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TCU candidates discuss platforms at Hotung forum

Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 02:02

Candidates in the spring Tufts Community Union (TCU) elections tomorrow gathered before a small crowd at Hotung Cafe last night to discuss their platforms and state their cases to voters. 

Up for grabs are two seats on the TCU Judiciary seats, two seats on the Committee on Student Life (CSL), two junior Senate seats and two senior Senate seats. The senior seat faces an unusually hotly contested vote, with four candidates running for the two open semester-long positions on the Senate. All four races are contested, as is a race for sophomore class council treasurer.

Judiciary candidates Anna Gaebler, Becky Goldberg and Leah Shaw opened the forum. Gaebler, a freshman, called for holding the TCU Constitution to a high standard and reading it with a farsighted approach. Goldberg, a sophomore, argued that members of the TCU should not be afraid to change the constitution in cases that it contradicts with the flow of school opinion. Shaw, a freshman, noted that while a literal reading of the constitution was important to Judiciary affairs, the effects of the Judiciary’s interpretation are ultimately more important than the words themselves.

Sophomores Emani Holyfield, Kumar Ramanathan and Daniel Bottino are running for the two open seats on the Committee on Student Life. They answered questions about the CSL’s controversial decision last semester to allow religious groups to seek exception from the university’s nondiscrimination policy. Holyfield called for the new policy to be revoked, saying the campus as a whole could stand to be more inclusive and that the CSL ought to be focused around taking action on this type of issue. Ramanathan argued that the exemption policy gave the university’s chaplaincy the unmerited power of deciding a group’s doctrine. The CSL ought to use its role to think in the long term and create a more ‘in-touch’ student government, he argued. Bottino took an opposing stance on the CSL policy, calling it a solution to what he sees as a problem with the nondiscrimination policy. Student religious groups, he said, did not have the freedom to decide their own doctrine before the exemption policy was enacted.

Candidates for the open Senate seats were asked to list immediate and tangible goals of their candidacy. An unusually contentious race for the two open spots on the Senate for seniors has pitted three Senate veterans against one newcomer. The four candidates delivered varying ideas for their plans if elected. 

Senior candidate Jeremy Zelinger positioned himself as a candidate for pragmatic, short-term and achievable goals.

“I’m not going to be on the Senate to have grand arguments about what the state of society should be at Tufts,” Zelinger said. “I believe that the Senate
gets bogged down in its own highfalutin’ debates. When [the students] can see actual results, that’s what it’s all about.”

Tabias Wilson, a senior who served on the Senate for one semester his sophomore year, reaffirmed his opposition to the CSL’s decision and reminded the audience of his work to create a wider critical studies program at Tufts.

“Every single person should be able to feel like a full person here at Tufts, no matter where they are, no matter what they have to say and no matter where they come from,” Wilson said. “You have to represent every single person in all their complexity, to the best of their ability.” 

Yulia Korovikov, another returning senior running for a seat, pointed to her experience as a senator during at least one semester in each of her three years at Tufts as a strength of her candidacy. She included the extension of the pass/fail deadline as one of her main goals as a future senator.

“The main thing that I can bring to Senate, given that we only have three months on this body, is experience,” Korovikov, who has served on the Senate previously for five semesters, said. “I know all the players in the game, both on the administration side and the student side.”

Senior Jameelah Morris referenced a long history of fighting for critical studies and academic equity programs, specifically pointing out the fight for the American Sign Language minor as a recent example. She said she believes the CSL’s decision is a dangerous and discriminatory precedent.

“As a person who has stood on the front line of so many issues and movements on campus, who has worked with Senate, I know your issues,” Morris said. “I know how to create solutions to your issues, and I know how to get it done.”

At the forum, junior Senate candidate Shriya Nevatia pledged to increase the focus on entrepreneurial and pre-professional work at Tufts. One of her opponents, Joshua Youner, called for a revision of the university’s alcohol policy to include medical amnesty for students calling Tufts Emergency Medical Services. A third candidate, Nishant Saharan, said he wants to see a greater emphasis on campus safety during his time in the Senate.

Students can vote for the Judiciary and CSL candidates, as well as the Senate candidates for their respective classes, starting tomorrow at midnight on WebCenter. Profiles of all the candidates can be found on the Senate website. 

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