2020 ASUN Debate

Candidates from the Progress and Envision parties answer questions during the 2020 ASUN Debate on Thursday, March 5, 2020, at the Nebraska Union in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The executive candidates for Association of Students of the University of Nebraska student election groups Progress and Envision discussed their main goals for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln at a debate Thursday.

The event took place from 7-8 p.m. in the Swanson Auditorium of the Nebraska Union and was moderated and produced by The Daily Nebraskan. Many of the questions directed to candidates were asked by readers through The Daily Nebraskan’s Curious Cornhuskers initiative, and the debate was livestreamed on both Facebook and Instagram. 

Representing the Envision student election group were Roni Miller, a junior political science and Spanish double major, Drew Harrahill, a junior biochemistry major, and Saisha Adhikari, a junior biology and psychology double major. They are running for president, internal vice president and external vice president, respectively.

Representing Progress were William Beck, a sophomore political science major, and Oscar Canizales, a freshman criminology and criminal justice major, running for president and vice president. 

Progress revealed its top priority in response to the first question of the night, which asked what the elected president would plan to do with the position as a student regent on the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.

“Two words: wet campus,” Beck said.

Later on, Beck said making UNL a wet campus was Progress’s signature issue. Progress has named reducing alcohol-related incidents on-campus as a reason to make the transition.

In rebuttal, Miller spoke to the various responsibilities associated with being a student representative on the Board of Regents, which include offering a student perspective on several different board initiatives.

“The goal of student regent encompasses much more than just specific issues that each party would like to represent,” she said. 

Both parties expressed that they wanted to increase transparency between ASUN and the student body, though they differed in their methods. Envision said it planned to begin livestreaming ASUN’s weekly meetings or holding booths in the Nebraska Union for students to ask questions about the bills they pass.

Progress responded by saying that it wanted to make the process of running for office more transparent and make it easier for those without prior experience to run for office. 

When it came to student fee allocation, Progress and Envision differed greatly in their plans. Beck said Progress planned to shift funding from the University Program Council and use it to hire more counselors for Counseling and Psychological Services at the University Health Center.

“[CAPS] does need more funding,” Beck said. “I’ve talked to plenty of students who have had to wait two to three weeks to get an appointment at the CAPS office.” 

Envision, however, wants to take more preventative measures when it comes to mental health, such as having counselors in the residence halls. Miller also pointed out that there are same-day appointments available at CAPS for students in crisis, as well as a 24-hour emergency hotline.

“We could triple the amount of counselors that we have, and that won’t solve our problem,” Harrahill said. “This is a much bigger issue than just throwing money at the problem.”

Progress cited its outsider perspective as one of the group’s greatest strengths, saying it was difficult for those not currently in ASUN to run for office. Envision, on the other hand, said that the experience of its party, composed of both ASUN veterans and newcomers, is a strength as well.

“Our experience [at UNL] has really been grounded in our understanding of the campus, through our three years at the university and our interaction with an array of students on a multitude of issues,” Miller said in her closing statement.

Beck gave Progress’ closing statement, reiterating his platform of bringing an outsider perspective to ASUN.

“We want to overthrow the status quo,” he said. “We’re here to represent fresh, new ideas.”

The ASUN election will take place from March 10-11, and students will be able to access the ballot through MyRED.