USG Debate demonstrates Imagine and POP’s strengths and weaknesses
This year’s Baruch College Undergraduate Student Government debate, held on April 15 in the college cafeteria, questioned the two parties running for the 2019-2020 term — Power of the People — or POP! — and Imagine Baruch. The questions were asked anonymously and came from The Ticker staff, students who submitted their questions via a Qualtrics Form and students who attended the debate.
Hosted by The Ticker and moderated by Editor-in-Chief Yelena Dzhanova, the debate featured presidential candidates, Dakshata Daggala and Jeremy Berman, along with candidates for vice president positions from both parties, to address the concerns of students.
The candidates started with a quick introduction explaining why they are running for each of their respective positions. Daggala, a sophomore who is currently serving as chair of clubs and organizations in the current USG, explained that she hopes to be able to use her experience with club life and extend that to all students as president.
Berman, a junior who is involved in both the Hillel and TAMID, as well as the Baruch tennis team, said he hopes to bring about change to the Baruch community for years to come.
When asked about some of their initiatives they hope to implement if elected, Berman emphasized one of Imagine Baruch’s main goals to create a Baruch app for students to access every resource they need. He also expressed wanting to implement more specialized career fairs, extend the walk-in hours at the Starr Career Development Center and having more classes for tutoring available at the Student Academic Counseling Center.
A student anonymously followed up with a question later by asking, “Does the team understand that you don’t have jurisdiction over SCDC and SACC?” to which executive vice president candidate Larry Likhtenstein stated, “I think at the end of the day, we still have the ability to talk to faculty and give what the students want to them. Just because we can’t literally make them do something doesn’t mean we don’t have a say in the school.”
The candidates for vice president of various committees who were present also explained their own personal initiatives that they would like to focus on if elected. Ramy Gadelsayed, who ran for vice president of campus affairs, expressed that he would not like to share any information because he doesn’t want to give false promises.
Transparency was a key issue that was addressed. “I think a huge thing about transparency is everyone knowing what’s going on inside,” Likhtenstein said. “The biggest thing for us is really making an app which has everything — having a one-stop shop for Baruch, having a suggestion box and student polls, having one of our first meetings just being open for all students to come and give us ideas.” Likhtenstein also mentioned posting the USG senate meeting minutes on the app instead of just the website.
POP! candidate for executive vice president Joshua Castillo jumped in by saying that his team was careful about putting transparency as one of its values on its platform. “We were very, very hesitant because it's something that’s promised consistently, but in terms of executing, we thought let’s not necessarily concentrate on talking about how transparent we’ll be, but rather execute on it. So, we’d much rather show, not tell.”
The two teams also expressed that if elected, they would be willing to talk to The Ticker about what’s going on and keep students informed.
Resignations are also big factor in how transparency plays out. Likhtenstein explained the methodology in which Imagine choose its team. “We tried to go around and see students who are very involved on campus but also trying to find students who crave to be involved with USG but didn't have a foot in,” he said. “Another huge point is that in those people that we look for, we had to make sure these people were passionate, and they understood how much work USG is. I'm trying very hard for us to have as little, if not, no resignations at all.”
Castillo followed up by saying that “resignations are a factor only controllable to a certain extent because at the end of the day, people are people and they're going to have what they believe to be their valid reasons to resign. And we can't hold them super, super accountable for having to stay in that position because they were elected in. What we can do is explain thoroughly about the time commitment, about the effort that you need to put in to be in that position of leadership, and that is all that you can hold them over.”
When asked how many people from their respective executive boards attended a senate meeting, the two parties said that all of their members have attended. The Ticker cannot confirm nor deny this statement.
Both parties have been in contact with past USG members of their desired positions. Daggala has been in contact with current USG President Radhika Kalani while Berman has been in contact with last year’s USG President Isabel Arias.
“For me it was really important not to kind of assume the role and so my conversations specifically about the executive vice president and been really limited because I don’t want to do that again. I think it’s important to do that after,” Castillo said.
Both parties’ members fell silent when asked what the CUNY Board of Trustees does and their stance on NYPIRG, a nonprofit, advocacy group that focuses on public education.
The two teams’ stance on Greek life was also vague. Neither team had formulated an opinion on whether to reinstate the social fraternities and sororities because regardless of the USG election results, the moratorium on social Greek life will continue until 2021.
In the recent event of Pre-Recorded Friday Nights, a Baruch club that produces skits similar to the popular show Saturday Night Live, in which President Marwa Mouaki had implied saying the n-word in a video posted on the club’s Instagram page, POP! members were questioned as to why she was running on their team.
“[Mouaki] had joined the party before the situation had gone down and it was up to her whether or not she’d like to be a part of this party,” Daggala explained. “We don't condone her racial remarks, but we do support her as a person and we believe that people can change and people have an opportunity to work on themselves.”
When asked about how the candidates will continue to remain active if they don’t get elected into their positions, Daggala said that “title does not mean anything, it’s how much passion you put into it.”
“I am not defined by my title — I can still do something outside of my title and make a difference,” Castillo added. Both Likhtenstein and candidate for vice president of legislative affairs Gregory Usvitsky said they would continue being active by joining a USG committee and helping the succeeding student government.
In the possibility of a mixed team, Daggala expressed that it shouldn’t be a problem. “I think regardless of party, people who are running want change at Baruch,” she said. “So as long as everyone is willing to work together to get these initiatives to happen, I don't see any problem.”
“Once you're in USG, you’re in USG, you’re one family and you have to be unified and work together,” Berman added.
A livestream of the debate is available on The Ticker’s Facebook page.