NISG debate: Elle, Rachel talk platform


This year’s Northern Iowa Student Government (NISG) debate wasn’t so much a “debate” as a town hall.

The event traditionally gives competing presidential tickets the chance to debate their platforms and plans for the university. However, since Elle Boeding and Rachel Greene are the only ticket running for student body and vice president, this year’s event, hosted in the Maucker Union Coffeehouse at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 19,  featured Boeding and Greene discussing their platform with students.

NISG Chief Justice Bekah Bass served as the moderator for the evening. After attendees had a half hour period to talk informally with those running for senator positions, Bass began the presidential portion of the evening by giving Boeding and Greene the chance to introduce themselves. She then asked the pair about an original initiative which they hope to accomplish.

Boeding described their plan to create and implement a publicized list of chosen names, pronouns and name pronunciations for all students, to be used by all professors on campus.

“Your name is your identity,” Boeding said.

She stated that using chosen names is an easy way to make students feel as comfortable as possible on campus.

Student comfort and success came through in every answer Boeding and Greene offered throughout the night. When Bass asked what they want their legacy to be at UNI, Boeding emphasized that the two “care deeply about student success.”

“I want every student we encounter to know that they are cared for,” she said.

Greene agreed, stating that she hopes to create a campus culture where students are proud to be Panthers.

“I want to make students feel more than happy with the decision that they made to come to UNI,” she said.

Bass then moved to audience questions, which covered topics from campus sustainability to Boeding and Greene’s plans to improve NISG.

Boeding stressed that her goal is to make NISG more accessible and transparent for students and to help students feel that NISG is something with which they can be involved, regardless of prior experience.

“For me as someone who has been passionate about social justice and politics and making things better for other people for my entire life, [the fact that] I didn’t get involved until this year because I didn’t think that I could is not okay,” Boeding said.

She added that as president and vice president, she and Greene want to ensure that all students know who their NISG representatives are, how to contact them and how NISG allocates funding for student organizations.

Several questions asked Boeding and Greene to comment on their plans to address budget cuts and hold higher administration accountable. Boeding stressed that as president, she would focus on asking “the hard questions” as soon as possible, before decisions are made which affect students.

“[We need] to ask why ‘because that’s the way it’s always been done’ is an okay answer, and [be] okay with challenging that,” she said.

Greene added that in holding administration accountable, she and Boeding would take their cue from the work initiated by the Racial and Ethnic Coalition (REC) throughout this academic year. She said that REC has set a strong example of how to engage with university administration on student concerns.

As an all-female ticket, Greene said that she and Boeding feel honored to represent a demographic — both women in general and women of color — who may not have previously seen themselves in positions of power on campus.

“As a black woman, there’s very little representation of me anywhere on this campus, let alone in NISG,” she said. “We just want to make sure that we do everyone proud.”

However, the pair also recognized that there are issues on which they cannot speak from personal experience, and that student voices are crucial.

“[We want to] ensure that we’re actually listening to what students are saying, and not assuming that we know what they say, because that has been a systemic issue on this campus: white individuals not knowing what the actual experience is and then thinking that they can speak on behalf of that experience,” Boeding said.

Bass concluded the evening by reminding students to vote in the NISG elections, which will be held Feb. 25 through 26 in MyUNIverse.