2020 ASUN Debate - Fact Check

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.

Last Thursday, the two student election groups running for executive office of the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska participated in a debate. Prior to the ASUN elections on March 10-11, The Daily Nebraskan set out to verify the facts and claims made by the Envision and Progress parties during the hour-long event.

Nebraska Union renovations, Campus Recreation improvements

According to Progress’s presidential candidate William Beck, the proposed Nebraska Union renovations and Campus Recreation improvements would be funded by student fees.

“We support lowering student fees,” Beck said. “This includes projects like the campus rec improvements and includes the union renovation. Both of those are slated to come out of student fees.”

True, kind of. According to an email from Ryan Lahne, director of the Nebraska Unions, ASUN members have been very involved with the union renovation project since its inception in the spring of 2019. Lahne also said ASUN had been in communication with union administration about half of the funds for the $40 million project coming from private funding, such as the NU Foundation, while the other half comes from student fees.

Limited ASUN senate seats

Oscar Canizales, Progress’s candidate for internal vice president, told the debate audience that a current member of Progress was turned down when they attempted to join Envision. Drew Harrahill, Envision’s candidate for the same position, said that this was due to the limited number of senate seats available per college and a rule stating that one party cannot have more than the allotted amount of candidates run.

True. This is affirmed by the Electoral Commission Rules, which state that a Student Election Group can only run one candidate for each available seat. 

“We have over 25-30 students interviewing to work with us; we have to make cuts,” Harrahill said. “We also encourage everybody to apply to any ASUN positions. There are well over 200 positions within ASUN.”

Funding for recognized student organizations

Beck emphasized the importance of supporting RSOs numerous times and said ASUN would financially support them in their endeavors. Roni Miller, Envision’s presidential candidate, countered this, saying it is against university regulations for ASUN to give funding to RSOs.

True. This is in accordance with the University of Nebraska Board of Regents Policies which state, “Student governments may not distribute Fund A monies … to groups or organizations that are not established by and under the direct control of student government.”

Beck then revised his comment and said he meant ASUN would help fund RSO-sponsored events, not RSOs directly.

CAPS and 24-hour services

According to Beck, Progress plans to divert some of the funding used to support the University Program Council toward the University Health Center’s Counseling and Psychological Services. Beck attributed this proposal to long wait times for appointments at the clinic. 

“I’ve talked to plenty of students who have had to wait two, three weeks to actually get an appointment at the CAPS office,” he said. “That’s a problem.”

Miller countered this by saying that CAPS offers same-day appointments for those in crisis, as well as a 24-hour emergency hotline.

True. According to the CAPS website, crisis counselors are available for students experiencing extreme emotional distress, and an on-call therapist is available 24 hours.

In-house counselors for residents

Miller said she was part of a Student Affairs project this past summer that brought a $93,000 grant to place in-house counselors in the residence halls.

True. This year, a graduate student in the Marriage and Family Therapy program was placed in the Abel-Sandoz community to act as an in-house counselor. The university was awarded the grant by Women Investing in Nebraska, and the Office of Student Affairs has expressed interest in using that money to expand the residence counselors to Harper-Schramm-Smith, the University Suites and Knoll Residential Center if the trial goes well.

NU Foundation and fossil fuels

Through our Curious Cornhuskers initiative, a reader asked about what each party thought of the reported $91 million that the NU Foundation has invested in the fossil fuel industry. Harrahill, who is also ASUN’s current speaker of the senate, said he wrote and helped pass a bill encouraging the NU Foundation to consider divesting its stakes in the fossil fuel industry.

True. The NU Foundation has approximately $91 million invested in fossil fuel companies at the moment. The current ASUN senate passed Government Bill 40 on Wednesday, Feb. 26, showing support for the divestiture from fossil fuels.

Pay for graduate assistants

Harrahill, in response to a question about the top concerns for current graduate students, said GAs can make as little as $9,500 per academic year.

False. According to the 2019-20 Guidelines for Graduate Assistantships published by the Office of Graduate Studies, GAs are required to be paid at least $5,000 a semester, for a total of $10,000 per academic year.

“There are so many apartments in Lincoln that are more than 10 grand,” Harrahill said.

Binge drinking at UNL has decreased

Miller said from 1997-2016, binge drinking on campus among all ages dropped from a high of 62% to 37%.

True. According to UNL’s website about the drinking culture on campus, this is an accurate statistic. 

Data supporting a wet campus

During the debate, Beck said he had data from a 2017 study showing wet campuses are safer for students.

“[Transitioning to a wet campus] is, quite frankly, common sense,” Beck said. “If you make UNL a wet campus, students won’t be going off campus to have parties and driving home drunk, if they can do it right here on campus.”

False. The sources Progress has used to fuel its platform of a wet campus come from two articles published on The Daily Nebraskan’s website in 2013 and 2015, according to a text from Beck. He said that he misspoke on the date. However, neither of the cited articles openly supports wet campuses.