Student Government (SG) voting will open this Wednesday at 10 a.m. A link to the ballot on Blueprint will be emailed to all members of the student body.
After voting closes this Friday at 4:30 p.m., the Election and Rules Committee will tabulate the results. Upon tabulation, a press conference and cake-cutting ceremony will be held on the first floor of the Reynolds Club.
Some of the candidates are featured below.
Rise (third-year Calvin Cottrell, second-year Sabine Nau, third-year Chase Harrison)
Chicago Maroon: What is your position on SG’s recent budget? How would you have balanced the $195,000 shortfall between last year’s budget and this one?
Rise: We agree with much of SG’s recent budget. Cutting SG support for administrative services and providing parity for graduate student funding were both necessary measures we are proud to see included in the budget. We also reluctantly support the cuts to the New York Times Readership Program. While we understand how beloved the crossword is, the cost of the paper was substantial. We encourage interested houses to use their house funds to purchase a paper subscription.
We disagree with cutting the Uncommon Fund. Chase voted against the budget because he felt money could have been moved from other lines of the budget to at least ensure the Uncommon Fund can support a few projects next year. Unlike what the current Executive Slate stated, the Dean’s Fund is not a proper substitute for the Uncommon Fund. Ending this campus tradition for a year because of recent problems is not the right solution for rehabilitating it. We plan on bringing back the Uncommon Fund next year.
Finally, we still have questions about how rollover funds will be used. We support the principle of spending student life fees as close to the student paying them as possible. But we question the requirement to spend those funds by November 1 of each academic year. We can foresee problems in the future with rollover funds being spent on ill-thought-out projects because of the looming deadline. We plan to carefully watch the amount of potential rollover funds from the summer funding pool and to be thoughtful about potential funding options should there be sizable rollover going into the fall.
CM: Are there any situations in which you would support calls for the University to divest for political or moral reasons?
Rise: Student Government is most effective when dealing with localized student issues. We maintain that SG is not the correct forum for most forms of divestment campaigns and that divestment campaigns should not be an SG priority. Additionally, we are opposed to all academic boycotts or plans to limit research topics.
That being said, we understand many students have strong feelings about how the endowment should be spent. We have been growing increasingly uncomfortable with the administration’s use of the Kalven Report to avoid discussing the political implications of the endowment. With divestment campaigns occurring on campus, it is clear that the endowment is undeniably political. The University needs a stronger, more contemporary rationale to ground its arguments against divestment. Thus, we would be interested in speaking with the administration about eschewing the Kalven Report. With more clear guidelines around how the University handles political issues, students can engage in a more civil and productive discussion over the endowment.
CM: What do you identify as major platform points, i.e., campus issues in need of attention/improvement?
Rise: Communication has been a major issue area with Student Government and one this slate plans to fix. Social media has to be used more efficiently and more often to communicate with the student body. We as a slate plan to use our social capital to make sure all students—grads and undergrads—are aware of SG’s work next year. Facilitating communication between CC reps, GC [Graduate Council] reps, and committee chairs will be a large part of that.
Additionally, having a public legislative calendar and themed Assembly meetings would go a long way to making SG’s work legible to the student body. Having announced themes to our Assembly meetings means that students can be aware that SG is focusing on the issues they care about. There will always be room to deal with pressing student issues that arise. But systemic issues on campus need to be prioritized, and we plan to do just that.
For example, we promise one of the first Assembly meetings of the year will be themed around issues of mental health resource accessibility on campus. Increasing access to mental health resources will be a chief priority. It is unacceptable that there can be months-long waiting lists to see counseling services on campus. The relevant committees will be focusing on how to better disseminate info to the student body and advocate for resources. And in our conversations with administrators, we will be pushing for more counselors on campus.
CM: Are there speakers who ought not to be allowed on campus? Are there circumstances under which you would support either administrative cancellation or protests designed to prevent invitees from speaking?
Rise: This slate firmly believes in freedom of expression. The only instances where we believe speakers should not be allowed on campus is if they pose insurmountable security and/or pressing privacy concerns. Speaking at the University of Chicago is a privilege. Thus, groups should carefully consider who they invite and only bring speakers that meaningfully add to campus discourse. Speakers with a history of harassing specific students or undermining closely protected privacy rights should not be brought to campus. A few examples of this include speakers that would out trans students, reveal a student’s private immigration status, or attack individual students’ racial and ethnic identities. Speakers that would not pass this bar include Milo Yiannopoulos.
Still, most of these issues are out of our purview. Registered Student Organizations [RSOs] can now, rightly, invite a huge range of speakers, and we support this. Our slate does support Chase’s efforts to encourage President Zimmer to communicate his freedom of expression policy more directly with students. Efforts to instill the responsibility that comes with the power to invite speakers, in RSO and other student leaders, would also be welcome
Further, we also plan on helping empower the student body to lead effective counter-programming to speakers they may find unsavory. Any RSO that approaches us with concerns about a speaker will get support. We will help make sure they are aware of protest tactics that don’t violate University policy. They can then make their own decisions from there. We will also help direct RSOs to funds for counter-programming. The University is willing to provide money for counter-speakers and counter-events. We think that this is a group’s best way to challenge a speaker’s presence on campus.
Shutting down speakers is often counterproductive. The media attention controversial speakers get subsequently allows their message to spread much farther than letting them speak. If the goal is to limit the spread of destructive ideas, then it is often better to counter those ideas with scholarship and public advocacy than to provide it a larger platform through censorship. We as a slate, however, will call out hate speech on campus and call on the University to uphold its own policies on protecting students.
CM: Calvin, you left SG after contentious debates over divestment and SG pay. Do you think you'll be able to work with members of SG who opposed your position on those issues as student body president?
CC: My positions on divestment from Israel and SG Executive Slate pay were guided by a dedication to listening to diverse student groups, to maintaining a safe campus climate, and transparency. The proposals offered last year didn’t fit those values in my view. I fully expect values of inclusion and transparency to be shared by all of SG next year. I plan to be a student body president that makes everyone feel heard and understood. I will not agree with everyone all the time; however, I want my reasoning to be clear on why I take the stances I do on any given issue. I hope to be viewed as an approachable partner to all students on campus and will do everything possible to make sure that is true. Governing effectively is a team endeavor, and I look forward to working with all SG members on areas of agreement.
UNDERGRADUATE LIAISON TO THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES
Q1: Three of the 52 members the University's Board of Trustees are African-American; nine are women; more than half work in finance. Would you encourage the Board to adopt a selection process that resulted in a broader range of experiences on the Board?
Q2: How do you think that Student Government could better work with the Board of Trustees? Are there any particular SG initiatives right now that could benefit from increased collaboration between SG and the Board?
Q3: What do you think of the changes to the liaison position? Do you think the Student Perspectives Series will ultimately lead to a better relationship between the Board and campus?
Second-year Steve Berkowitz
A1: I think diversity is incredibly important and should definitely be a goal as new members are selected. The more experiences and viewpoints present on the board will only increase efforts in strengthening the long term future of UChicago.
A2: Certainly greater transparency in the Board's abilities and capacities would help Student Government better facilitate a relationship with them. If the student body had a better understanding of what is feasible and not for the Board to achieve, the ideas and solutions communicated could better be aligned to result in more tangible outcomes.
A3: Yes, I think it is a step forward in the right direction. Allowing more students to have their voices heard will only help strengthen the relationships between the Board and the student body. From here, working on ways to keep the student body engaged in this dialogue can take priority.
Second-year Zander Cowan
A1: To become a member of the University's Board of Trustees one must make significant financial contributions to the University, as well as have an interest in the direction of the University. It is important to recognize that these financial contributions are relative to income, so measured percentage of contributions to income is what is evaluated. I think that this current system is what has allowed for the existing diversity within the Board of Trustees, and not just a select few high-income earners. However, I think that more work can be done to further foster diversity. Trustees should also be evaluated on their contributions to other charitable interests, as well as involvement in cultural and social causes to evaluate if new points of view and identities are being included in the Board of Trustees.
A2: Student Government plays a key role in the bridge between students and the Board of Trustees. Students, as a whole, have a variety of concerns in both breadth and depth, and each concern is valid. However, it is also important to realize that sometimes the approach of "throwing a lot of darts and hoping one sticks" is not always applicable. In the case of the SG–Board relationship, it is imperative that the most important issues be brought first to the Board to ensure that implementable change is achieved. I think some of these issues include providing more mental health services to students, reducing wait times within student health, working to restore aggregate graduation ceremonies, and pushing for more climate-sustainable investments by the University as a whole. SG can be the fine-toothed comb that filters the most important issues to bring to the Board in the hopes of tangible change—but this can only be achieved with an open minded, unbiased SG. Current SG initiatives regarding student employment wages and health initiatives could benefit from an increased and positive collaboration between SG and the Board.
A3: The Student Perspectives Series provides a platform for interested and involved students to meet directly with the Board of Trustees to voice their concerns and visions for a better University of Chicago. This is a great initiative that increases access to the Board. However, the liaison position serves as both a liaison between students and the Board and the Board and students. I think that the Student Perspectives Series is instrumental in furthering the mission of students to the Board, but the liaison being present in Board meetings will also allow for the Board to be properly represented to the students.
Third-year Christina Uzzo
A1: The Board has final decision-making power over many issues that affect our diverse student body. Beyond this, their decisions regarding University policy and expansion affect many people in surrounding Chicago communities, and decisions regarding opening new centers in other countries affect people throughout the world. I believe that you cannot have a truly diverse set of opinions and perspectives without having a diverse group of individuals. Diverse perspectives will result in a more robust discussion and therefore stronger outcomes. Because of the vast power and impact of the Board, I believe they should strive to achieve greater racial, gender, and professional diversity so that they can make the strongest decisions possible.
A2: Many of the current SG initiatives work to engage the student body and are separate from issues where the Board has direct decision-making power. Therefore, we should work to increase engagement with the Board regarding issues where they do have more direct control—such as funding issues. One initiative where I think the Board should be more directly engaged is the RSO Accessibility Program—currently aiming to make all RSO events accessible to every student. The program appears to be connecting RSOs to the Office of Disability Services. However, this places the onus on already busy RSOs to reach out to the highly understaffed Office of Disability Services. I think it would instead be more productive to address accessibility on a University-wide level and work towards solving the root of these issues. One way that we could work towards this would be hiring more staff for the Office of Disability Services.
There are also many campus issues that fall under the Board's jurisdiction that are not currently being addressed through SG initiatives. I think one way to fix that is to work with University administrators to create a formal petition process. My vision is for students to have an avenue to deliver a letter to the Board outside of the quarterly meetings.
A3: I am in support of the changes with the liaison position. In my opinion, a lot of current ill feelings towards the Board are the result of students feeling that they are not being heard by the Board. Previously, when the liaison could only sit in on the Board meetings, the liaison did not have the capacity to make students' voices heard. I know that within this first year of the Student Perspective Series there have already been productive conversations between members of the Board and undergraduates. I hope that we can continue towards greater collaboration in the future.
COLLEGE COUNCIL CLASS OF 2020
Q1: What do you think is the most important initiative you want to pursue in your time as class representative?
Q2: Are there any situations in which you would support calls for the University to divest for political or moral reasons?
Q3: Are there speakers who ought not to be allowed on campus? Are there circumstances under which you would support either administrative cancellation or protests designed to prevent invitees from speaking?
First-year Jahné Brown
The candidate did not respond to The Maroon’s questions.
First-year Brittney Dorton
A1: There are a number of initiatives and issues I think are incredibly important to address, but I think I’m personally very passionate about improving student health and well-being. There are limited options for students seeking mental health treatment, and some policies, such as forced leave of absence, discourage people from getting the help they need. Student Disability Services is severely understaffed—they only have three employees for the entire undergraduate and graduate campus, which limits the resources and services they can provide to students who need accommodations. No one should have to choose between their education and their health. If elected, I’d like to work towards providing more options and resources for students seeking treatment—whether it be for a mental or physical illness—promote peer counseling services, look into how we can better prevent and respond to sexual assault, and push for greater accessibility on campus.
A2: Considering that the University has come out with statements in regards to other politically polarizing issues, such as protection for undocumented students, I think divestment should be supported when a corporation has been shown to be complicit in human rights violations. UChicago is an institution that claims to have committed itself to values of equal opportunity, progress, and building a global community. It makes no sense for us to continue to invest in companies whose actions are in direct contrast with that. People should always come before profit, and divestment is a strong way to indicate that the University stands on the side of justice.
A3: I believe that the right to free speech is important—but I also believe that students have a right to feel safe and welcome on campus. There are speakers whose rhetoric may leave students feeling that their identity is invalid or threatened, or may spur hateful actions or speech geared towards certain groups. If the University is going to allow such controversial speakers—knowing what they will have to say and how students are likely to react to it—on the basis of free speech, they ought to at least allow students to practice freedom of speech and of assembly in order to peacefully protest.
First-year Marlin Figgins
A1: One of my main initiatives is increasing the average College student’s involvement in SG. I don’t particularly expect any one of our constituents to be present at all of the meetings and keep track of every issue, but I would like to see students come to the meetings occasionally. Frankly, it’s very helpful in understanding the kinds of issues that are brought to SG and how we deal with these issues. One of my ideas for increasing said involvement goes through RSOs. Ideally, I would like to have liaisons from several RSOs meet with SG representatives to give their opinions of the proposals presented to SG in the fashion of a rotating board. Through this sort of organization, I believe that many RSOs, and subsequently their members, will become more informed on how SG is run and hopefully in the future help RSOs better understand how SG goes about funding any proposals of theirs. The ultimate goal in doing this is to create more opportunities for student involvement in SG and make CC representatives more aware of the issues and concerns of their constituents.
A2: In situations where lives are being lost and human rights are being violated, I believe that it is important to call for the University to divest from such causes.
A3: In my own personal opinion, I do not believe there are any speakers that should not be allowed on campus, with the obvious exception of speakers who incite violence and the violation of human rights. But, in the event that a speaker preaches hatred and/or attacks the rights or identities of people on this campus, people have the right to protest this speaker, make their objections to this speaker known, and remind said speaker of their existence. Ultimately, it is the decision of the administration to cancel these events should there be significant opposition, but it is also the right of the students and faculty to persuade them to this decision through protest.
First-year Sat Gupta
A1: Next year, I’d like to continue expanding the free-tampons-and-pads initiative. Today, there are free tampons and pads in Ratner, Reynolds, and Saieh, and the administration is planning on restocking dispensers and is also looking into installing free dispensers in certain areas on campus. There’s obviously still room for growth, and I feel that, as the representative who started the free-menstrual-hygiene-products program, I’m best positioned to lead on this issue.
A2: I believe divestment is ultimately an inappropriate and distracting issue for SG. There are so many student life issues that SG needs to tackle, yet divestment, a mostly symbolic and divisive issue, seems to simply cause unnecessary friction on campus and distrust between SG and the student body.
A3: People like prominent white nationalist (and, unfortunately, UChicago alum) Richard Spencer should not be allowed to speak on campus. Spencer’s ideas are dangerous not in the sense that they may cause students intellectual discomfort, but because they call into question students’ humanity, normalize disproven ideas that have led to genocide, and can lead to legitimate security threats.
First-year Marty Jiffar
A1: My main goal on College Council is to represent the concerns of non-binary/genderqueer students on campus. One of my key initiatives is to allow students to have their chosen names listed on their IDs. As it is now, students’ legal names are automatically put on their IDs, and they are not allowed to change them without a legal name change. Having the wrong name on your ID, which you’re required to display in numerous situations, is invalidating and completely unnecessary. I hope to fix this issue if I am elected.
A2: I signed UofC Divest’s petition urging the Board of Trustees to cut the University’s ties to companies that profit off of the oppression of Palestinian people. The Kalven Committee’s “Report on the University’s Role in Political and Social Action” insists that the University is committed to political neutrality—however, not investing is more politically neutral than giving money to their cause.
A3: If an individual espouses hateful rhetoric towards any marginalized group, then I do not believe they should be allowed to speak on campus. I am fully in support of students’ right to protest an invitee if they feel that the invitee actively encourages the oppression of a certain group. This should not be a partisan issue. The protection of marginalized students—not only from oppressive social systems, but also from actual, physical harm suggested by speakers—is something our entire campus must be concerned with.
First-year Veronica Myers
A1: From my time on College Council this past year alone, it has become increasingly apparent how strained and, at certain times, fabricated the continual open dialogue between the University administration and the student body is. Although I was lucky enough to be able to attend a small meeting with four individuals from the Board of Trustees, and although I have been able to meet Michele Rasmussen, who continues to do incredible work to engage with College Council and students in general, there still exists an exorbitant amount of miscommunications between the needs of the students, the actions of administrators, who to go to and under what circumstances. I want to help transform the narrative of the University administration away from a homogenous entity with what seems like all of the power and none of the time, to a network of individuals ready for students to reach out to them and work in conjunction with one another to improve a school they both call home.
A2: It seems redundant at this point to say that the University should divest from entities that contribute to, aid in, or profit from the blatant violation of human rights. There is no situation in which the disregard of human rights should be justifiable, but unfortunately year after year we still return to this question. I do not think it is enough simply to ask for the University to divest (although we should), but demand that it re-invest in socially responsible, ethical, and sustainable companies committed to bettering our world. It is well past time that we hold the University to a higher standard; we must shift the narrative from “do no harm” to “do more good.” This of course all starts with divestment. It is not only what a University invests in, but how a University invests, that speaks volumes as to where its values lie, and I'd like to be able to say that I attend an institution that values human dignity over human capital.
A3: The University's interpretation of freedom of speech is an interesting one, to say the least. At its core, there seems to exist a commonality of equating freedom of speech with freedom from consequence. When the University allows speakers with controversial backgrounds/beliefs onto the campus, they cannot seriously expect for there to be no form of backlash or reaction. In addition, the University likes to make it seem as though student protesting is unique to our campus, as if other colleges have never had speakers shut down before, which obviously is untrue. By suppressing a student's right to protest on the grounds of it being "disruptive" (which is more often than not the very intention of protests and demonstrations), the University violates its own championing of total and unabridged free speech. So long as the University continues to censor student protests, I (and I imagine many others) will continue to call for the censorship of Nazis and white nationalists such as Richard Spencer and Steve Bannon, or any host of abrasively controversial speakers that the University seems all too eager to welcome to campus. The University must make a choice to either adhere to its free-speech narrative and allow students to protest even if it disrupts the speaker (so long as no one is injured or in danger of any harm), or continue to suppress student activists but abdicate its total and unabridged free speech throne in the process and concede to the suppression of its speakers as well.
Correction on May 2, 2017, 1:46 p.m. CDT:
The original article stated that Marty Jiffar is a second-year. This was incorrect—the candidate is a first-year.