ASG presidential candidates debate student concerns

Allegheny Student Government presidential and vice presidential candidates debated student issues on Monday, Feb. 27, in the campus center lobby. Each ticket was given the opportunity to make an opening and closing statement, respond to questions from a moderator and questions from the audience.

The candidates for president are current ASG Director of Communications and Press Mark Myers, ’19, along with his vice presidential nominee Rowan Castellanos, ’19, and current ASG Sen. Mark MacStudy, ’18, and his vice presidential nominee Matt Hartwell, ’18, currently a co-director of student affairs.

In their opening statements, MacStudy and Hartwell emphasized the experiences they have had, outlining their accomplishments as members of ASG.

“This year, the Class of 2018 has done a really great job working together. We have secured a new printer … and we have also secured three new charging stations for mobile devices across campus,” MacStudy said.

Joseph Tingley
Rowan Castellanos, ’19, and Mark Myers, ’19, participate in the ASG presidential debate on Monday, Feb. 27, 2017. Myers currently serves as the director of communications and press.

MacStudy said he decided to run for president because of the positive experiences he has had at Allegheny.

“Allegheny has given me a lot. … I feel now is the time for me in my life where I am in a position to help the community that has given me so much,” MacStudy said.

Myers said he also brings experience to the table, both as a former senator and a current cabinet member. Castellanos said that while she has never been a member of ASG, she still has experience.

“I have had nine years of student government work before I came to Allegheny,” Castellanos said. “So I am not new to student government work.”

The first question posed to the candidates was what they believed to be an important issue or “hot topic” on campus.

Both tickets said they felt the issue of Title IX reform was important to address, and included it in their platforms.

MacStudy said he, along with other senators, sponsored ASG Resolution 10-01, which was passed by the senate on Feb. 21 and called for ASG to work with administrators to reform how the college handles investigations of sexual assaults on campus.

“[The resolution] reaffirmed our stance on Title IX and let the student body know that sexual assault does not have a home on the Allegheny College campus,” MacStudy said.

MacStudy said the resolution was a “good first step.” He said he is currently working with other senators to secure a breakdown of the numbers of Title IX cases, so that it can be made available to students. This breakdown, MacStudy said, was previously provided in a report given to ASG by Director of Student Conduct and Development Joe Hall.

Joseph Tingley
Mark MacStudy, ’18, speaks at the ASG presidential debate with his running mate Matt Hartwell, ’18. MacStudy is a senator and Hartwell is a co-director of student affairs.

Hartwell said another important part of addressing Title IX issues on campus is training. He said they hope to find ways to incentivize students to go through bystander or other types of training programs.

“You do the training, you get a little prize — it’s as simple as that,” Hartwell said.

Myers and Castellanos said they have already begun to think about ways to implement change in terms of how the college handles Title IX. As part of their platform, Myers said they intend to create a Title IX Advisory Committee through ASG that would work with administrators to address such issues.

As a member of ASG’s cabinet, Myers said he voiced his support for resolution 10-01 when it was brought to the floor.

“An amendment that I insisted we add [to the resolution] was the education of the student body of rape culture, which is one thing I feel we aren’t doing enough to address,” Myers said. “It is not the administration assaulting students. Unfortunately, it is students assaulting students.”

Myers said he hopes to create the committee as a temporary ad hoc committee this semester and make it permanent sometime next year. He said he has already spoken with Title IX Coordinator Gilly Ford about the feasibility of such a committee.

If elected, Myers said he also hopes to improve how ASG functions. He said he feels the current ASG administration has not done all it can.

“I feel that for the last year ASG has been at a standstill,” Myers said.

In addition to the issue of Title IX, MacStudy and Hartwell said they hope to improve handicap accessibility on campus.

As an ROTC cadet, Hartwell said he attends classes and training at Edinboro University, which he believes is far more handicap accessible. MacStudy said this is an important part of ensuring that Allegheny is a welcoming space to all students.

As a senator, MacStudy said he is already working to bring about greater handicap accessibility.

“I am currently working with current ASG President Tess Bracken, [’17], to bring about a converter to the stairs in Brooks Hall to make a cheap, efficient and quick way to make our eating centers more accessible to handicapped students,” MacStudy said.

The converter, according to MacStudy, would be a type of temporary ramp that could be deployed when needed.

Myers said that in addition to Title IX, important issues on campus include fostering better communication between different groups on campus. He said it is important to ensure that every group on campus is heard.

“We believe there are a lot of students’ voices who are not being heard,” Myers said.

To accomplish this, Myers said he and Castellanos plan to implement two new cabinet positions on campus to represent Greek life and student athletes.

MacStudy and Hartwell said they have no plans to create new positions, given the difficulty ASG has in filling all of its current positions.

An audience member asked how each ticket thought they would handle criticism and backlash from students and administration.

Hartwell said his experience within the U.S. Army has given him the skills to effectively delegate responsibility and ensure that those beneath him take enough pride in their work that they will hold themselves accountable. He said it has also taught him to take criticism and responsibility for his own failings.

MacStudy agreed and said it is important to take criticism well and learn from it so that progress can be made.

“One thing I have learned from my years of playing football is you have to learn to take criticism in a positive way,” MacStudy said. “There is no way you will be able to move forward and make progress if you take criticism negatively.”

Castellanos said taking criticism is something that every leader must learn to accept, and that she and Myers knew when they decided to run they would be criticized.

“I think as a leader, you need to know that, that is ok,” Castellanos said.

As a current member of ASG, Myers said he feels he has what it takes to accept criticism and use it to make changes for the better.

“I think that within ASG now as the communications director I am basically the face of any newsletter that goes out, any announcement that goes out, and Facebook livestream that goes out and for most of those I get some heat,” Myers said. “I think being able to take that and improve upon it … proves that as a president I will be able to take criticism and do something positive with it.”

Candidates were also asked how they would address diversity, both within their cabinets and on campus.

Castellanos said part of her family came to the U.S. from Mexico, and being from New Mexico, she grew up in a very diverse environment. She said this upbringing as given her an appreciation for how important diversity is.

“Coming [to Allegheny] was a culture shock because it was so less diverse,” Castellanos said.

In their platform, Myers and Castellanos said they will work to represent underrepresented groups on campus and will encourage dialogues on issues of diversity and difference.   

“I think it is important to bring those people who are marginalized on this campus to the table,” Myers said.

As the only female candidate, Castellanos said she felt she could also offer a unique insight into the needs of women on campus.

MacStudy said he and Hartwell are both committed to having diversity on their cabinet and hearing the concerns of all students.

“It’s not who we are, it’s who we will put around us that will make us successful,” MacStudy said.

Hartwell said that, through ROTC, he has had to collaborate with soldiers and cadets from Puerto Rico, Canada and Germany. He said in such situations it was important to gain an understanding of each individual’s culture and how they dealt with problems. He said he would bring a similar approach to ASG.

“You cannot go into a new situation not having everyone’s opinion heard,” Hartwell said.

During closing statements, Hartwell and MacStudy said their strength as a ticket stemmed from their experience working with administrators and that they have the most experience of the two tickets.

“Matt and I have the experience of working with every administrator on campus, we have it with working with every student organization on campus,” MacStudy said.

MacStudy said that if elected, he and Hartwell plan to augment and continue to cultivate those  relationships.

Hartwell said while he has been careful to represent the interests of his constituents, even when his own opinion differed, he said he will speak out when it is called for. He said it is important to represent what is best for all parties.

“It’s not them, it’s not you, it is us. … If something is wrong, I make it known. I will extend a meeting more than it needs to go to get the answer solved, I am not afraid to do that and that is what is required,” Hartwell said.

In his closing statement, Myers said he feels he can fill the position of president with experience from serving as both a senator and a current cabinet member if he were elected. He said the thing that sets his ticket apart is that he and Castellanos already have plans on how to implement their platform.

Castellanos pointed out in her closing statement that she would be at Allegheny for the entirety of her term, referencing rumors that Hartwell may be going abroad for the fall semester of the 2017-18 academic year.

Following the debate, Hartwell confirmed that he is currently considering studying abroad for a semester in Jordan and should have a decision from the U.S. Army if he can proceed by April.

MacStudy said he and Hartwell have already discussed how they would handle the situation.

“Cabinet would already be in place, so the chief of staff would simply move up,” MacStudy said.

The campaign, according to MacStudy, already has two potential individuals in mind for who could fill the position of chief of staff if they were to move up to fill the position, or might simply fill the vice presidential spot. He declined to name the candidates but said they have been with the campaign since the beginning.

While many may choose to see Hartwell leaving as a negative thing, MacStudy said he chooses to see it as a positive.

“All that means is we have an elected student government official acting as a positive ambassador for our school,” MacStudy said.

Polls for the primary opened on WebAdvisor on Thursday, March 2 and will close at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, March 3. Polls for the general election will open on Thursday, March 9 and close on Friday, March 10 at 4:30 p.m., in the event of a tie or if a write-in candidate receives enough votes. The full platforms for each ticket can be found on the ASG website.