ASG co-presidential candidates talk funding, administration and residential resources at town hall


Kimberly Espinosa/Daily Senior Staffer

ASG co-presidential candidates Donovan Cusick and Molly Whalen speak to Election Commissioner Enzo Banal at the town hall Tuesday. The pair discussed student group funding and access to the Northwestern administration among other topics.

Joanna Hou, Campus Editor

The Associated Student Government co-presidential candidates discussed student group funding, connections with the administration and accessibility of residential and dining services in a Tuesday town hall moderated by The Daily and Northwestern News Network. 

SESP junior Donovan Cusick and McCormick junior Molly Whalen are running unopposed in the election and voting begins Thursday. Both have served multiple roles on ASG since their freshman year, with Cusick as the current ASG vice president and interim chair of finance and Whalen as the current executive officer of accountability. 

The most recent uncontested ASG presidential election occurred in 2019 and resulted in a 10-year low in voter turnout with 852 votes. Election Commissioner and Weinberg freshman Enzo Banal told The Daily that Cusick and Whalen do not need to receive a minimum threshold of votes to win the election. 

Despite this, Cusick said students should vote because he and Whalen want to get a better sense of student’s priorities on campus. 

“Something that’s incredibly important for us is to drive engagement,” Cusick said. “We think (voter turnout) is incredibly important for simply the democratization of our processes.” 

Student group funding

In the past year, multiple student groups have struggled with funding cuts from both ASG and the administration. Mayfest Productions, which organizes Dillo Day, said it received 13% of the funding from senior administration that it did last academic year in a Daily op-ed. 

“We’ve been in touch with Mayfest leaders all year,” Cusick said. “I think that we realized pretty early on that funding was going to be an obstacle. I don’t think that we quite realized to the extent that it was going to be an obstacle until recent weeks.” 

Advocating for Mayfest is a high priority for Cusick, who said he wants to work with its new executive board to demand increases in funding from the administration. However, Whalen said it would be unsustainable to allocate a significant portion of money collected from the Student Activity Fee to Mayfest since many groups on campus also need funds. ASG’s Student Activities Finance Committee is responsible for distributing about $1.8 million in funds from the fee to registered student organizations at NU.

Cusick added he and Whalen will continue to advocate for ASG’s new Community Building Grant, a $50,000 grant for student groups to fund food and transportation. 

“(The CBG) brings people together and that’s something that we are going to continue to strive for over the next year,” Cusick said. “(We will) continue to keep pushing admin to release those funds, because they are needed.” 

Connecting students with the administration 

Although the pair is running uncontested, Whalen said she and Cusick have met with various student groups as part of their campaign, including Black Formal, the Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance, the South Asian Students Alliance, A&O Productions, QUEST+ and Mayfest. 

Whalen said they are exploring an idea to send multiple groups with similar funding demands to meet the administration as a collective. The process would be “simpler” that way and might make student groups feel more heard, she said. 

“We think the main power of ASG is our connection to admin,” Whalen said. “By talking to student groups, now we can figure out how to organize them and make sure that they can get in front of admin when they want to.” 

The ticket also aims to increase transparency by advocating for a student representative on the Board of Trustees. Whalen said a lot of issues students care about are decided by the board, not ASG. 

Currently, minutes from trustee meetings are not released, Whalen said, and students are invited to present only occasionally. She said the potential student representative could be a non-voting member. 

“The goal of increasing student representation … is so that the student voice can be heard and there’s also a little more information flowing from the Board of Trustees to students,” Whalen said. 

Providing residential resources to off-campus students

Cusick and Whalen’s campaign platform includes improving Residential Services resource accessibility to students who live off campus. 

“Because students often move off-campus in their third year, they lose access to resources from Residential and Dining Services,” the pair’s platform reads. “It is important that students can access these resources in times of need.” 

Whalen said she and Cusick are trying to address emergency situations for off-campus students. When students find themselves in “a tight spot”, she said, there is currently nobody on ASG who can help them navigate administrative resources. She and Cusick aim to provide students with an ASG point of contact who can help simplify the process. 

Cusick said he’s “particularly interested” in helping off-campus students find temporary housing. 

“Even if you live off campus, you’re still a student,” Cusick said. “You’re a part of this Northwestern community and it’s important that should you need housing or should you need food, the University can help to provide that, especially considering that those resources and facilities are already there.” 

Voting for the ASG presidential election occurs on Wildcat Connection and will start at 7 p.m. Thursday and end at 7 p.m. Saturday.  

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @joannah_11

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