USG presidential tickets debate on diversity

The Mai & Brianna ticket (left) and the Debbie & Blake ticket (right) discussed diversity and inclusion at a presidential forum Tuesday. The event was moderated by Eytan Wallace (center) from Annenberg Media. Wanting He | Daily Trojan

Presidential tickets Debbie Lee and Blake Ackerman, and Mai Mizuno and Brianna Bozek debated Tuesday night at the “Inclusion Town Hall” presidential forum. Annenberg Media reporter Eytan Wallace moderated the debate.

The two tickets discussed ways to enhance experiences for transfer students, spring admits, commuter and international students, as well as the nature of USG’s relationship with administrators on campus.        

Mizuno opened the debate by establishing herself as an advocate for students, emphasizing her roots as a campus activist before joining USG.

“I’m not only up here as candidate Mai, but I’m also up here as activist Mai,” Mizuno said. “For three years, since day one, I have been out there marching and protesting.”

Early in the town hall, Lee laid out her vision for diversity and inclusion as well as the manifestation of both of these values in USG.

“The specific way that we ensure that all communities and groups on this campus are not only being recognized and represented, but also being celebrated for their differences is by reaching out to groups who have not historically been a part of USG,” Lee said. “We’re an organization that’s accessible to all students, whatever background you come from and one that fights for all students and celebrates all differences.”

Bozek underscored the rich and diverse nature of the undergraduate student body. A point of emphasis for Mizuno and Bozek was serving as a “mouthpiece” for students first, as opposed to catering to the administration’s interests.

“There are so many student leaders and advocates across this campus that represent a plethora of diverse experiences, backgrounds and needs,” Bozek said. “And we need to stand, again, in solidarity with them and act as a microphone for those advocates.”

Ackerman noted that the existence of great diversity in the undergraduate student body does not necessarily mean all student interests are being considered wholly and equally.

“Our school is filled with amazing students from different backgrounds and different walks of life, and it’s important to acknowledge this because not all of us have the same experiences when we come here,” Ackerman said. “And we have to celebrate those differences, rather than just acknowledge them.”

Ackerman noted that, should he and Lee be elected, their doors would always be open to hearing all students’ voices and perspectives.

Mizuno responded, emphasizing that she and Bozek would not only be open to listening to students in their offices, but that they would take action and be present throughout campus.

“For us, it’s not necessarily about making sure that our doors are open, but the idea that we walk outside of those doors in the office and make sure that we actually engage with those communities on Trousdale or wherever else where we could connect with each other,” Mizuno said.

Regarding administrative interests, Lee stated that USG’s autonomy relative to the administration is limited, and that she would work to create compromises.

“We want to ensure that USG is an organization that uplifts voices and doesn’t say no to administration but finds solutions and finds compromises so that all students feel supported and empowered by this University,” Lee said.

Lee spoke about closing the gap between student interests, feasibility and administrative interests regarding spaces on campus. She mentioned the importance of resourcing current spaces before focusing on new spaces.

“We want to collaborate with administrative efforts already being made to ensure that not only the spaces to be made are going to follow through, but also that the spaces that exist right now have the necessary and proper resources to support and empower all students,” Lee said.

Ackerman emphasized that there is an abundance of current resources but lack of awareness among students. For this presidential ticket, enhancing awareness of available resources was a recurring point.

“With regards to all non-traditional college students, we want to make sure that when they get here, we are making them aware of the resources available to them,” Ackerman said. “There are so many great things that this campus has to offer and we want to present them to them right away.”

Mizuno closed the debate by speaking about her own record of advocating for students.

“Anyone can come up here and tout buzzwords within the world of diversity and inclusion, but at the end of the day, it’s about backing that up with a history of fighting for these issues,” Mizuno said. “How many times have we seen our own institutions use buzzwords without following through with actions and policies?”