ASG candidates talk DEI, sustainability and administration relations at presidential debate


Constituents filled the seats of the Quigley Auditorium to hear presidential candidates Veronica Green, ’23, and Peter Alegre, ’23, answer questions regarding their platforms alongside their running mates — Rudra Schultz-Ray, ’23, and Kyrie Doniz, ’23, respectively. 

The Allegheny Student Government presidential debate took place at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 15. 

Co-Editor-in-Chief of The Campus Roman Hladio, ’23, moderated the debate. ASG Parliamentarian Rachael Harris, ’23, kept time. 

Questions were submitted through a Google Form that closed at 8:00 p.m. on Monday, March 14. Although the questions were not obtained anonymously, they were asked anonymously.

After ASG Attorney General Jack Parker, ’22, outlined debate procedures, Green took the podium to deliver her initial remarks. She explained that she and Schultz-Ray had been meeting with clubs and administration members in the preceding weeks to work on many of their campaign goals — making diversity, equity and inclusion a priority; improving mental health on campus; and creating a safe environment where Title IX is concerned.

If elected, Green hopes to accomplish these items by mandating ASG-sponsored leadership and bias training for club board members, creating a “Wellness Room” on campus and changing Title IX policies to mirror those of other institutions around the United States and to protect survivors of sexual assault.

“The last thing we want to do is give false campaign promises and tell you we can do stuff that’s not within (ASG’s) realm,” Green said. “That’s one of the motivating factors as to why we met with so many admin prior to developing our campaign platform.”

In her ticket’s opening statement, Doniz emphasized her and Alegre’s history of holding leadership roles on campus. Doniz currently holds the positions of Director of Community Relations within ASG, treasurer of Green Students of Color Society and vice president of Women in STEM. As for Alegre, he previously served as Director of Diversity and Inclusion for ASG, is currently the president of the Association for Asian and Asian-American Awareness, and has been at the forefront of the movement to reinstate the Chinese minor following its elimination in the college’s most recent staffing plan.

“Having not only held leadership positions within ASG but in other campus organizations, we deeply understand issues that affect our campus and have developed the competence and skills necessary to succeed in the roles of president and vice president,” Doniz said. “We are more than prepared to engage in conversations with the administration.”

Alegre and Doniz are running on a platform centering student safety and wellness, DEI and ASG accessibility and accountability. To carry out their vision, they plan to have more diverse counselors hired at the Counseling and Personal Development Center, fund improvements to the diversity lounge on campus and allocate ASG responsibilities equitably. 

Question 1: Both tickets espouse support for DEI, campus safety, increased accountability and accessibility, and other student issues. What makes a vote for your ticket any different from a vote for the other ticket?

Green explained that in addition to meeting with organizations in the Culture, Inclusion & Leadership Coalition, she and Schultz-Ray had met with Dean for Institutional Diversity Kristin Dukes to develop strategies, particularly when it came to the aforementioned leadership and bias training.

“I believe that through the actions that we’ve already taken for this campaign, that we have set ourselves apart from the other campaign,” Green said.

In his response, Alegre made clear his and Doniz’s track record of engaging in DEI initiatives, as well as working with CILC groups on campus. He also pointed out that his ticket has met with diversity clubs as well, such as the Association for Caribbean Students, during their campaign.

“Personally speaking, I work with CILC all the time, as an (Association for Asian and Asian American Awareness) president,” Alegre said. “I know what the struggles of CILC clubs are and what struggles of marginalized students are because I am one.”

Through their history of DEI involvement, Alegre said, he and Doniz have learned what Allegheny students need.

Question 2: How will you as candidates handle your positions with all the other responsibilities they entail?

Alegre said that he is already dropping positions and that he has handled a significant workload before in his other roles on campus. ASG will be his and Doniz’s top priority to ensure that they can dedicate the full amount of time to their duties. 

“Our commitments on campus just show how passionate that we are, because we are people that are passionate,” Doniz said. “We want to be involved.”

Green noted her experience with meeting heavy demands, having worked two jobs to pay for college and double minoring. She explained that while she may not have time this year to join clubs outside the ones she is currently part of,  she does have a background of working hard, and she does plan to drop one of her jobs.

Schultz-Ray admitted that he is not “completely booked” and has flexibility with his commitments — an acknowledgement that earned the first laugh of the evening from the audience.

“I would like to say that I have a ton of time which I can dedicate to helping lead ASG,” Schultz-Ray said. 

Question 3: How will you as the heads of ASG make campus a more inclusive space for the LGBTQ+ community?

Schultz-Ray said that at his and Green’s town hall on Thursday, Feb. 24, a constituent discussed the harassment that members of the LGBTQ+ community faced both on and off campus.

“That means it’s not only a situation for improving the campus community, but this is also a situation for having public safety be able to respond and being able to be held accountable for what they do or what they don’t do,” Schultz-Ray said.

Schultz-Ray and Green met with President Link to discuss improving the campus safety website so that students would be able to identify all public safety officers with their names, photos and badge numbers.

Alegre stressed the importance of submitting bias reports in order to bring problems to the administration’s attention. He also mentioned that a constituent informed him that students on campus have repeatedly been deadnamed — the act of referring to one by a name they no longer identify with —  on documents and door placards.

“Residence Life needs to respect people’s chosen names, and so we would have a form or some legislation come out so that Residence Life (makes) sure they put the right names for the right people,” Alegre said.

Question 4: What are you looking for in your cabinet members, and how will you work with them to successfully execute your goals?

Doniz answered that they are seeking driven, passionate people to fill their cabinet, and they will ensure that these people are put in contact with the right administration so that goals may be more readily accomplished.

“We want people that are ready to take on initiatives and bring new ideas to ASG,” Doniz said.

Alegre suggested a campus-wide search for cabinet members, saying that historically ASG cabinet members have fit “specific demographics,” demographics he did not explicitly define but with which he knew constituents were acquainted.

Green also hopes to look beyond ASG for cabinet members, and to find members who are willing to be held to the same standards as she and Schultz-Ray would if elected, such as attending committee meetings with an agenda and responding to emails. 

Schultz-Ray added that the majority of cabinet members are upperclassmen. He and Green included freshmen in their campaign, because he said “they’re the ones that are going to be dealing with our decisions later on.”

Question 5: Following the Chinese minor protest (on Friday, March 4), the message “F— Ron Cole and P. Link” was chalked in front of the Campus Center. How do you plan to interact with this student rhetoric, recognizing its concern but also acknowledging it as valid student criticism?

Schultz-Ray said that “(this student rhetoric is) the effect of boiling-over frustrations with admin,” as the college administration has not comprehended what he described as a communication gap that exists between themselves and the student body. Schultz-Ray said that their ticket has taken steps to foster relationships with the administration, including holding a meeting with Link to express student frustrations.

Alegre — who helped organize the protest as one of the students leading the effort to reinstate the Chinese minor — stressed the importance of acknowledging the feelings that inspired the chalked words.

“Although those messages were inflammatory and inappropriate, those feelings can’t be ignored, and tone policing — that isn’t the response that we need,” Alegre said. “At the end of the day, (the administration needs) to be held accountable for what they’re doing to the Chinese minor and how that’s hurting students more than a chalking is.”

Alegre indicated that he has been unable to meet with President Link since the movement began.  

Question 6: What goals do you have to further sustainability on campus, and do you see any obstacles in those goals?

Doniz hopes to encourage more students to participate in the energy challenge, move away from using fossil fuels on campus, transition to LED lights and install more recycling bins around campus.

“Overall we just want to increase our collaborations with the department of environmental science, work with different organizations like Green SOCS and (Students for Environmental Action), and just overall fund initiatives that they’re interested in funding,” Doniz said. 

In response, Schultz-Ray discussed talking with Director of Sustainability Kelly Boulton, ’02, about recycling on campus. According to Schultz-Ray, Boulton said that Allegheny recycles plastics one — water bottles, medicine containers and other consumer products — and two — heavier containers like shampoo bottles. However, Schultz-Ray said this contradicts what he and Green have observed: people dumping recyclables and trash into one bin. He wants to further work with Boulton to make composting an option at all dorm halls.

Schultz-Ray also took issue with Alegre and Doniz’s plan of replacing current campus lighting with LED lights. He said that while LEDs are more energy efficient, the college still has to replace all the lights, which would become a source of trash and un-recyclable waste.

Question 7: What is your opinion on the cuts in funding to the arts and humanities departments and activities? How would you protect the arts programs here if you take office?

Green referred to these cuts as a “gross” disservice to students, adding that what fosters a culture on campus and brings the college community together is not STEM but rather activities and events revolving around the arts.

“You don’t see people get together to talk about biology, most of the time,” Green said. “It’s to go to a (Student Experimental Theatre) performance, or to go to a (United States Institute for Theater Technology) performance.”

She hopes to ensure that students are attending these events and that these organizations are properly funded.

Alegre condemned the cuts as well. He explained that by cutting in areas he sees as setting Allegheny apart from other schools, the college is sending the message that the arts and humanities are not worth learning.

“(The arts and humanities are) marketed to every single student here —  ‘unusual combinations,’ or ‘mind over major,’” Alegre said. “What Allegheny is doing now is lying to prospective students about the type of leaders and learners that they’re going to be … they’re invalidating that whole section of campus.”

Question 8: Is there anything that can be done about the price-to-quantity ratio of gluten-free foods in dining halls? More broadly, how do you plan on interacting with Parkhurst in that regard?

Alegre said that students are generally not aware of the extent of Parkhurst’s capabilities. He spoke to a student who has attended all of the Allegheny Dining Committee meetings and who told him that students come into these meetings inadequately informed regarding Parkhurst.

“Parkhurst really values his opinion because he knows every single thing about the nuances and what’s going on with Parkhurst,” Alegre said. 

Proposing a formalized committee of students who meet with dining services on campus and understand their issues, Alegre said that new options and dietary-friendly options like gluten-free foods may become more available.

Schultz-Ray noted an improvement in food quality following module one but pointed out that a mislabeling issue still exists. Foods are labeled as gluten-free when in fact they contain gluten.

“The menus that (Parkhurst gives) out, most of the time they’re incorrect,” Schultz-Ray said. “There’s very little vegan and vegetarian options sometimes. Sometimes … the only options for meat are pork.”

Green agreed that what’s served does not always match the menu. 

“I think a big problem that Parkhurst has is accountability of the head chefs who are developing the recipes and who are labeling,” Green said.

After these pre-submitted questions, Hladio opened the floor for students in the crowd to ask questions of their own. 

The first question, asked by Ethan Bell, ’25, was regarding the Green – Schultz-Ray’s ticket’s “Wellness Room” proposal. Bell questioned the usefulness of investing money into a new space  given that spaces like the IDEAS Center already exist.

In her response, Green said that revamping the IDEAS Center was an option, but that the center would have to be okay with these renovations first, and that she and Schultz-Ray would have to speak to the IDEAS Center further about this.

Though the question was directed at the Green-Schultz-Ray ticket, the Alegre-Doniz campaign was given a chance to speak on the topic. Doniz said that her ticket would be working with administration and the board of Grounds For Change and other spaces to see if their mental health initiatives are feasible. 

Alegre suggested that Reis Hall be turned into something more permanent, as opposed to a pop-up pub, and that the Schultz East Alcovel be converted into a space.

The second question, asked by Syd Hammerman, ’25, concerned their discomfort with ASG. They perceived student government as hostile and inaccessible, and wanted to know how each ticket would make ASG accessible and open outside of office hours.

Joining ASG as a sophomore, Doniz felt a similar coldness and lack of connection with her cabinet members. Doniz brought up the idea of “taking time to approach people as they are” and recruiting students across campus to fill their committees and cabinet. 

Schultz-Ray suggested an anonymous feedback system for students to provide information, attending club meetings if invited, and involving underclassmen in student government.

In his closing remarks, Alegre said that students are disillusioned with the difference between the picture of the “promised Allegheny” of the school’s marketing and what he called the “real Allegheny,” the latter he described as a school of staff cuts and the removal of majors. 

“This school is complacent in burdening its most vulnerable, but promising an Allegheny advantage to all,” Alegre said. “Our community, Allegheny’s strongest asset, has never been more fractured than it is today. And where is the administration in the midst of all this? Universally, we have heard … that the administration does not care.”

Having served previously in ASG himself, and with Doniz as a current cabinet member, Alegre said that he and his running mate know the power that ASG holds as the voice of the students and emphasized that despite the defamation and scrutiny they have faced as a result of their campaign, they have not dropped out of the race. ASG must undergo a transformation to truly exemplify representation amid the student body, he continued.

“ASG does not have to be the steadily elitist organization years past have proved it to be,” Alegre said. “We must take radical action to redefine student government’s role on campus and make it instrumental towards community and coalition building.”

Green, in her closing statement, reiterated the fact that she and Schultz-Ray had held multiple meetings with members of the administration in preceding weeks, as well as stated how she found the administration to be willing to work with students. Her ticket aims to foster a collaborative relationship with college leadership in order to accomplish goals.      

“Whenever we put admin in a position where they have to defend themselves rather than in an open environment where they are free to collaborate with us … we stonewall ourselves into not getting anything done,” Green said. 

Green also voiced her hopes of giving voice to students that hitherto were not included in the conversation in student government.

“We’d like to continue this initiative of not only enhancing the communication between … ASG and the students, but also admin and branches of the administration to the students,” Green said. “What we need as students from the administration is we need them to find us.”