Three Visions Presented at Student Government’s First Debate

Abby Schnable | The Phoenix(From left to right) Harsh Patel, Sophie Yano and Kathleen Meis debate over Loyola-centric issues in the race to become student government president.

Two student government representatives and one political outsider each laid out a vision for how to make Loyola better in the first Student Government of Loyola Chicago (SGLC) presidential debate of this election cycle Wednesday night in the Damen Multipurpose Room North.

The presidential candidates, SGLC veterans Kathleen Meis and Sophie Yano and political newcomer Harsh Patel, did little debating but each discussed their own visions for improving life on campus in front of a little over a dozen students.

The debate covered issues that have dominated the past year in the Loyola community — mental health resources on campus, the on-campus housing crunch, racial relations on campus, Loyola’s Campus Safety officers and infrastructure and an evaluation of President Jo Ann Rooney.

Patel said he thought Rooney has done a good job connecting students and administrators, but she could do more to reach out to commuter students.

Yano sees Rooney as a role model due to her status as Loyola’s first female, lay president. But she said Rooney needs to improve transparency on campus and communication with students.

Meis said Rooney’s job is tough, not one she would want to have. Meis said Rooney’s been focused on reinvigorating alumni fundraising, but criticized what she sees as Rooney’s lack of a diverse cabinet of staffers. Meis’ biggest suggestion for Rooney was for her to become more visible and accessible on campus.

Regarding Campus Safety and the frequency of crime alert emails, the candidates wrestled with ways to keep the student body informed while also not throwing them into an unnecessary panic. Meis said the Clery Act, a federal law that requires Loyola to report crimes on and near campus, makes it tough for what Campus Safety can and can’t report, but Loyola police should err on the cautious side when alerting students.

Meis said Campus Safety officers should be better trained and more collaborative with the student body. But she also echoed the concerns of students of color on campus, saying more police doesn’t necessarily make everyone feel safer.

Yano said when crimes happen, rumors always go around before the police or news confirm the facts. This is an instance where Campus Safety should be more proactive in delivering information, she said.

Patel echoed this. He referenced the overabundance of misinformation that spread about a string of shootings in Rogers Park in the early days of Roam RoPo, a student-led Facebook page last fall, saying the only solution to mass hysteria is truth.

All three discussed their desires to increase SGLC’s name recognition on campus. However, while Patel talked about his goal to make the body a “middleman” to connect students and administration during weekly Senate meetings, Yano demurred, saying they’re elected to be representatives so that students don’t need to do that.

All three were critical of Loyola’s housing crisis. Loyola’s ever-growing incoming class sizes have left juniors and seniors who want to live on campus without spaces and squeezing first- and second-years into rooms, as they’re all required to live on campus.

Meis said communication to rising upperclassmen about the lack of space has been messy and said the converted triple rooms are “not acceptable.” Yano, on the other hand, said residence halls are an important community-building facet of college life, so students should be required to spend two years in dorms. Patel said improving the off-campus housing fair could help rising upperclassmen widen their options if they can’t live on campus.

All vouched for the expansion of mental health resources on campus, just as The Phoenix reported the Wellness Center has been fighting to keep up with increasing demand for services. Patel said he thought not enough students know about the Wellness Center’s services, while Yano and Meis advocated for the expansion of different services across campus. Patel also said the Wellness Center’s location could be inconvenient for students and proposed smaller areas dispersed throughout campus.

The next debate between vice presidents is scheduled to occur March 18 at 7 p.m. in the Damen Den. The final presidential debate will be March 20 at 7 p.m. in the Damen Cinema, and voting will take place March 21-22 from a ballot in students’ Loyola email.

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