Associated Student Government presidential candidates square off in Tuesday debate


Jonah Elkowitz/The Daily Northwestern

Associated Student Government presidential candidates shake hands after the conclusion of Tuesday night’s debate.

Maia Pandey and Alex Perry

Associated Student Government presidential and vice presidential candidates discussed student activism, Greek life, campus workers and ASG visibility in a debate Tuesday night, moderated by The Daily and Northwestern News Network.

Weinberg junior Jason Hegelmeyer and SESP sophomore Donovan Cusick — who are running for president and vice president, respectively — currently serve as chair of ASG’s Campus Life Committee and ASG’s chief of staff.  Hegelmeyer said in his opening statement that both have served on ASG since their freshman year, and Hegelmeyer has also been the For Members Only senator. 

In his opening statement, Hegelmeyer noted that as Northwestern University president-elect Rebecca Blank assumes her position this summer, Hegelmeyer and Cusick will bring their experience working with administrators to navigate the transition in University leadership.

“ASG is going through a tumultuous transition right now,” he said. “There’s going to be a whole new president with a whole new set of expectations, and we don’t want that presidency to be an excuse for ASG issues to be sidelined.”

Weinberg junior David Grow and Weinberg sophomore Camila Vicens are running for ASG president and vice president, respectively, and enter the campaign with less collective experience than their opponents.

Grow currently serves as the College Republicans senator and sits on the Finance Committee, while Vicens has not previously served on ASG. Given his personal experiences on ASG, Grow said prioritizing student input is a priority of their campaign.

“(ASG) is run by students, but they’re not listening to the general student population,” Grow said. “They’re focusing on whatever they feel like they want to focus on at times.” 

Student visibility and campus activism 

Grow said ASG is disconnected from the general student population’s needs. Leading up to the campaign, he said he and Vicens spoke with multiple student groups about what they want ASG to accomplish. 

“Our entire slate of ideas that we have coming up are all ideas we heard from fellow students on campus,” Grow said. “Our campaign is unique in that it’s not our campaign so much as it is the student population’s campaign.”

In response, Cusick said his campaign also met with student groups to discuss their needs. He added that his and Hegelmeyer’s previous experience in ASG, specifically in meeting with administration, makes them more capable to communicate student needs. 

Both campaigns expressed interest in supporting student activist groups in gaining more senate representation. 

Vicens said she and Grow would bring in the ASG data and analytics team to understand where the student body lies to address her concerns that ASG doesn’t listen to students enough. She said she and Grow plan to address concerns that are “all-around campus issues and not necessarily just the issue for one or two groups.” 

While she added that she is “completely in accordance” with getting NU Community Not Cops  and Fossil Free NU seats on ASG, her running mate disagreed and said he had hesitations about expanding available Senate seats. Vicens said their campaign needs to further solicit student opinions to determine whether students want the University to completely divest from University Police. 

If NUCNC and Fossil Free NU hold Senate seats, they would be able to attend meetings with Vice President for Student Affairs Julie Payne-Kirchmeier, Hegelmeyer said, and they would be able to increase leverage by getting direct connections with the administration.

Hegelmeyer said his personal experience as a Black man and as FMO senator inform his opinions on divesting from police. 

“I don’t think we have to do a student body-wide survey to tell us that campus police make Black and brown students unsafe on campus,” Hegelmeyer said.

If elected, Cusick said he and Hegelmeyer would add a “student group liaison” to ASG’s executive board to establish consistent communication between ASG and student groups.

“When we are at a predominantly white and wealthy institution like Northwestern, listening only to the majority voices on campus ultimately means that we’re not listening to minority voices on campus,” Cusick said. 

Greek life presence in ASG

Last spring, ASG abolished its guaranteed Panhellenic Association and Interfraternity Council seats in Senate. Cusick said he played a leading role in abolishing Greek life seats from Senate as ASG chief of staff.

“We understand the harm that Greek Life has done to students on campus,” Cusick said. “Greek Life hasn’t made much of a push to rejoin ASG, either.”

As a member of Kappa Alpha Theta, Vicens is the only candidate of the four involved in Greek life at NU. Vicens said as a Latinx woman on campus, her personal experience of Greek life has been positive. 

“I think it is a mistake to remove any voices from the conversation,” Vicens said. “Just as we would say it’s wrong to remove voices of activists, I think it’s wrong to remove voices of students who are trying to make Greek life better.”

Vicens cited efforts to expand recruiting and diversify classes of new members among internal reforms her chapter is pursuing. However, she acknowledged a “large sect of campus” would like to see Greek Life abolished.

Grow said while he has not been involved in Greek Life, he said ASG should listen to students attempting to reform their chapters.

Personal affiliations

ASG election commissioners took the moderator chairs to ask student-submitted questions to close the debate. Quest+ Senator Jo Scaletty asked the candidates how their personal political beliefs have influenced their platforms.

“As a (political science) student, and as somebody who’s the Republican group senator, I’ve definitely had political affiliations in the past,” Grow said. ”(But) the campaign is not about injecting my private, ideological reasoning onto the campus … Our campaign is focused on finding out what students want.”

Vicens repeatedly cited improving Wi-Fi access on campus as a key issue of the Grow-Vicens platform in an effort to address student needs.

Hegelmeyer said his experiences in FMO, Alianza and Planned Parenthood have shaped the slate’s platform. He and Cusick have also spoken to students of marginalized identities, including members of Quest+ and Rainbow Alliance, he added.

“Wi-Fi connectivity is important, but making sure students can afford books for next quarter is also probably important,” Hegelmeyer said. “Making sure students aren’t afraid to go to class without getting COVID and making sure they have the (personal protective requirement) that they need is also probably important.”

Voting for the ASG presidential election opens on Wildcat Connection at 7 p.m. on Thursday and will close at 7 p.m. Saturday.

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