On the night before the annual Richmond Student Government Association (RCSGA) presidential election, the two candidates, juniors Abbas Abid and Daniel Yoo, faced off during a debate in front of their fellow classmates.
The debate, which took place in the collaborative study zone on the first floor of the Boatwright Memorial Library, was moderated by current RCSGA president Ken Anderson and consisted of four rounds: general questions and a lightening round, followed by big issues and questions from the audience. Each candidate also gave opening and closing statements.
Abid, who serves as RCSGA’s current vice president of finance and as liaison for Spiders for Spiders, is a member of the Muslim Student Association as well as serving as treasurer for the men’s club rugby team.
Abid focused on “integration” in many of his responses, as he said he believes that students can learn a lot from one another by simply listening and seeing beyond differences.
Yoo, who is currently a resident assistant for Marsh Hall, cited advocating for the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant (VTAG), which allocates $3,400 in grant funding to selected students and can help pay for anything education-related, as his biggest accomplishment while serving as a member of RCSGA.
If elected president, Yoo promised to focus on making RCSGA a more “transparent” organization by improving communication between students and administrators.
Both candidates emphasized the need for a stronger bond to exist between the students and their student governments, RCSGA and Westhampton College Government Association (WCGA), as they recognize that many students are currently questioning the need for a coordinate college system.
“I understand that not everyone identifies as a heterosexual man or woman, but it’s a fact that common problems uniting people are based on what demographic they fit into, and this is the primary idea of the coordinate college system,” Yoo said. “It’s becoming more difficult to justify why we still have the system, but I want to make students believe in it again."
Yoo told audience members that the challenge would be to preserve the coordinate college system’s advantages while still ensuring that it remains a fluid space in which all students feel comfortable participating.
Some of these advantages, Abid said, include the close relationship he has been able to develop with Dean of Richmond College Joe Boehman.
“Having a male dean that I am able to work alongside with, look up to, and who understands my perspective, these are the aspects of the coordinate college system that have been helpful to me,” Abid said. “However, better communication about the system is needed so that students can decide if it is something that benefits them.”
Sexual assault and UR’s Title IX process was another important topic during the debate after the university was faced with much controversy over the subject this past fall.
Abid credited his goal of increased integration among students as something that would help end sexual assault on campus.
“Every student here wants the same thing: to have a good time and capitalize on every opportunity presented,” Abid said. “I think people are forgetting that there are many different paths you can take to reach this common goal. Integration won’t have any value without using empathy.”
Yoo stated that restoring faith and trust within the UR community will be necessary for efforts aimed at ending sexual assault, blaming the administration’s lack of transparency as the main issue.
“The sexual assault issues we faced as a community last fall left a sour taste in people’s mouths,” Yoo said.
If elected, Yoo plans on establishing a weekly RCSGA newsletter so campus community members can be updated on the steps RCSGA is taking to help end issues such as sexual assault.
“This newsletter is part of my plan to make student government more transparent,” Yoo said. “I want students to be able to read the letter and hold RCSGA accountable for any promises we make.”
At the conclusion of the debate, both Abid and Yoo expressed their excitement over the large crowd and their confidence in RCSGA.
“The fact that so many people showed up to watch the debate gives me a lot of hope for the future of RCSGA,” Yoo said.
Abid shared this sentiment.
“I don’t think the debate could’ve gone better, in the sense that I have so much hope for our student government regardless of how the election turns out,” Abid said. “I think both Daniel and I are in great positions to continue working towards the betterment of the student community.”
Voting will take place online from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. today, March 21.
Contact news editor Jocelyn Grzeszczak at firstname.lastname@example.org.