NISG presidential candidates tackle diversity and COVID-19

NISG Candidates Samantha Bennet and Alisanne Struck discuss their platform on NISG’s Facebook live.

EMMA'LE MAAS, Executive Editor

With the NISG presidential election less than one week away, the two presidential nominees debated Wednesday evening covering topics of student advocacy, diversity and involvement.

The debate, which is normally held in person, was a Zoom event that premiered on NISG’s facebook. Although titled as a debate, the video was pre-recorded by both teams, taking a more traditional town hall style instead of back and forth responses.

Each team answered the same questions, and were given one minute to respond. They could work singularly or as a team, while NISG Supreme Court Justice Bekah Bass moderated.

The first section was given to Samantha Bennett and Alisanne Struck. Bennett emphasized the collaboration between her vice president running-mate, “Make no mistake about it this campaign is just as much Alisanne as it is me.”

Bennett recalled their first meeting, and their friendship and bond created ever since as well, “We really bonded over our shared love of sustainability documentaries and coffee… It was really clear to me this was an individual with great ambition and shared drive to do good on campus.”

Their sustainability cause is present in their campaigns as well as their hearts, with their initiative to grow fresh produce through a garden on campus that’ll feed students. Bennett, who has been a part of the garden since her first year, has already begun work on the project to ensure student wellness and food security.

When asked about their skills with working with those who disagree with them, Bennett responded, “Not everybody is going to agree with the decisions being reached, but what we can do is make sure everybody understands how these decisions are being reached.”

Concerning what they feel is the greatest issue on UNI’s campus, Bennett said, “Student wellness is critically important, especially during this current pandemic.”

She continued,

“It is so important that UNI is doing whatever it can to alleviate that stress whenever possible and not contribute to it.”

Bennett promised to take down barriers in place currently between students and those resources, stating “It is so important that UNI is doing what it can to alleviate that stress whenever possible and not contribute to it.”

In a year of division, Bennett and Struck tackled diversity on campus as well. Struck spoke about her own findings, “UNI truly has amazing students at this school. However I would be lying if I said I haven’t seen tokenism and discrimination and racism during my time on campus.”

Struck continued, “Students at UNI aren’t asking for much… I hope I can help diverse students feel seen, heard and valued.”

She also connected back to their platform, citing “we are planning to have equity based work.” Struck expanded, “Ensuring students are equipped with the knowledge to easily report and receive support after instances discrimination, bias and unfair practices.”

Struck concluded, “I definitely hope to improve and accurately represent students of color in this position, and lift their voices to the fullest of volumes.”

Opposing candidates Mummed Shamir Butt and Bilal Hussain took a different approach to this question during their portion, instead citing division amongst political parties.

He continued, “We want everybody to look at each other the same.”

Butt stated, “I would like to stress on both the right and left to take a step back and welcome each other with open arms.”

The political party division is a hallmark in their platform, and was considered one of the three most important issues they find with UNI today.

Butt continued,

“It is the campaign’s greatest goal to make the entire student body come together, and not only come together wholeheartedly.”

Butt and Hussain have a bond “like brothers” which brought together in their cause, “We believe in brotherhood and we believe in advocacy.”

Butt also spoke on mental health advocacy, and talked about his hope to bring services closer to students.

“Mental health problems are arising, and for that very reason we want everyone to have access to a mental health counselor within the quads and dorms.”

The Student Health Center does currently offer 24/7 hotlines, as well as a counselor on call through their website, although not housed in the dorms.

Butt and Hussain also had a different approach to conflicting views, Butt stating, “It is my staunch belief that it a quality of a great mind to be able to entertain the thought without accepting it,” Butt then addressed his runnningmate in saying, “I like to think that we have great minds.”

Addressing involvement on campus, Butt stated, “Students need to implicate a sense of confidence in themselves, which is why we will promote organizations like the United Nations and Model UN Club.”

Regarding COVID-19 guidelines, the pair believe with proper rules instated events can and should take place.

Butt states, “We do believe we want to keep students engaged, we do want to do events on campus because it is our staunch belief that an idle mind or a life with little or no engagement at all is a Satan’s workshop.”

He continues, “We will strive to throw many events on campus, but mind you we will want everyone to wear a mask and we want everyone to follow social distancing guidelines.”

Both candidates had lasting impact hopes. Struck said, “More than any measurable goal that Sam and I hope to achieve is we hope to lead and empower other students.”

Bennett added, “I know personally when I’ve had my low points during my time at UNI it was because I was missing a sense of belonging.” She continued, “Once I did and found that sense of connection, I felt truly good about my time and my decision to attend UNI. That is such a beautiful feeling that cannot be understated and I want every single student to be able to experience that.”

Butt kept his response short, “To live an inclusive, actively diverse and a mentally healthy campus.”

NISG results will be released on Feb. 24 at approximately 7 p.m. and all students are encouraged to take part in the voting process.