As part of our initiative called Curious Cornhuskers, readers asked The Daily Nebraskan multiple questions related to the platforms and ideas of the Progress and Envision student election groups running for the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska.
The seven leftover questions were asked through The Daily Nebraskan’s #CuriousCornhuskers hashtag on Twitter and through The Daily Nebraskan’s website. Three focused on Progress, one focused on Envision, two focused on both campaigns and another related to the powers of the ASUN office at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“What does ASUN have control over on campus?”
Current ASUN President Emily Johnson said ASUN has broad control, but it specifically controls the amount of University Program and Facilities Fees students pay each year, as well as internal ASUN operations. Larger policy matters, she said, require collaboration and understanding with other groups on campus or in the community, including the Board of Regents, university administration and the State Legislature or City Council.
Johnson said being a student regent gives the ASUN president direct access to the Board of Regents, the highest level of university governance, but the position does not explicitly extend the control and power of ASUN.
She said ASUN can act as a lobbyist for larger change with other entities, such as encouraging the University of Nebraska system to divest from fossil fuels or working with the State Legislature on a bill to lower the age of majority for healthcare decisions. The senate cannot make these changes itself.
“I would stress that building relationships with faculty/administration and understanding institutional power structures is the most important part of making any change,” Johnson said in a text.
“How would making UNL’s campus wet improve the mental health of UNL, with many students suffering from alcohol disorders?” and “Progress, would you consider a university referendum before publicly lobbying for a wet campus?”
During the debate, Progress’s executive candidates said making UNL a wet campus was their signature issue.
Due to ASUN terms only lasting a year, Progress executive candidates said in a statement that by the time a referendum related to UNL becoming a wet campus would appear on the ballot for next year, it would be too late to enact the change. If elected this week, they said Progress itself would be the campus referendum.
The candidates said they will work with Nebraska Athletics by asking the department to donate some of its revenue from potential alcohol sales at Memorial Stadium to UNL. They said the donation money would go toward making alcohol education services possible to any student who wants it.
“Students already are drinking on campus,” Progress said in an email, “so it’s best that we recognize that and get them the help they need, instead of turning a blind eye to the problem.”
“Envision said no one on their ticket had affiliations with political organizations on campus. Do they believe that it is bad for students to have/share their voices and opinions on and off of campus?”
During the debate, Envision made reference to Progress presidential candidate William Beck’s affiliation with Turning Point USA, an American conservative nonprofit and recognized student organization of which he is the president, that sparked an exchange between the two parties.
Envision executive candidates said in a statement that ASUN does not prevent involvement in other organizations on campus, and they did not turn away any students when forming their campaign. Instead they looked for student leaders active in other organizations on and off campus, according to the statement.
“From multicultural RSOs, state capital internships, nonprofit volunteering and more, one of the strongest aspects of Envision is our members’ activity in the community,” Envision said in an email. “We value, most of all, integrity and fair representation.”
Envision candidates said they see concern with Beck’s affiliation because of Turning Point USA’s alleged history of influencing college student government elections for its own benefit. Envision said they understand UNL’s chapter of TPUSA does not have the same values as the national organization, but they are worried that image is brought to UNL’s campus.
Beck said he has had no connection with the national organization, but Envision said the question for voters is whether Progress will work for the benefit of students impartially or work for the benefit of the organizations they are associated with.
“We are in the midst of the climate crisis. If elected, what will you do to push UNL to take climate action?”
Envision executive candidates said sincere sustainability is one of their platform pillars and Envision is committed to tangible, sustainable change. Envision’s internal vice presidential candidate Drew Harrahill wrote the ASUN bill urging UNL to divest from fossil fuels, which demonstrates Envision’s commitment to change and action, according to Envision’s statement.
Envision said it will commit to zero-waste ASUN events and encourage other RSOs to do the same, as well as reduce single-use plastic use on campus, promote and partner with campus initiatives to increase awareness for climate action, transition UNL’s news subscriptions to online-only and continue discussions with the entire NU system regarding sustainability.
“We are the only party with Green Fund Selections Committee members and an undeniable track record of prioritizing sustainability,” Miller said in an email.
Progress executive candidates said that while they have not worked with Sustain UNL on campus, Sustain UNL has done excellent work in getting two referendum questions on this year’s election ballot. The candidates said their party will respect the results of the election and work to carry out whichever outcome receives a majority. Next year, the candidates said they hope ASUN will recognize the work of Sustain UNL and other RSOs with specific policies.
“What are your plans about combating the coronavirus?”
Chancellor Ronnie Green and other UNL administrators created a plan regarding precautions to novel coronavirus to promote student safety, including the cancellation of spring international study abroad programs. Both Envision and Progress said they support Green in the decisions he makes.
Progress candidates said they will look to other dedicated, health-focused RSOs on campus for their ideas as well.
“Now, it is important that we reassure the student body that now is not the time to panic,” Beck said in an email.
Envision candidates said they would support all decision-makers, including Green, in their policy changes as the situation develops to ensure student safety is a top priority.
“We are not experts when it comes to the coronavirus, nor do we want to pretend like we are,” Miller said in an email. “Consequently, it would be irresponsible of us to make these decisions without careful planning and leadership by those who know what to do.”
“Progress, are you planning to halt union and [Campus Recreation] renovations or find other money? How do you plan to do this?”
Progress said it has no plans to halt the renovations but hopes to find a solution for funding without placing the financial burden on students. Beck said some student fees will be put directly toward the renovations, while other funds would need to be fundraised.
ASUN elections begin at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, March 10, on MyRED and will end at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 11.