LSU’s 2021 Student Government debate on March 22 hosted six candidates for SG president and vice president and gave the three campaigns a platform to communicate their plans for the upcoming school year.
More than 500 students viewed Tiger TV’s coverage of the debate. The coverage is available on Tiger TV’s YouTube channel. Voting is on Wednesday, March 24 through TigerLink, and students will receive an email with voting instructions.
LSU's spring Student Government elections will take place Wednesday from 12:00 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. via TigerLink.
The three campaigns, Bowman-Milligan, It’s Time and UNITY, answered questions about how they would improve the University if elected on March 24. They mentioned encouraging cohesion within SG, striving for anti-racist changes within Greek Life and illuminating the corner of LSU’s campus known as Glock.
Candidates all agreed that SG needs reform. Javin Bowman, criminology and political science junior and the head of the Bowman-Milligan campaign, said that his administration would restructure SG’s staff to allow assistant directors to focus on specific student needs with a more targeted approach. His running mate and political science, Spanish and international studies junior Abbie Grace Milligan pointed out the climate of “toxicity” within SG.
“We represent the students, and it’s not students’ job to be involved in petty drama with the executive staff on Twitter,” Milligan said.
It's Time presidential candidate and mass communication junior Mia LeJeune said that she will reinvigorate the presidents’ cabinet, a department of SG comprised of presidents of all student organizations on campus, in order to reach all corners of campus.
Angelina Cantelli, English junior and vice president of the It’s Time campaign, said that instating a chief of staff and a deputy chief of staff within College Council would take pressure off of vice presidents and make College Council more cohesive.
Preston White, geography junior and UNITY’s vice presidential candidate, said that to combat the “unwelcoming” reputation of SG, he would increase outreach between SG and other student organizations. Amina Meselhe, civil engineering junior and presidential candidate for the UNITY campaign, said that increasing communication within SG is important so that members are up to date about initiatives.
While debating Greek Life, Milligan said that because lack of diversity starts with the recruitment process, she would fight to abolish the legacy system as soon as August 2021.
“If you have a relative who was in a sorority or fraternity, you receive preference during rush,” Milligan said. “This prioritizes and gives an advantage to white students. We need to widen the playing field.”
LeJeune said that as the only presidential candidate in Greek Life, she knows that the “scandals” have made Greek students feel unheard and unrepresented. She said her membership in a sorority makes her the best candidate to represent Greek issues in office.
Meselhe said that while some Greek organizations welcome discussions about diversity, the responsibility should not fall on students of color to educate their peers. To combat this, White said that UNITY would ensure diversity training from professionals for all members of Greek Life.
Whispers started in the debate room when candidates were asked to discuss the claim that a secret organization known as "Glock" influences SG elections. The question read, “Is there any merit to this claim, and if so, are any of you in or backed by Glock?”
LeJeune said that Glock is a real threat to transparency and accountability at LSU.
“As a woman, I would not be allowed in Glock,” LeJeune said. “I am not in it, nor will I ever be, and I condemn that organization wholeheartedly.”
Cantelli, SG deputy chief of staff, said that she learned of Glock’s legitimacy through conversations with members of SG’s current administration. She said that as she, like LeJeune, identifies as a woman, she would never be offered membership in Glock.
Similarly, Meselhe said that she is not in the secret organization. She said that she understands Glock to be a student-led organization comprised of student leaders on campus, referencing other colleges that have similar, but public, organizations.
“If it is such a good thing, we can have it out in the open,” Meselhe said. “Having secret organizations, whether they give you money or not, is not a good thing. Taking steps to combat Glock like ranked choice voting is a step toward evening out the chances.”
White said that he is not in Glock, but he feels like its members want to see change on campus. He made pleas toward Glock to renounce its secrecy and show students any positive change it has made.
Before he answered the question, Bowman said that he felt like the inquiry was targeted at the Bowman-Milligan campaign.
“This campaign is built on student leaders whose work is seen on this campus each day,” he said. “We are not backed by no secret hand. We are doing this on our own merit.”
Milligan said that while she has no knowledge of Glock’s legitimacy, she is not a member.
“I would rather place my trust in facts, not rumors,” Milligan said. “I don’t let anyone tell me what to do, so I wouldn’t let a secret organization of men tell me what to do.”
When asked about the best and worst thing LSU does for its students, Meselhe said that while 75% of LSU students receive scholarships from the University, its attention to students “drops off after freshman year.” According to the University, 25% of students leave the school between their second and third year of study.
White said that LSU provides resources to students without adequately advertising those resources to the students who need them. He said that LSU started offering free laptops and chargers for students to rent for the school year, but many students don’t know this program exists.
Bowman said that there’s “not that many good things” LSU does for its students.
Milligan said that the University needs to provide proper resources for students affected by natural disasters and protect survivors of sexual assault, two issues that affect student morale on campus.
Cantelli said that LSU student organizations offer each student a home on campus. LeJeune said raising tuition is the worst thing LSU does for its students and that she would work with the state legislature to lower tuition.
“We need to lower tuition so that we can start paying our grad students better, protecting sexual assault survivors and getting the resources we need to students experiencing natural disasters,” LeJeune said.
When asked if It’s Time, a campaign that follows the Democratic party on all social media platforms, would be able to serve conservative students, Cantelli said that the ticket has candidates and staff members from “both sides of the aisle.” She said that in SG, there are no party lines.
LeJeune said that It’s Time is the largest ticket with 114 candidates representing all 17 senior colleges and that each of those students has a different background and political ideology.
“There are republicans, democrats and independents on our ticket,” LeJeune said. “The governor is a democrat, and if I have a connection there, I’m going to use it for the betterment of the LSU community. That does not mean that I won’t work across the aisle will republican legislators.”
In regards to the campus climate, Milligan said that sexual assault is “a culture thing” at LSU, and she and Cantelli, co-founder of Tigers Against Sexual Assault, have been working tirelessly to reform sexual assault policies.
“[Change] won’t happen unless LSU is held accountable and implements the recommendations from the Husch-Blackwell report in the way that students want, not in the way administration wants,” Milligan said.
Cantelli said that the campus climate is one that is calling for change and that students are asking questions about the nature of LSU’s administrative bodies like the president’s office and the board of supervisors. She said that she and LeJeune will bring students’ pleas to administration.
“President Galligan has seen me cry, he’s seen me yell, he knows how I feel about these issues and he knows that I will continue being a proud woman no matter what, and he knows that Mia will do the same,” Cantelli said. “We’re not in this for a letter of recommendation, so we’re not afraid to make people upset.”
Meselhe said that morale is low on campus, and White said that UNITY will bring joy and community back to campus through the Black Marketplace, a space for Black students and business owners to share their ideas and products.
“Students aren’t happy with the administration and other student leaders,” Meselhe said. “It’s integral that our students feel safe, loved and a sense of joy when we hear the LSU name aside from when we’re winning football games.”
When asked about campus safety, Cantelli said that properly lighting the campus should be the nineteenth recommendation on Husch-Blackwell’s list of 18. She said that students of all genders feel unsafe on campus at night.
Meselhe referenced UNITY’s “Stay Safe Tigers” platform that includes policies like fixing issues within LSU’s SHIELD app, a resource for students in peril. White referenced their Lock and Key initiative that would allow all on-campus residents access to the first floor of any dorm, apartment or residence hall in case of emergency.
Milligan said that as SG’s Director of Safety, she attended the Light Walk that allowed students to point out areas on campus that need increased lighting.
“It’s not just about pointing out where lighting on campus is bad or where students feel unsafe,” Milligan said. “It’s about checking up and following up. I have no problem telling President Galligan when he’s wrong or when I don’t think he’s doing his job correctly.”
LeJeune said that her Senate candidates are working on writing legislation to fund plots for National Panhellenic Council students and ensure that Greek fall recruitment does not take place during students’ first week of class.
Meselhe said that Black students don’t want the “tokenism” of NPHC plots, so her senate will produce legislation that increases funding toward Black student leaders’ projects, movements and events. Bowman agreed and said his senate candidates are working to the same end.