EDITORIALS

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May 3, 2019

Endorsement: CARE for Executive Slate

On key topics, the slate combines clear stances with meticulous plans that go beyond mere advocacy.

CARE (Community, Amplify, Represent, Empower) executive slate is the best choice to lead Student Government (SG) next year. The slate brings expertise, a dizzying roster of campus contacts, and a detailed vision to the job.

Presidential candidate Jahne Brown, a third-year, is the current College Council (CC) chair. As a first-year in CC, she spearheaded the creation of the Emergency Fund, and currently serves as the committee’s co-chair.

Fellow third-years Kosi Achife and Brittney Dorton, running for Vice President for Student Affairs and Vice President for Administration, respectively, are well-equipped to assist her. Achife, a former CC representative and Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention (SAAP) Committee co-chair, currently interns for Melissa Gilliam, the vice provost for academic leadership, advancement, and diversity. Dorton is the inaugural chair of SG’s Accessibility and Disability Advocacy Committee, as well as a resident assistant.

CARE combines unequivocal stances on key campus issues with meticulous plans that go beyond mere advocacy. They are unapologetically pro–Graduate Students United (GSU), and they support University recognition of fraternities and sororities as well as increased budget transparency from the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD). They have a well-researched list of features they would like to see in the University’s forthcoming wellness center, including gender-neutral bathrooms, more caseworkers, and counselors and doctors who specialize in treating LGBTQ+ students and sexual assault survivors. The slate also said they hope to collaborate with existing activist groups on campus to advocate for popular concerns. They noted, for example, that the Phoenix Survivors Alliance (PSA) has already given CARE a ringing endorsement.

But CARE also listed concrete, smaller-scale steps they intend to take to tackle these issues. These include free, volunteer-based childcare for graduate students with children, frequent SG–sponsored trainings on bystander intervention, CPR, and mental health first aid, and a “know your rights” campaign to prepare students for interactions with the UCPD. (Brown highlighted, for instance, that many students are unfamiliar with what protections they have inside dormitories.)

CARE also stresses making SG more transparent and accessible to students. Both slates in this election support quarterly progress reports to publicize SG’s work to the student body. But CARE’s plans go further. During their interview with the Editorial Board, they proposed—among other steps—releasing the minutes of key meetings with administrators on specific issues, creating a public Facebook event page for each SG assembly meeting to make clear that meetings are open to all students, and launching active recruitment campaigns for appointed SG positions. The slate noted that SG’s work can often seem opaque and distanced from the work of campus RSOs, and that students are often unsure of how they can get involved. We agree, and we’re glad they intend to bring SG closer to the student body.

Our support for CARE is not unmitigated. For example, we found their suggestion of a separate SG fund for multicultural RSOs from which to request allocations to be vague and insufficiently thought out. We also think that improving Greek life will require collaboration with fraternity and sorority leaders, as well as more research into problems endemic to Greek life—solutions CARE hasn’t yet proposed. Taking these steps would buttress CARE’s current intended approach of partnering with other campus groups to address sexual assault and race-related controversies. 

Reform

This race marks the first seriously contested election in three years. (Last year’s race did feature Delta Upsilon’s satirical Moose slate, which declined to run this year.) It’s good that fresh energy has come to SG—and we admire Reform’s avowed commitments to fiscal efficiency in SG and collaboration with administrators.

But the Editorial Board’s meeting with the Reform slate—second-year Kyle Shishkin for president and first-years David Liang and Anya Wang for Vice Presidents for Administration and Student Affairs, respectively—left us concerned about the candidates’ understanding of key details of certain issues, and confused about where they stand on others.

The slate presented muddled, misinformed views on both GSU and the UCPD. Reform’s platform says they take a “firmly progressive stance” on GSU, and Liang co-sponsored an SG resolution, passed on Monday, urging administration to recognize GSU. But at our meeting, which preceded Monday’s vote, Shishkin emphasized improved “communication” between University administrators and graduate students, not necessarily recognition of GSU: “Our slate is really pro-communication, and driven by accountability and communication of the administration,” he said. “We’re not necessarily saying that the Graduate Students Union has to be recognized… but the University has to engage in a conversation.” There is no pro–GSU stance without recognition; vaguely gesturing at increased communication is inadequate, and fundamentally misunderstands how unions work.

Shishkin also added that GSU doesn’t include all graduate students, such as Law School and Booth students. Liang, meanwhile, seemed to suggest that SG’s own Graduate Council (GC)—which does include professional school representatives—constitutes a more representative authority on graduate unionization.

This reflects the slate’s fundamental misunderstanding of the issues GSU and GC are designed to address. As explicitly stated on its website, the union represents graduate students with research and teaching responsibilities, not students seeking professional degrees. Reform’s confusion about GSU’s constituency is concerning for candidates looking to lead a student body that is nearly two-thirds graduate students.

Similarly, Reform does support a more transparent UCPD, but in our conversation, they stressed that their overriding priority is improving student safety. To Reform, this means improving the security alert system for students. The slate failed to outline a plan to ensure equitable and unbiased policing for everyone in the UCPD patrol area, which strikes us as the most important priority on a campus that is already generally safe.

Reform was also mistaken about basic facts about the UCPD in our interview: Shishkin argued that Hyde Park is safer than surrounding neighborhoods because it is policed by UCPD. But the UCPD patrols a zone that runs north to south from 37th Street to 63rd Street, well beyond Hyde Park.

Finally, we were skeptical of the viability of Reform’s proposed solution to problems within Greek life: a committee composed of Greek leaders and the heads of RSOs with a stake in sexual assault and other issues. This proposal seems unlikely to materialize given that PSA has already declined to work with fraternities, and at our interview, the slate could not point to any non-Greek groups outside of SG that they had reached out to about forming the committee. Reform also suggested an ambiguous role The Maroon might play as a member of this committee, which misunderstands the role of student journalism in these issues.

Looking Ahead

We also want to note where SG, including the outgoing slate, has succeeded over the past year: in securing concrete, material improvements to student life. These have included the continued success of the Emergency Fund; the return of free airport shuttles; free menstrual hygiene products now available in the Reg; and the retention of academic advisers as year-round employees, advocated for in conversation with administrators.

These sorts of projects are not always flashy, accolade-earning gestures—but they lie at the heart of good student governance. We’re impressed by Brown’s involvement in some of these initiatives during her time in CC, and we’re excited by the CARE slate’s prioritization of this kind of consistent, genuinely effective work in their platform. We look forward to seeing where they take SG over the next year, should they be elected.

For these reasons, the Maroon Editorial Board urges students to vote for CARE in the upcoming election. Voting will take place May 6–8.

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