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ASG Presidential slates discuss platforms in virtual debate

Miami University’s Student Body President (SBP) and Vice President (VP) slates met in a Zoom call at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 11, for a debate sponsored by Associated Student Government (ASG) and The Miami Student. 

The three slates consisted of SBP and VP candidates Trey Petrella and Ruku Pal, Madelyn Jett and Aidan McKeon, and Vada Stephens and Lena Giang, respectively. 

Following introductions, the three SBP candidates were asked how they plan to address student wellness outside the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Petrella said he plans to emphasize the university's Campus Cares telecounseling, moving the current Farmer School of Business location to the Armstrong Student Center to increase accessibility and utilization. 

Jett said she plans to improve the first-year experience, along with creating mental health awareness in student organizations, specifically fraternity and sorority life. 

"My first year at Miami was really, really tough," Jett said. "One of our initiatives involves restructuring the first 30 days of the first year experience ... to accelerate belonging among first years."

Stephens discussed plans to expand trauma-informed care training to all health center professionals and to MUPD officers, along with expanding telehealth to Miami students outside the state or country and increasing sexual/interpersonal violence training within fraternity and sorority life. 

"As you guys might expect, the pandemic has placed a lot of tension and added stress upon all of us," Stephens said. 

Petrella said he and Pal plan to bring students together through initiatives like their "Find a Middle Ground" series — videos meant to create conversations between students and staff members of diverse backgrounds and ideologies to help "understand the problems that are currently at Miami's campus."

"Just because we're in a pandemic, we can't turn a blind eye to [these issues]," Petrella said. "We have to address it and talk about those things so we can continue to move forward." 

Jett addressed students' mental health and plans to dismantle the "busy culture" that has been created by online classes. 

"The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us,” Jett said. “Personally, I lost my grandpa a couple weeks ago, who was like a father to me. It absolutely wrecked me. I am grieving, and I will probably be grieving for a long time. I think a lot of students on this campus share that grief and have lost loved ones." 

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Stephens said he plans to look into bettering the university's response to the pandemic and work to create a "Max Vaccination Education Campaign" to encourage students to get the COVID-19 vaccine and provide international students with alternatives to Canvas and Google. 

From there, candidates were asked what their first priority would be once elected.

Petrella said he would focus on their "Finding a Middle Ground" series. Jett said she planned to appoint a Director of Transgender Equity and Inclusion to improve the experience of transgender students at Miami. Stephens said he plans to improve the university's response to acts of hate, seeing its current responses as "performative" and inadequate. 

After this, the SBP candidates were asked specific questions about their campaigns.

Petrella said he wants students to have more access to their elected leaders and intends to bridge the gap between ASG and other student organizations.

He also plans to re-establish student court following its disbanding in 2018.

Jett said she plans to work with the student body, Director of Food and Beverage Brent Mason and Campus Services to address dining dollar flexibility and administrator transparency with respect to meal plans.

"The most important thing we can do here is mobilize the student body with issues that they care about," Jett said. 

Stephens said he plans to create an advocacy fund for student-led social activism. He said there are plans to work with the Office of Alumni Relations and the Division of Student Life to create funds that alumni, businesses and students can donate to. 

"There definitely needed to be support and backing from our university to help push our university into being on the right side of history and fighting for our students," Stephens said. 

From there, each VP candidate was asked a question about the inclusion of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) as one of their campaign pillars. 

Pal said they plan to use their "Find a Middle Ground" series to create a DEI training module specific to Miami, along with working to decrease the burden on students who are a part of marginalized groups. 

McKeon said they plan to celebrate the National Pan-Hellenic Council and Black Greek life through creating spaces for students of color to advocate and work to create actionable changes. 

Giang said they plan to work with the Division of Student Life to improve response efforts as a university through the implementation of a zero-tolerance policy toward hate speech. 

"We cannot take a step back and validate hate groups through accidental things like liking comments on Instagram," Giang said. 

Each VP candidate was also asked how they plan to perform both within and beyond their roles as vice president. 

Pal said she plans to listen to students, communicate their perspectives when working with administration and work on their "Find a Middle Ground" series. 

McKeon said he plans to work with Jett to create bylaws and initiatives, along with working to create more visibility for student artists. 

Giang said since she and Stephens are "complimentary in many ways," they will be able to work toward the same goals with different methods thanks to their different backgrounds and experiences. 

The full debate can be seen here, and more information on the SBP slates can be read here