ASUWT presidential candidates talk important issues during debate

As the election season for the 2019–2020 Associated Students of the University of Washington Tacoma board and senate gets underway, there are four candidates vying for the position of president: Vincent Da, Arthur Lovett, LaKeisha Morris and Chase Powell. All four candidates participated in a debate hosted by the Tacoma Ledger May 1, with each candidate answering questions from a prepared list and questions from the public.

One question posed by a member of the audience asked each candidate how they would go about solving big problems on campus. Da, who is currently an ASUWT senator for undeclared students and worker and advocate for the UW Tacoma Pantry, explained how he would work on food equity and security.

“My focus is probably mostly on food security and food equity on campus,” Da said. “I know that last year, somebody was running on food trucks, and I remember that they did have food trucks on campus a couple of years ago, but that was before they had the Husky hour … Now with the Husky hour, I would want to do another pilot program to see if we can get food trucks on campus.”

Lovett — president of the Residence Hall Association in Court 17 — wants to work on parking expansion and improvement, as well as on-campus housing for students. Lovett also described how important it is to maintain and improve on tri-campus relations between UWT, Bothell and Seattle.

“I’ll start with my top one: tri-campus relations,” Lovett said. “That’s a big goal, but I feel I am best suited for that goal because I’m already a part of UW Seattle and I’m up there a lot … I want to reach out to Bothell and really unify us because I feel like there is a lot of bickering that goes on between our schools and we really can’t do that if we’re going to move forward.”

For Morris, who is an officer for both the Black Student Union and HuSCII Coding, there are many big issues to take on around campus, like increased registered student organization officer training and expanding on student support around campus — especially with academic advising.

“First off, one thing I care about is improving how RSOs equip their leaders at the beginning of the school year,” Morris said. “One thing I want to implement is talking about incident bias be[ing] an apparent part of the club camp that happens right before the school year starts in order to prepare future RSO officers. Another thing that I really care about is the housing. As something that is in motion, there are variables that are going to change our ability to improve housing, such as the gentrification around UW Tacoma.”

When responding, Powell listed a few ideas that he would like to take on for next year. Some of his goals include activating more spaces around campus for use and improving on-campus childcare services.

“One of the first thing that pops into my mind of a large list of things that we want to accomplish is better access to childcare services — family services — around campus, and everything like that,” Powell said. “I know that it’s being led by other members of the ticket for next year’s planning. Another thing is the Whitney building … it’s an art building that we have on campus … Currently we own the Whitney Building. There’s Photoshop services up there … but the thing is, the building isn’t ADA [American with Disabilities Act] compliant, and I don’t think it has been ADA compliant for several years, if it ever was.”

Students will have the opportunity to vote for the candidate they think will best represent them for president, as well as the other positions in the board and senate during Election Week, which  runs from May 13–17. In order to vote, students must be a registered member of ASUWT. There is no cost to register.

Armen Papyan, ASUWT’s current president, took a moment to share his thoughts on the election so far.

“I am excited to see more students seeking office this year,” Papyan said. “Students are not limited to one or two options, but we have four candidates running for president this year. We have spent [a] number of hours creating marketing materials, emailing students, tabling weekly, attending the involvement fairs and educating [students] about … the student government. This year it has been our priority [to] strongly market the elections in order to get more students to run and vote. The student leaders that get elected can potentially work on issues that they are passionate about and address them adequately.”

Papyan also shared what he hopes next year’s student government will be able to accomplish.

“Next year I hope ASUWT continues to be a strong voice for the students — that also means working with administrators, legislators, staff and faculty,” Papyan said. “I hope that they continue the momentum with some of the projects that we have worked on this year, but also expand on the concerns that exist to properly address them.”