Members of the three ASUO slates running in the 2019-2020 election advocated for their policy positions and questioned those of their opponents in a frequently heated and adversarial election debate in Global Scholars Hall on Tuesday night.
A debate is held every spring before voting begins, which will be open to UO students on DuckWeb April 8 to 11. The presidential and vice presidential candidates of Ducks Empowered, UO is Yours and Oregon Alliance answered questions from the debate moderator, the Emerald’s outreach director Emily Poole, and took questions from audience members. While the slates outlined and clarified their platforms and answered policy questions, they also responded to claims and challenges from opponents.
Sabinna Pierre and Montse Mendez, Ducks Empowered’s respective president and vice president, identified their main goals as ensuring that marginalized groups on campus received equal representation in classrooms and access to mental health treatment. They also advocated for increased stipends for student leaders, and fair student pay in general. Pierre is the current vice-chair of the EMU Board, while Mendez serves as senate president.
"I want students to understand they hold the knowledge and the key. I want students to be educated and be involved in the tuition process. I want students to be involved and start conversations and understand how things work so we can make this campus a better place for future generations to come," Pierre said.
Joey Alongi, Oregon Alliance’s presidential candidate, and vice presidential candidate Michael Kraan explained that they had issues with the direction and leadership of the current ASUO administration, criticizing what they perceived as wasteful spending and exclusionary practices. Alongi was formerly in the College Democrats and Kraan was a member of the College Republicans. They said their slate would focus on fiscal responsibility, increased transparency within ASUO and fair representation of different demographics on campus. Alongi also emphasized his prior political experience.
“I've been politically active since day one on this campus on the state, local and national level politics,” he said.
Katie Quines and Gracia Dodds, candidates for president and vice president, respectively, for UO is Yours, highlighted the importance of fighting for graduate student financial support and the GTFF, starting a food assistance program called No Duck Hungry and expanding protections against sexual misconduct.
UO is Yours’ platform focused heavily on the importance of including graduate students’ voices in conversations.
"These folks are vital to the university and making our university function, yet they face huge under-representation in living wages, in resources on campus and that's something that we really wanted to focus on with our campaign," Dodds said.
Quines added that her mother is a K-12 educator in Oregon and that she was on the picket lines, advocating in Salem for education funding.
Quines and Dodds added that they were both on the fraternity and sorority life sexual violence prevention board and that they wanted to change systems from within.
Ducks Empowered and UO is Yours each emphasized the importance of advocating for marginalized students and inclusion.
"I decided to run for president because for so long I was so tired of having my identity tokenized as a woman of color on this campus," Quines said, adding that she was inspired to run this year because of the diversity in last year’s slate.
Mendez made several references to Kraan’s affiliation with Turning Point USA, a non-profit for conservative activists on college campuses. Mendez said that Turning Point mocked safe spaces in the past and created a watchlist of what the organization viewed as liberal activist professors. Kraan responded by saying that he had distanced himself from Turning Point because of the organization’s tactics.
“I do not buy into their brand of politics,” Kraan said.
At the end of the debate, an audience member asked Kraan about a photo that included Adolf Hitler on his Facebook page from March 2018. Kraan said that the photo was in reference to when Parkland High School student and gun control activist David Hogg raised his fist at a conference.
“Why would you raise your fist?" Kraan said in response. "I took issue with the symbolism of the raised fist that he presented at the conference. I’ve never had that as my cover photo — ever.”
A post on Kraan’s Facebook page in March 2018 makes a reference to Hogg’s salute:
“It is beyond concerning that the face of this anti-gun movement, David Hogg, uses a salute that has been used by brutal totalitarian regimes true American patriots fought and died to destroy. His toxic ideology must be stopped,” Kraan wrote in the post.
Kraan said that he would talk to the audience member if they wanted further clarification on his politics.
The slates also discussed their opinions on a bill in the Oregon state legislature that would disarm the University of Oregon and Portland State University’s police departments, university sexual misconduct treatment policies, the transparency and accessibility of ASUO’s current administration and the Boycott, Divest and Sanction resolution.
BDS was one of the more divisive topics of the night, with the discussion over the resolution eliciting tension from candidates and the audience. Oregon Alliance opposed BDS, arguing that it was responsible for fostering anti-Semitism on campus.
Pierre and Mendez justified the resolution by noting that it was about advocating for human rights as a “peaceful boycott,” with Mendez noting that although the resolution was passed by the Senate, it was struck down by the ASUO Constitution Court in February. “It’s essentially a human rights movement that’s holding the Israeli government accountable,” Pierre said. “The emphasis here is human rights.”
UO is Yours carried a similar sentiment, explaining that it was important to fairly represent both sides of the issue.
Both Ducks Empowered and UO is Yours said they each supported the disarm bill because it would make students of color feel safer on campus. Mendez said the bill would still allow police to use guns if needed, but ideally they should not carry lethal weapons on patrol.
“But for the most part, they should be patrolling with tasers and pepper spray at all times to ensure that students of color actually feel safe on the campus,” Mendez said.
“Let’s not mince words, cops are fucking racist,” Quines said.
Despite their different policy positions on hotly debated topics, all slates agreed that students should have more of a voice in tuition and ASUO processes.
"I agree with what both my competitors said — that having more awareness on campus, having more students involved and having more students passionate enough to show up and to come out and to speak up on tuition hikes is hugely beneficial for everybody,” Alongi said.
Editor's note: This article was updated on Wednesday afternoon to clarify that Ducks Empowered wants to increase stipends for all student leaders and that UO is Yours wants to start the No Duck Hungry program.