Meet ASG’s presidential candidates and their platforms

+From+left+to+right%2C+Juan+Zuniga%2C+Katherine+Conte%2C+Soteria+Reid+and+Revika+Singh.+Conte+and+Reid+are+running+for+president%2C+with+Zuniga+and+Singh+as+vice+presidents.

Photo courtesy of Courtesy Katherine Conte, Soteria Reid

From left to right, Juan Zuniga, Katherine Conte, Soteria Reid and Revika Singh. Conte and Reid are running for president, with Zuniga and Singh as vice presidents.

Yunkyo Kim, Assistant Campus Editor

Two candidates for president and their running mates for vice president will compete for Associated Student Government’s executive leadership. Over the next week, the campaigns will present their policies, partake in a live-streamed debate on April 27 and engage with the student body.

The voting period will close May 2, when the winners will be announced. Among other structural changes, this year’s campaign cycle has been reduced from nine days to seven days due to the novel coronavirus.

Meet the candidates

SESP juniors Katherine Conte and Soteria Reid announced their candidacies for ASG president. Conte will be campaigning with her running mate, Weinberg junior Juan Zuniga, and Reid with Weinberg sophomore Revika Singh.

Conte, chair of analytics, said she wants to develop a campaign based on survey results. The Los Angeles native started in ASG’s public relations committee as a freshman under former president Emily Ash.

In her work leading ASG analytics, Conte successfully recommended providing $12 printing credit to each student and expanding the Books for Cats program by $65,000.

Reid serves as the executive officer of justice and inclusion, a role she created in 2019 and one where she has spearheaded a number of initiatives and actions regarding underrepresented communities. Before that, she was the acting vice president for accessibility and inclusion. Reid most recently co-authored an amendment to alter the process of changing the composition of ASG’s leadership.

“My passion is and my focus when doing work for ASG is to focus on marginalized communities,” Reid said. “It’s made much more clear through this crisis that students who are low-income, who are undocumented, who experienced homelessness are much more likely to be negatively affected.”

Zuniga, Conte’s running mate and Illinois native, has previously served as the vice president of sustainability and now is the co-chair of community relations, in which he collaborates with the community and city of Evanston. Vice presidential candidate and New Jersey native Singh, who will campaign alongside Reid, currently serves as the chair of health and wellness, where she leads Wellness Week.

Conte and Zuniga’s slates received a warning after committing a violation because another member of their campaign solicited QuestBridge leaders for an endorsement prior to the campaign announcement.

Reid and Singh’s campaign announcement was delayed due to a campaign violation, detracting 24 hours from the slate’s ability to campaign. The violation came after Reid tweeted about their candidacy prior to the announcement, which is against ASG’s election guidelines.

The coronavirus plans

“ASG (members are) one of the few, if only, students who are in regular contact with (the University) and know what changes are happening and everything happens so quickly,” Singh said. “I think that ASG should be that body that is making sure that student concerns are brought up to admin.”

During COVID-19, students need transparency, both from ASG and the University, Reid said. The slate plans to initiate protocol specifically for natural disasters and emergencies, such as a pandemic.

Such protection may be necessary to ensure that students, especially those of marginalized identities, are prioritized, Reid said. The protocol will decide the extent that the student body is involved in conversations about the University’s emergency response.

Under Reid’s leadership, ASG seeks to establish a student advocacy council, in which senators can serve as caseworkers to help solve student problems. This would address the highly individualized problems of the pandemic and provide support to student advocacy groups, ensuring their petitions will reach the higher administration.

To directly respond to concerns surrounding COVID-19, Conte said under her leadership, ASG will hold town halls and dialogues to support Asian Pacific Islander Desi American members of the Northwestern community.

Conte said that she will also make sure the graduating class receives some kind of recognition, following an April 22 University announcement that commencement will be online.

The ticket will also advocate that the University continue the COVID-19 emergency fund and host “socially close, physically distant” events to boost community building in the aftermath of the pandemic.

“We want to make sure that there’s some sort of way for students to reconnect hopefully when we return in the fall,” Conte said.

The core platforms

Conte cited a statistic that 35.3 percent of the students who responded to the ASG analytics survey said they had to reject leadership opportunities due to work obligations.

Her slate plans to move forward with funding a committee that provides $700 per quarter to student leaders from low- and middle-class backgrounds who devote 10 or more hours per week to their groups.

“It’s hopefully going to be part of a larger platform in trying to rebuild campus community post-COVID-19 pandemic when we return to campus,” Conte said. “The leadership positions are often a large part of being a student at Northwestern, a large part of building community, finding friends, what have you.”

Zuniga said he made it a goal to institute a CTEC system for off-campus apartments after hearing feedback about increases in rent despite deficiencies in filling units.

Students also reported they were charged for benefits they were guaranteed, double charged, or upsold on rent, Zuniga said. The potential CTEC system will greatly help the large population of students who live or seek to live off campus, he added.

“(We want to) use this information to make sure that students know the value of where they are leaving,” Zuniga said. “In that way, they feel comfortable to make these negotiations with their landlords.”

Their platform as a whole seeks to build a student-driven effort on the community, emphasizing compassionate action and leadership, Conte said.

They said one large focus is making sure there is support for transgender and non-conforming identities by supporting all-gender bathrooms in Annenberg. They will also seek to hire more CAPS counselors based on identity and make sure the University supports students in substantial ways regardless of students’ legal and citizenship statuses.

Both Reid and Conte said they will institute grants to support student organizers and causes.

In addition, Reid said the slate’s core platforms include creating opportunities for a student liaison to the Board of Trustees, which will increase representation on important University decisions.

If Reid were to be elected, ASG would also work to start offering hormone replacement therapy at University health, she said. They will also increase career support for international students by hosting a career fair of companies that will provide visas as well as a panel of international alumni so they can increase their networks.

Furthermore, Reid seeks to establish more stringent measures to ensure ASG prioritizes people who represent marginalized groups in the Senate’s composition.

“I do have plans to make sure student groups who represent marginalized identities if they want seats, are guaranteed seats,” Reid said.

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Twitter: @yunkyomoonk

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