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NISG candidate platforms reviewed by past election correspondent, Corey Cooling

Corey Cooling, Guest Columnist

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Aaron Friel: Two UNI alums have graciously offered to write reviews of the candidate platforms this year. Corey Cooling is a Class of 2015 graduate with degrees in physics and philosophy. As an alum of Northern Iowa Student Government, he served as a Senator, campaigned for President, and served as the Election Commissioner in his last year. Cooling also served on the Student Service Fee Committee for 3 years. Jamal White and Tristan Bernhard’s campaign (“Jamal-Tristan”) is available at jtfornisg.com. Maggie Miller and Danielle Massey’s campaign (“Miller & Massey”) is available at millermassey.com.

Looking at the platforms for both candidates, I’m hoping to share what I see as the highlights as well as the priorities for the candidates. I’m looking for where the candidates agree or disagree, the level of detail of their plans, as well as my take on issues we see raised in platforms year after year. When the candidates write and publish their platforms, there is a tendency to be overly optimistic about the power of not only NISG but faith in what can be done over the course of a single school year. I’ll give each ticket a grade on their Ideas, Plans of Action, Relatable to students, how Realistic their plans are, and their Enthusiasm.

Jamal-Tristan Review

First, I looked at Jamal and Tristian’s platform on their website. What’s interesting is that they have a page with just the broad categories, but with very little detail, and then a separate PDF page that is much longer and explanatory. Considering their target demographic, college students, I think this is clever.  I’ll focus on their “Full Platform” where they begin with a vision statement about “What it means to be a Panther.” This part kind of grosses me out because your typical student probably won’t look to NISG for a definition of “Panther-hood” but nonetheless it does show some enthusiasm.

At first I didn’t like their section on Diversity because it had all of these headings about different student groups and what their focus is. But later I realized that this is the meat and potatoes of their platform. More than their vision statement, this demonstrates to students of various backgrounds that they see you, and they hear you. One thing I really appreciate is their plank on international students, where they acknowledge that they don’t want to use international students as props — “put them in a box”. This shows that they realize tokenism is a problem at UNI, and this is a sign of maturity and understanding.  This section is really the thesis of their platform, so if you like what you see here, they might be the candidate for you.

Looking at their other sections, they don’t offer the level of detail on their plans as the first section on Diversity, and the other sections suffer a bit because of it. They have a whole section dedicated to safety, which I’m not comfortable with. I don’t think it’s within NISG’s power to make students “feel safe” on campus, and I think we should focus on things we have control over, like counseling services and other support for students. It’s sad to say, but one random incident happened on campus, students would feel unsafe, and then what is NISG supposed to do then?  I think we should leave this to the professionals, considering everything else NISG is supposed to do.

Their section on student engagement falls a little guilty to optimistic thinking about getting students to care about stuff on campus. This is something we see year after year from candidates, but nothing really changes. Unless you have an idea that is truly groundbreaking and are willing to make it a top priority, not much is going to change on this front. My favorite thing from this section is the plank about making student fees more transparent. One thing most students don’t know is that NISG has complete control over the student fee structure — this is a rare example of something that should be done and can be done easily.

The Mental Health and Miscellaneous sections round out the rest of the platform, and there isn’t much to say here. The mental health planks look and sound very good, but NISG likely doesn’t have the resource or authority to do many of these things. One thing we could do is raise student fees for the counseling center — especially if increased state money isn’t coming soon. Would J&T be willing to raise fees to increase the staffing at the counseling center? The Miscellaneous section looks like a list of ideas they couldn’t fit anywhere else. The listed “Tiered’ funding bullet seems like a really big deal, but there isn’t any detail about how that would work here. It shows they have an abundance of ideas, which is good, but it’s not clear from the platform what their priorities are going to be.

Overall, I would say the platform put together by the J&T team is better than platforms we typically see, even if it is guilty of some of the stereotypical “NISG optimism.”  It’s difficult to convince students that many of these things can be done, but perhaps J&T can win students over with their energy and abundance of ideas.

Ticket grade for Jamal-Tristan:

Ideas: B
Plans of Action: C
Relatable: A
Realistic:  C
Enthusiasm: A

Miller & Massey Review

After reading the platform of the Miller & Massey campaign, it appears that the Last-Name-Ladies and J&T have many of the same ideas. Things such as gender-neutral housing, a system of designating large student orgs differently (Sponsored vs Tiered), making a better NISG website, Find Your Involvement, increasing counseling services, late night study areas and getting more funding from the State/Board of Regents. So all of this is going to get done either way, right?

Looking that the M&M platform, they instead took the middle road of a sleek condensed platform that offers details but doesn’t promise everything under the sun. This demonstrates a style difference from the other ticket, focusing on a smaller number of items but with greater detail.  Their platform begins with a strong ‘thesis’ statement about listening to students better about what they need. They have only three platform categories: STUDENTS, CAMPUS, and COMMUNITY.

For the student section, my favorite is their first plank about meeting with student leaders weekly at the upper cabinet meetings. This would help break the isolation of the cabinet from student leaders, and would be an easy thing to make happen. When you’re in office everything will be unexpectedly “on fire”, so focusing on small but productive things will be effective. I also like how this tells the reader how they’re going to connect with student leaders on campus. I also like their plank on mental health because it shows they understand the issue, but they have a priority on what they want to do right now about it.

The weak in comparison section is the CAMPUS section. It doesn’t have very much listed, but for every bullet point listed they have a specific plan for how they want to accomplish that objective. It’s in this section that we see the tickets agree on the need for gender-neutral housing (an issue that has been dragging along for almost five years now) as well as a late-night student study spot.

The last section, COMMUNITY, is this ticket’s pitch that they have the experience to represent UNI well.  This might be over the head of your average student, but NISG nerds like me really appreciate the space spent on these issues. A common dichotomy for an NISG administration is to either focus on the many needs of students on campus, or focusing on the fight to keep UNI fairly funded and thriving financially. It’s tough to do both, but the M&M ticket shows they take the fight in Des Moines seriously while still planning out a specific roadmap for what they want to do on campus.

Overall, the M&M platform is much shorter but makes up for it with the specifics of their plans. Obviously, the platform is really only the starting point of a conversation between the candidates and students, so while M&M have demonstrated they’ve done the homework, they will have to bring enthusiasm for their ideas to students to get them excited about their ticket.

 

Ticket grade for Miller & Massey:

Ideas: A
Plans of Action: A
Relatable: C
Realistic:  B+
Enthusiasm: B

 

 

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NISG candidate platforms reviewed by past election correspondent, Corey Cooling