USG constituency senator candidates discuss platforms, how to serve students amid COVID-19

Students running to represent specific communities on the University of Iowa’s campus are working to serve their constituents after an unprecedented semester off campus.


Tate Hildyard

UISG meets in the Blackbox Theater in the Iowa Memorial Union on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020. UISG is going to Des Moines on Wednesday to advocate for the UI, specifically through medical amnesty (a law that allows students who are underage to call an ambulance and not be persecuted for the well underage drinking stuff) and renting issues.

Eleanor Hildebrandt, News Reporter

Amid the COVID-19 outbreak and the University of Iowa’s shift to moving students off campus, students vying for constituency senate seats in the Undergraduate Student Government are adapting how they will serve students of marginalized communities in the fall.

USG elections began Sunday night. Voting is available online via students’ MyUI portals through April 2.

The six constituency senator seats are all uncontested, except for the Latinx seat for which no candidate is running.

The various campus communities represented by constituency senators — Asian Pacific Islander Desi American, black, disability, LGBTQ+, Latinx, and international communities — are all uniquely impacted by the university’s move to virtual learning, said current USG At-Large Senator Joseph Haggerty, the candidate for the LGBTQ constituency senator.

“LGBTQ+ [students] face extreme amounts of mental-health issues due to the fact that [they] were finally able to experiment and understand their identity in a welcoming place at the [UI but] are now having to leave the Pride House and resources they need,” he said. “Unfortunately, some students are being brought home … where they are prone to intense discrimination. Addressing those mental-health concerns as much as we possibly can remotely is extremely important.”

UI international and second-year student from Cheongju, South Korea, Shimin Park is campaigning for the international constituency seat. In an email to The Daily Iowan, she said her overall goal, once elected, is to better support international students — especially amid the impact of the novel coronavirus.

“The core of my platform is acknowledging and advocating what [international students] can do when they are empowered and feel valued,” she said. “I would like to see [USG] help tackle issues [and] erasing symptoms of racism and xenophobia on campus in a more aggressive way, ensuring that faculty and staff are being properly equipped to provide a safe space for international students … as well as expanding university programming and resources for unique mental-health needs of international students in this time.”

Park said initiatives to support international students are necessary to improve the quality of life they have on the UI’s campus. She wants to ensure that international students are no longer overlooked or minimized due to language barriers or cultural differences, Park said.

RELATED: UISG independent and constituency senator candidates share their ideas and platforms for the UI

Current USG Black Constituency Sen. Adeline Barron transferred to the UI last spring and is running for reelection this year. Barron said she was not initially planning to run but changed her mind when she realized what she could accomplish.

“I was not going to run again,” she said. “I was discouraged because of the actions being taken on campus that didn’t benefit my constituents. But, if I want change to happen, I have to be here and make those changes. Serving as the black constituency senator this past year, I have felt useless. I have not been given the tools my community needs. I feel like the position is a show and there’s no real substance.”

Because Barron feels like the position does not currently reflect what her constituents need, she said her election platform aims to completely change the position.

“I want to work and reconstruct what the black constituency senator position should be and help the next person in this position,” she said. “In my opinion, this university fails students of color. We need more visibility and I think that’s possible if we reconstruct the position to better represent students.”

Claire Miller, current USG disability constituency senator, is running for reelection to continue her work for students with disabilities. Kaitlin Soriano is running for the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American constituency seat.

With all of the changes currently underway for student life on campus, Haggerty said he was excited to push diversity, equity, and inclusion priorities forward in the fall.

As the current president of UI Spectrum, the nation’s longest-standing LGBTQ student organization, Haggerty said he was ready to develop an agenda with the people he has previously worked with in UI Spectrum for the people he serves.

“I have had the opportunity to reach out to students in the [LGBTQ] community through Spectrum, the queer leadership roundtable,” he said. “I can see what the real issues are for our community. I am a cisgender white man who identifies as queer, so I don’t know everyone’s experience. We need to hear people’s voices and that’s what I will do in this position.”

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