Has anyone ever said, “There’s never a dull moment in collegiate politics?” If not, they can start now.
The Associated Student Government (ASG) presidential debate on Tuesday, April 12, welcomed two presidential slates. Weinberg third-year Jason Hegelmeyer and SESP second-year Donovan Cusick are running for president and vice president, respectively, on one ticket; Weinberg third-year David Grow and Weinberg second-year Camila Vicens are running on the other. The Daily Northwestern and the Northwestern News Network co-hosted the event and livestreamed it on their respective social media platforms and websites.
The debate took place ahead of ASG’s presidential election this week. Students will be able to vote from 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 14, through 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 16, on Wildcat Connection.
While initially cordial, the debate shifted into eyerolls and tense moments amid discussions of student government experience, personal ideology and what it means to represent the Northwestern student body.
Here are NBN’s four most important takeaways from Tuesday’s discussion.
1. Established experience vs. “a new NU”
Throughout the debate, Hegelmeyer and Cusick’s experiences as ASG members were compared to Grow and Vicens’ promise of “a new voice with new goals.”
Hegelmeyer currently serves as the chair of ASG’s Campus Life Committee and was previously a For Members Only senator, representing Black students on campus. Cusick serves as ASG’s chief of staff and has previously served as a SESP senator and the Election Commission chair. Grow currently serves as ASG's College Republicans senator, while Vicens has not been involved with student government at Northwestern.
Still, Vicens said that her lack of ASG experience was to her advantage.
“A lot of students don’t even know what ASG is,” Vicens said. “At the end of the day, do you want a new NU or the status quo?”
Hegelmeyer stressed the opposite point: Experience is the key to efficient, effective leadership, he said.
“Our continual and existing rapport with [Northwestern administration] will be for benefit,” Hegelmeyer said. “We don’t have to start from square one. We don’t have to build new connections.”
2. Defunding NUPD came up
Grow and Vicens emphasized their campaign’s focus on listening to students and representing the desires of the student body as a whole in response to questions about managing a diverse range of student groups on campus.
“It’s hard to make policies for the entire student population if you’re only looking at specific people,” Grow said.
On the topic of what she called “hot-button” issues like defunding the Northwestern University Police Department (NUPD), Vicens said she and Grow would lean on “data and analytics” to best understand what the student body wants.
“I’m a Black person, and I have personal experiences,” Hegelmeyer said. “I don’t think we have to do a student body-wide survey to tell that campus police make Black and Brown students unsafe on campus.”
After follow-up questions from moderators surrounding the creation of new Senate seats for student groups like NU Community Not Cops, Cusick and Hegelmeyer voiced their support for activist representation in ASG.
“At a predominantly white and wealthy institution, listening only to the majority of voices ultimately means that we’re not listening to minority voices,” Cusick said.
3. So did Greek life. And politics, too
The candidates’ personal involvements in campus politics, student advocacy efforts and Greek life were among the contentious topics discussed.
Hegelmeyer listed advocacy organizations he has been part of, including Planned Parenthood and Fossil Free NU. Hegelmeyer said his advocacy reflects a deep care for marginalized people.
Cusick also said he has been involved with student advocacy groups but did not name specific organizations.
Grow and Vicens both said they had been involved in campus politics, but they assured voters that their political affiliations and beliefs would not interfere with their approach to governing on ASG.
Vicens responded to questions about her thoughts on sororities and fraternities as a member of Kappa Alpha Theta. As the Abolish Greek Life movement continues to highlight systemic inequities within Greek life, especially for students of color, participation in Greek organizations on campus remains contentious.
“As a Latinx individual, my experience [in Kappa Alpha Theta] has been positive,” Vicens said. “I see people making positive changes.”
Cusick pressed Vicens on the issue, asking her to explain what specific changes had been adopted within the sorority. Vicens responded that her organization has been more intentional in recruiting a diverse group of women, and that it is intent on making further improvements in the future.
4. We really, really need some better Wi-Fi
One point that echoed more than any other was Vicens’ call for improved internet connectivity across campus.
As Vicens repeated the word “Wi-Fi” throughout the debate, Hegelmeyer’s facial expressions revealed his disinterest in focusing on the topic, eventually provoking a verbal response.
“We are trying to go beyond talking about Wi-Fi,” Hegelmeyer said.
Vicens took the opportunity to explain the importance of fixing eduroam, Northwestern’s primary Wi-Fi network. Eduroam has faltered and in some cases completely shut down throughout the year, causing distress among students. Once again, her call emphasized the inclusion of the whole student body.
“While we may be accused of doing the basics by touching on Wi-Fi, I think it’s absolutely fundamental to support all voices,” she said.
*Thumbnail photo by Brennan Leach / North By Northwestern