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Debate Night: WSGA presidential candidates discuss their separate visions for Washburn. Their ideas will shape the next year for our university.

Debate Night: WSGA presidential candidates discuss their separate visions for Washburn. Their ideas will shape the next year for our university.

WSGA presidential candidates debate policy

On Tuesday, March 9 at 7:30 p.m. the Washburn Student Government Association held the first and only presidential debate between the two campaigns currently running for executive office with the organization. 

Students were able to tune into the event through Facebook Live and Instagram through WSGA’s accounts there. 

The first ticket consists of Abby Trautman running for president with her running mate Dylan Babcock pursuing the position of vice president. The second ticket has Harrison Dollar running for president alongside Sierra Jeter as the vice president. 

Taking place in Henderson room 100, the presidential candidates debated many current issues facing Washburn’s campus including the student activity fee, diversity and inclusion, student tuition reimbursement, mental health and smoking.

To watch the recording of the debate, check out WSGA’s Facebook Live recording here

The debate was managed by WSGA Chief of Staff Jaron Caffrey and began with 4-minute opening statements from each campaign. Dollar and Jeter won the pre-debate coin toss and thus wasted little time kicking things off. 

Dollar – “Hello everyone, thank you those watching online, and thank you for those who attended in person. My name is Harrison Dollar and I’m running for student body president. I’m a student at Washburn University like everyone else. Our ticket is running because we have a shared vision for Washburn.

Our opponents, Abby and Dylan, do a great job. They do a great job of maintaining what is already there, but what we need right now is innovation. We need new ideas and a fresh vision.

I will be the first one to say that our campaign is not perfect and myself as an individual have learned a lot throughout this campaign process. I’m open to criticism and I’m open to those that have input and ideas for this campaign. Please join us tonight for a shared vision of Washburn and help us change Washburn’s campus for the better.

Now my running mate to talk a little about policy and our vision for Washburn.”

Jeter – “Hi everybody, my name is Sierra Jeter and I’m running for student body vice-president. As somebody who is usually excluded from these types of conversations, I know how important it is to have your voice heard. So I’m just going to give a little bit of a rundown of our five-point policy plan.

First, disciplinary reform. Students are being unequally, improperly treated, and punished for mistakes that they make on Washburn’s campus. The first thing that we want to do is expel all fines to students when they make a mistake on campus because we want to focus on rehabilitation and education of students rather than punishment.

Second, health and safety. Students will always come first in our eyes and their health and safety are a priority. We know that we should be… in our plan we want to expand mental health awareness by adding more mental health days and more mental health awareness groups for students to get the help that they, you know, decide to get as well as protection. As a woman on campus, there are places around here where I don’t feel safe walking around by myself. There are not efficient lights like in parking lot 9 and no efficient lights by the sorority houses. Women are walking freely without any visibility. So one of our other plans is to expand lights and make sure that the emergency systems on campus are working.

Third, campus cohesion. We want to make sure that there are chances for students to have a sense of community on campus. Through our creation of an advisory council where major clubs come together and give feedback, they talk to each other, they collaborate. We’ll make sure that students on campus get their chance to have some sources of community while they’re attending Washburn. Quality of life is our next one. This year has been a whirlwind for all of us and students are facing every trouble that they have had to. So we want to make sure that there are more fun activities for students on campus, more flexible meal plans as well as better connections between students and their advisors to make it easier for students at Washburn.

Last and finally, bigger than Washburn. We plan to reach out to more communities and businesses outside of Washburn for students to get more opportunities to prosper as being a Washburn student. There is a lack of outreach from Washburn to other communities and that’s something that we want to strive upon is those connections outside of Washburn to expand opportunities for Washburn students and that is our vision for Washburn.”

Caffrey – “Thank you, and now we’ll hear from the Trautman-Babcock campaign.”

Trautman – “Hello everyone, my name is Abby Trautman, I am a biology major and I’m running for president candidate spot. I am currently involved in student government, biology club, Alpha Phi and Student Ambassadors. I have previously been involved in residential living and peer educators.

Currently, in WSGA, I’ve served for four years and I’m the current Director of Campus and Community Affairs. I was the director of homecoming last semester. Before that, for two years, I was the campus and community affairs chairperson and I was a senator before that as well.”

Babcock – “Hello everyone, I’m Dylan Babcock. I am running for the vice-presidential candidacy. I am a double-major in finance and economics, leadership studies minor. I have been involved both in WSGA and the Leadership Institute. Previously I’ve been involved with the Student Leadership Council through the Leadership Institute, the Millennium Fellowship which is a United Nations active impact recognized program and then I’ve also worked on campus in the counseling services office.

This is my third year being involved with WSGA, I’m currently serving as the current student body vice president as Mayela Campa graduated last semester. Previous to that I was the Community and Affairs Director, prior to that the vice-chair of the campus Community Affairs committee and prior to that a senator.” 

Trautman – “So our campaign is based on a puzzle and connecting the four pieces of the puzzle so we have four pillars for our campaign. So our first piece is envision. So envision revolves around when you’re building a puzzle you have to think about what you want it to look like and for us we’ve envisioned what we want Washburn to look like. That includes things such as connecting WSGA more with student organizations, starting new traditions on campus and also creating programming that is centered not just on traditional students but also on non-traditional students as well.”

Babcock – “Then our second pillar is adapt. As you’re building a puzzle you’re going to come across problems, problems that will probably require you to adapt so you find success. So some of our bigger issues on campus include diversity and inclusion, mental health and wellbeing and environmental sustainability and just representation in general. So under this pillar, those are the kinds of things that we’re wanting to work on and we’re going to definitely have to be adaptive to solve those kinds of issues.”

Trautman – “Our third piece of the puzzle is a bridge. So you have to connect the pieces of the puzzle together and that’s what we’re wanting to do with the Washburn and Topeka communities. By bridging these communities not only will students love their time at Washburn, but they’ll also love the city in which they live.”

Babcock – “Our fourth and final pillar is capture. Under this pillar, we’re just really wanting to focus on involving all of our students in the kinds of work that we’re doing. Abby and I both know that our ideas are both bold and ambitious and that we’re not going to be able to accomplish them without the help from students like you all. So we really want to bring you all into the work that we’re doing and really hear the thoughts and opinions on the things that you’re doing in order to make sure that we’re doing the work that you all want to see us do.”

Trautman – “And with that, we look forward to taking questions tonight, getting the chance to talk to you all more about who we are and what our platform is, and having a conversation with the Dollar/Jeter campaign. Thank you.” 

Caffrey – “We’re going to spend a little talking about money and what we’re all paying because this is something that all of us in this room pay a decent amount getting an education here, especially if you live on campus you pay even more of that. One of the fees students pay is the student activity fee which hasn’t been touched for the last several years. It is currently $55 per semester and all students are required to pay it.

This is the fee that funds groups like the WSGA, Dancing Blues, Student Media, CAB and a variety of other groups and services on campus. WSGA has an internal budget of nearly $300,000 and allocates even more money to a variety of groups like I mentioned. KU student government actually this last week raised their student fee to fund even more programs, including paying all student workers at least $10.00 an hour.

Most of the student jobs on campus, as some of you are aware, some of these are not minimum wage or just between that and $10.00, usually, these are not less than that. Would you be in favor of raising, lowering or leaving the activity fee as it is and why?”

Trautman – “So, I am in favor of keeping it how it is. If you start to raise the activity fee as much as would be beneficial to give student employees more money, there’s only a smaller percentage of students that are student employees on our campus. So as much as I would like to see that raised, you’re making every student pay more money just to have a couple of us get a raise with that.

With lowering the student activity fee, that would only come back to and hurt all of the student organizations on campus. We allocated, in WSGA, a certain amount each year to student organizations and for those clubs and stuff that use the money, the student activity dollars, and so if we were to lower that, in the end, it would just be coming out of our pockets again or harming the student organizations that we have on campus.” 

Babcock – “I am also in favor of just keeping it the same as it is. I would just add that I know other schools that have much higher activity fees, I think that having a lower student activity fee like we do here at Washburn makes us more appealing to students coming in than other state schools so I certainly believe in keeping it the way it is, the way it should be.” 

Dollar – “Right now students are financially struggling. We do not need the added cost of raising the fee. Also, at the same time, lowering the fee does not benefit student activities. At the end of the day, tuition is too high, especially when we’re paying for a partial education. So, when we believe that when we believe that students are financially struggling and the tuition is way higher than it should be, why would we raise the fee? Our campaign is not just looking towards keeping the fee the same but also making sure that we financially benefit all students so we’re able to make sure everyone is able to get the education that they deserve.”

Jeter – “I would just like to add that since this is all an apparent issue, reaching out to students would also be something that we would be doing in regards to this to get your guy’s gauge on what you would like to see in regards to this issue.” 

Caffrey – “Kind of staying on the same line of thinking here just as was mentioned here in the last remarks. It’s no secret that students from every corner of campus have been frustrated for having to pay full price for classes when the experience for most students hasn’t been the same as a normal school year during non-COVID circumstances.

There’s an idea of a partial tuition refund that can seem like a logical solution but there have been concerns raised over the practicalities of such a proposal. What is your message to students on what you would do to tackle this issue?”

Dollar – “Tuition, students deserve tuition refund… a partial tuition refund. At the same time, understand the hesitation of how difficult that would be. What we do know is that our campaign is not afraid to tackle issues that are difficult and if we cannot get a tuition refund, a partial tuition refund that we believe that we deserve, then we should at least get common-sense accommodations such as BodBucks and meal plans, rolling over and not completely dissipating to the next semester.

So our campaign is in favor of a partial tuition refund but we believe that we should do it in a common-sense way to benefit all students. We’re not afraid to back down from this issue and we’ll fight for every single student.”

Trautman – “Okay, so something that our campaign knows is that we are working towards things that we know can happen in the next year. As great as a tuition refund or a partial refund would be, Washburn is still a business and Washburn is still where we call home and still has to function on a daily basis and in case, you know, we got more of a college experience this year than most colleges got. We had a homecoming, we had a Black Lives Matter rally, we’re hopefully getting a graduation in the spring.

We have had a lot more going on on our campus than most universities have and we have much lower tuition than most universities do without getting the amount of state funding that they do. So this is something that gets talked about a lot and in WSGA that’s not always common for other people who are not part of WSGA to know or for those who have been on campus for a long time is that those are things that cannot happen. We already have one of the lowest tuitions and it’s still a business and still a place that we want to be nice and call home for the 3, 4, 5, 6 years that you’re here.” 

Dollar – “We are not gonna back down and we’re gonna fight for students. At the end of the day, just because it’s a difficult problem does not mean that we’re not going to have a solution. It may be difficult, but as student government, we’re going to make that recommendation. I can’t promise you that they’re going to take that recommendation but what’s the point in not trying? What I’ve heard from that campaign, they’re not even going to attempt to tackle it.

So there’s a possibility that it may not happen but we’re going to make that recommendation and we’re going to fight for students. And as a collective, if we all have the shared vision, I don’t believe there are many ramifications and that is why I’m going to fight for every single student.” 

Caffrey – “Staying on the same line of classes, especially online vs in-person. This is one of our first item questions for tonight. This topic was mentioned by a few students so one problem that many people are citing, and this has gone on even before COVID the last several years, is how it seems unnecessary that the university charges more for online classes than in-person classes. What are your thoughts on this and what would you do, if anything, to address it?”

Trautman – “I think the first thing to look at is why, this is a question that’s come up in the past but obviously our administrators have their jobs for a reason and know what they’re doing, so I think there would definitely be a way to look at why are we having… why is it more expensive for online classes? Is it because we pay for D2L? Is it because of the resources we use? Do you pay professors more for those?

So it’s definitely a conversation worth having but it’s something that needs to happen with administration first before it is brought forth to students to make sure that we’re doing the best we can for students.”

Babcock – “I would just agree with Abby on her statements there. I’m actually taking online classes this semester and obviously it is a pain to have to pay more than you would for just a regular class when you’re not getting that in-person experience. So, like Abby said, I think really making sure that we’re having that conversation with students, figuring out with administrators as well what we can do to possibly lower it if that’s the route we want to go but really making sure that we’re keeping in touch with our administrators on those things.” 

Dollar – “When we talk about common-sense accommodations, this is one of them. We will definitely have the conversation with all that it is applicable to, why online classes cost more than in-person classes. It doesn’t make sense, and not just that, students deserve to have  affordable tuition and if we can’t get a tuition refund we’ll at least fight for common sense accommodations such as fees. As you can tell, our campaign is willing to fight for students and we’re going to do that.” 

Caffrey – “Moving on now, some members of the student government have moved to pass a complete ban on smoking on campus grounds. Others contend that we shouldn’t eliminate smoking on campus especially since there are so many faculty and staff that take part in it. What is your opinion on the campus smoking issues?”

Jeter – “We all understand that people have their things that they need to do while being on campus but for the protection and safety of students, we think that accommodations can be made but smoking spots for students, for the benefit for students, they… I’m not sure how to word this correctly, sorry. But, um, these smoking spots,  must be removed for the safety and protection of students on campus.

More than likely, since there is an outreach about this, more than likely students aren’t for these smoking spots especially if they’re not the ones partaking in it yet they are the ones that have to walk by and smell the smoke or, you know, be by it when it’s probably very uncomfortable for them. So we think that just because we are for our students, we want to make sure that they feel as safe as they can on campus. Therefore, these smoking areas will most likely have to be removed.”

Dollar – “To make it as simple as possible, we’re gonna end smoking on campus. What we’re going to do is we want to accommodate all students. Now, at the end of the day, when a behavior affects other students, we need to put that at an end, that is not behavior that is beneficial to all students. So we’re gonna end that. We have no idea why it hasn’t been ended up to this point and we’re gonna fight to do it swiftly and quickly because this has been prolonged way too long.”

Trautman – “Smoking policy on campus is one of the parts of our campaign. So, as smoking policy, you may be asking why has it not been removed? We are not the only ones making decisions. So every single year, I’ve told you I’ve been on WSGA for four years, every year we write a resolution or some sort of bill resolution about how we’d like to end smoking on campus.

We’re not the only ones this passes through, it also passes through the faculty senate, it also goes through our administrators, it goes to WU Board, there is a long amount of people and this year is the first year we’ve actually gotten something to go to the faculty senate and been able to vote on it.

So, for us, yes we would like to get rid of smoking on campus but our main point is reducing the number of spots on campus especially the one by Henderson. As I’m sure a lot of you have heard my say before, as a student ambassador it’s sometimes embarrassing to walk students by there and have people blowing smoke into their face but I think it’s important for us to have smoker awareness on campus if people are interested in smoking or juuling or anything like that for them to know where they can do that safely so it’s not happening on our main parts of campus but happening in those designated smoking spots that we have.”

Babcock – “Adding on to that, Abby and I are going to make sure that we continue to press on administrators to hopefully, eventually, get to where we can get rid of smoking entirely on campus but, like Abby said, making sure we’re prioritizing just limiting smoking locations on campus to start with. It’s going to be  important, like she mentioned, especially with the one right outside Henderson here, that’s something that Abby and I have worked on before and the committee that we were a part of prior to becoming a part of the cabinet, this was something we were both passionate about trying to get accomplished on campus and it’s something we’ll certainly work on.” 

Caffrey – “Moving on, next we have our next items question. This student’s question was, it’s no secret that more can be done to promote counseling services and the mental health of students on campus. If elected, how do you plan to make sure survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and other trauma feel safe and comfortable on campus?”

Trautman – “Again, this is something we’ve been working on with WSGA for a long time. Like we talked about earlier we do have a limited amount of funds but I know we’ve discussed in the past shifting around funds to be able to add another counselor or another social worker to our staff here so it’s definitely something we’ll pursue in the future.

I think that just knowledge about the resources we have on campus is something that doesn’t happen a lot, our marketing strategies with those, so just making sure that people know those resources are available, know that we have the 24/7 hotline, know that you can make an appointment, know that you can go and talk to someone. Not only that, but the resources you can find in Topeka they are great. Our on-campus counseling services are great to help you find those resources within the community as well.”

Babcock – “I, like I mentioned earlier, I worked for the counseling services office, I was the front desk assistant my first and second year at Washburn. So mental health has a really important place in my heart. While holding that position I worked with those counselors over there before, all very very great people but there are certainly strives we can make to further improve mental health on campus and Abby and I, that’s a big part of our campaign as well trying to make sure, like she said, that students are aware of those resources and to work to try and make sure we can get more permanent extra counselor on campus is something that we want to work on.”

Dollar – “There is no issue that is closer to the heart of our campaign than mental health. Right now, during the pandemic what students are experiencing is catastrophic at times and many are dealing with the crisis. Washburn does a very good job of providing services, but what we need is more communication.

We need on every single social media platform that we have at our disposal to make sure that these resources are out there. That we are open to communication and that we make sure that every student that wants to has the option to get the help that is needed because right now during this crisis, more has to be done.”

Jeter – “Students will always come first to us. That means that their mental health and wellbeing is a priority. So within our second pillar in our five-point policy plan, we plan on creating more mental health awareness groups for students to be a part of, whether that be sexual assault survivors, people that are battling mental illness, as well as recovering addicts or recovering in general. We want to make sure that there are outlets and accessibility for students to approach so that they get the help that they need and they get the help that they deserve and that we are going to provide for them.”

Caffrey – “What would you say are the biggest differences between the agenda and vision of your campaign and that of your counterparts?”

Dollar – “Abby and Dylan are great at administration. They’re good at maintaining programs that we already have. If you believe the status quo is good enough, vote for them. If you do not, if you believe that change needs to be done on campus, then vote for us. That is the difference. Our policy plans are specific.

We have a policy for every single change we’d like to see on campus. Our policy plan is many pages because we care about a policy that affects students. Administration status quo, they are your campaign. Change for this campus, then our campaign is for you.” 

Trautman – “If you’re looking for change to not happen on campus, vote for their administration. If you’re looking for change to happen on campus, then vote for us. Although they may have a long policy plan, they are things that are not attainable and they are telling students things that cannot necessarily happen or things that we cannot choose for ourselves on WSGA.

The things that we have picked to be a part of our campaign are very specific things on campus that we know can happen during our time and administration if we were voted in. So, yes, some of our things may seem like things we’ve worked on before because it’s something that’s been an issue for students for years. For years, that we’ve been on WSGA, it’s something that’s been an issue and it’s still trying to be resolved because things take time.

There are big problems on campus that can’t be resolved in one year. So we support our administration that came before us and what they were trying to fix and not only do we want to continue those things, we want to continue to actually provide things for students that are going to happen in the future.” 

Babcock – “On that, I would just add that Abby and I are going to work hard for the changes. We’ve got, as she’s said, four years of experience, three years for myself in student government. We’ve gotten the chance to really come to understand how student government works as a whole, what role we have in things, and the things that we can and can’t necessarily do by ourselves.

So while student government does have a lot of power with things that can happen on campus, we cannot accomplish all things without other people on campus as we mentioned earlier, the faculty senate, administrators. There is a long line of things we have to work on to make success and make accomplishments towards the goals that we have.

So, as Abby said, we have very specific things that we want to work on because we know from our experience that they are things that we can actually accomplish in our time. As she [Abby] mentioned, the other campaign, they have things within their policy, policies and plans that are simply not attainable because, like I mentioned, there is a line of… there are just certain things within their plan that are not possible for us to be able to accomplish.” 

Jeter – “Passion is definitely something our campaign has. We have a passion to help students and be there for them as much as we can and even although our plans are ambitious, the difference that our opponents have, is that we are willing to go to the lengths and fight the battles that we need to get what the students want, get what the students deserve. We are ambitious for you, we are ambitious to make sure your life and quality of life on campus is worthwhile.

Caffrey – “In addition to the traditional day-to-day office duties of the WSGA president and vice-president, there are also big picture things that include regular meetings with university administrators like President Farley. What is the top concern that you would bring to his attention in the hopes of resolving in your first meeting with him?

Trautman – “I would say, for me, I won’t speak for both of us, that it is definitely centered around mental health on campus. Mental health is something I have struggled with in the past. It’s something that is very important to me and I think that many people struggle with mental health, it’s just part of our day and age that we have.

So again, I know the limitations that we do have with our on-campus resources but I think making sure that we’re taking care of our counseling professionals that we do have, making sure that we are sending them thank-yous and letting them know they’re doing a great job but also spreading that awareness that we do have those people on campus and making sure that people know that WSGA and Washburn supports those students and what they’re going through.

We will work to create an environment where they can be successful whether they have a mental illness or not. This is something that we want all students to be able to graduate and be proud of themselves for graduating.”

Babcock – “As for me, while mental health is very important to me as well, my top issue would be promoting better diversity and inclusion on campus, that’s an issue that’s very dear to my heart, that’s really important to me. I believe there’s a lot of efforts that we can still make on this campus.

While we have come quite a ways since my first year on campus in bettering diversity and inclusion on campus, there are still a number of things that we can still work on and improve such as bringing back the multicultural recruitment day, that’s something that both Abby and I have talked about that we feel is really important to bring back to this campus. Just trying to make sure that we’re continuing to recruit students of different backgrounds, bringing them on so we have those kinds of ideas to work with. It’s really important to our campaign.”

Dollar – “Day one, we tackle policy. We’re gonna tackle- (At this point audio to the Facebook Live event was cut and no further content could be recorded)

Edited by: Crystal Hendrix

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