Kim and Gardner’s opponents, Weinberg juniors Sky Patterson and Emily Ash, argued their initiatives better attack the root causes of students’ mental health problems. The ideas they proposed include creating spaces for students to explore their identities and having a sliding fee for therapy.

“We do not want to look at Band-Aid solutions,” Patterson said. “We don’t think that dialogue is sufficient enough.”

Patterson’s campaign also addressed the two violations her campaign committed. She said while she takes full responsibility, she also has “screenshot” evidence that a member of the election commission has been “actively advocating on behalf of the other ticket.”

Election commissioner Dillon Saks declined to comment on the allegation.

Kim told The Daily that while she will look into the allegation, she doesn’t believe the commission has been biased.

“I personally believe the election commission has taken every single step possible to make sure that this election is as unbiased as possible,” Kim said. “I also strongly believe that the belief that it’s biased also has to do with the fact that they were the ones who received violations themselves.”

The role of ASG structure in policy was another contentious issue. Patterson said her platform is less focused on making changes within ASG and instead aims to bring change to individuals and student groups.

Kim said although ASG reform is not the only facet of her platform, changing its structure, particularly regarding finance, is important. A significant part of her campaign has involved meeting with student groups that have had poor experiences with ASG in the past and collaborating on how ASG can be beneficial to them. One such initiative is a concept she called a hackathon, which Kim said is a method to engage student groups not previously involved with ASG and provide them with a platform to publicize their events and programming.

Gardner said proposing internal ASG change is important because it creates a framework for future initiatives.

“You can put two new leaders in office and have a mentality that you can make changes for a time, but if you want to see sustainable, systemic change, you need to put in some structural (changes) to maintain that implementation,” Gardner said. “So, a lot of our policies are focused on outreach.”

Patterson reiterated that her campaign is concerned with looking outward from ASG. She said receiving endorsements from Rainbow Alliance and Wildcats Advancing Total Campus Health was a result of such student-oriented policies. For her part, Kim said she was proud of an endorsement from QuestBridge.

Patterson and Ash said their academic equity policies show their commitment to students. Patterson said she will advocate for the use of open-source textbooks and for partnering with the library to get licenses for services that STEM students currently pay for themselves, such as WebAssign. Ash said their campaign proposes a fund to provide grants to low-income students who have to choose between student leadership and a traditional paid job.

“Sky and I don’t want to be leaders of the student government; we want to be leaders of the student body,” Ash said. “We see the value in advocacy on behalf of the entire student body, not necessarily the individuals within ASG.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @birenBOMB