Student Government presidential candidates debate

Christa Kelly, Staff Writer

number of students gathered in the the Student Lounge on Tuesday night to listen to the Augsburg Day Student Government (ADSG) presidential candidates answer questions, explain their positions and campaign for the coming elections.

The debate moderator, “Echo” News Editor Kristian Evans interviewed sophomore Anthony Villagrana and junior Arianna Antone-Ramirez. Both were there to tell students why they should be their next president of ADSG.

The debate began with opening statements from both students. Antone-Ramirez took the time to introduce herself and her running mate, Lucía Dávila Álvarez. Álvarez was given the Outstanding Junior award this year and is president of the Augsburg Student Activities Council (ASAC).

Antone-Ramirez, a current ADSG member, stated that one aspect she would seek to improve is communication between the student government and the student body. “There’s a vast lack of communication,” she explained. Because of this, the student government “can feel very exclusive at times.” One idea she suggested to improve this was to begin a monthly student government newsletter that could go out to all students. She also wants to continue the government’s community engagement and improve visibility until members are known across campus. “Come ask questions,” she said. “We’re students just like everyone else in this room.”

Villagrana agreed that communication was important. He stated that he would “keep [his] doors open.” He believes that the problem “stems from a lack of communication between departments.” He also announced that he would focus on addressing student parking concerns. His running mate, Zakariya Abdullahi, is a DPS supervisor, a position Villagrana believes would be advantageous to improving parking opportunities.

Another topic at the debate was how to close the divide between Augsburg’s athletes and non-athletes. Antone-Ramirez agreed with students that this was a major problem on campus.   “You have two different communities here on campus,” she said. “They don’t talk, don’t interact.” This manifests due to conflicting schedules, often leading to the different groups of students rarely seeing each other. She explained that she would like to address this by speaking for both sides. This means asking “how athletes want to be supported by non-athletes” and vice-versa. Because a large part of the problem was due to scheduling, she suggested creating “one centralized calendar of events for the campus.” This would allow students to know what was occurring in other groups so that peers could support each other.

Villagrana agreed that the divide was a “big issue.” He compared it to the cliques formed in high school. He stated that one way to begin to repair the problem was by holding more events. He suggested more art shows and music showcases, places where all students could connect and share their work.

The recent issues of race and academic freedom were also addressed by the candidates. Both were very clear about where they stood. Villagrana shared his own experiences, saying that he, as a person of color, often feels like the “outsider in a room.” This summer, he will be working on an URGO project about this subject matter. He wants to improve situations for students by “focusing on more inclusive writing.” He also insisted that anyone on campus in a position of power should go through cultural understanding training. “Give those students a voice,” he said. Antone-Ramirez was clear that there was a problem. “Coming from one of those communities,” she began, “that’s scary sometimes.” She gave the audience a message of support. “Every one of you belongs here. This place is for you.”

Students also had questions about each candidate’s experience. While Antone-Ramirez is a current ADSG member, Villagrana has never been part of it. However, he sees this as an advantage. “It gives us a drive to see what’s working on campus and what’s not . . . I don’t think it’s going to be detrimental.” But Antone-Ramirez sees her and Álvarez’s involvement as a strength. “We learned how to talk to administrators, how to speak their language, step into their spaces . . . We bring a lot of experience to the table.”

Both candidates’ primary message was summed up by Antone-Ramirez’s closing words: “We want to move Augsburg forward together.”

This article was originally published in the April 12, 2019 issue. 

Anthony  Villagrana and Arianna Antone-Ramirez, candidates for Day Student Government president, participate in a debate hosted by Kristian Evans. Photo by Michael Rivers.