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Key takeaways from this year’s CUSG presidential debate

Emma Vick, News Editor

On Feb. 28, the Student Body President and Vice President Debate was held in Tillman Auditorium with both sets of running-mates. 

Two tickets for student body president talked about campuswide issues like administration-student relations, diversity and inclusion, sustainability and commuter parking at Tuesday’s debate in the Tillman Hall auditorium.

Ashley McCollum, a junior biological sciences major, and running mate Clark Reboul, a junior computer information systems major, engaged in an hour-long debate against opposing candidate Calvin Paulsen and running mate Angeline Chen, both bioengineering majors.

When asked if they believed there was an apathy issue on campus, Reboul suggested that there was not a lack of apathy, but a lack of cohesion.

“People are passionate, but we need to get everyone on the same page,” Reboul said. McCollum followed by expressing her interest in hosting frequent general body meetings to gain more perspective from students.

Reboul specifically noted the importance of involvement on campus from freshmen and sophomores from the Bridge-to-Clemson program, ensuring that new students are aware of the resources offered by the University.

Paulsen also touched on this idea, stating that Bridge students should feel represented by the student government and welcomed into the Clemson community. He pointed out that in order for students to give back to Clemson, they must feel recognized and included.

To promote a campus where students feel engaged with their peers and with the University, Paulsen wants to improve TigerQuest and keep it up to date with opportunities for involvement on campus. Students should feel as though they have more to do beyond going to bars downtown, Paulsen said.

Chen wants to change the means of communication between the University and students, calling their emails “spam-y” and pushing towards other methods like social media, group chats and even physical flyers spotlighting student events.

When asked why they were the best choice for student body president and vice president, Paulsen highlighted the skills that he and Chen have learned as engineering students, assuring that they have the combined experience and leadership qualities to hold the respective positions. Chen used this time to discuss the necessity of having a diverse campus and the importance of students feeling welcomed and heard. 

Reboul explained that he and McCollum are the best choice for student body president and vice president because simply put, they get along very well. They expressed their wish to provide an opportunity for all voices to be heard, not only students in leadership positions, and plan to serve as a liaison between the student body and the administration.

McCollum declared that all groups must be represented, regardless of any factor. “We don’t take this lightly,” McCollum said. 

Both tickets recognized parking on campus as an issue. As a commuter herself, McCollum touched on the lack of honest communication and transparency coming from the University, reiterating the importance of holding the administration accountable.

If elected, she plans to work with the Student Senate on improving communication between the University and students regarding campus parking.

Paulsen highlighted the impact of University on-campus parking projects, acknowledging that students typically do not hear of University projects until they are in the works.

“How can we insert ourselves into the dialogue?” Paulsen asked, expressing his hope to have a seat at the table when these projects are being planned and join the dialogue on the behalf of the students. 

Another point of agreement between the candidates was the need for more inclusivity on campus.

Chen referred to Clemson as a PWI, a predominantly white institution, sharing that she frequently finds herself to be the only non-white person upon entering a room. She spoke about the importance of clear action being taken against discrimination and hate speech and plans to promote cultural events on campus where students can learn more about each other. 

McCollum mentioned that, if elected, she would be the first African American woman elected as the Student Body President and wants to be seen as an example for women of color. She stated that she would put her foot down and will not graze over discussions on diversity inclusion on campus. Reboul and McCollum also hope to partner with other organizations, such as the NAACP, and work on forming a black caucus at Clemson. 

Paulsen and Chen heavily advocated for sustainability during the debate, recognizing that Clemson is unique because it offers recycling and composting services. They hope to educate students about what sustainability means and how it works on campus, pointing out that Clemson’s resources work only if the students know about them.

During the closing arguments, Reboul and McCollum shared their aspiration that all Clemson students wear the Tiger Paw with pride. The students of Clemson University are not just a number and should feel like their voice matters, according to McCollum. Reboul stated that Clemson is his home, and he wants to give back to the place that has given him so much.

Paulsen and Chen closed by describing their campaign initiatives in three words: affordability, inclusivity and sustainability. Paulsen emphasized that their work as student body president and vice president would not end with their term.

“Our actions today will shape the future of Clemson,” Paulsen said.

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