The Richmond College Student Government Association presidential candidates, juniors Anthony Lawrence and Kevin Spear, participated in a debate via Zoom Monday concerning numerous topics affecting campus, such as Greek Life, campus safety and memorialization.
The debate was hosted by current RCSGA president, senior AJ Polcari.
Lawrence and Spear both currently serve on RCSGA as vice president of administration and vice president of finance, respectively.
During opening statements, Spear said he wanted to be president because of his love for UR and wanting to leave it better than he found it.
“I’m uniquely qualified to handle situations that may arise during the next presidency, but also to rebuild after a difficult year dealing with COVID-19,” Spear said, concerning his involvement in the Jepson School of Leadership Studies, the E. Claiborne Robins School of Business and other student organizations.
Lawrence also referenced his involvement with organizations across campus, such as the Multicultural Space, Peer Advisers and Mentors and Residence Life and Housing. He mentioned some of the policies he would want to enforce, such as a greater allocation of resources to marginalized groups as well as re-connecting campus social life after the pandemic.
One of the first questions Polcari asked the candidates was regarding how social life will change at UR because of COVID-19. Lawrence said he did not think that COVID-19 will change social life significantly but he hoped UR could improve on making the social capital more equitable on campus post-COVID-19.
Spear disagreed, saying that the campus has changed because of COVID-19 and that new policies need to be put in place in order to address issues that are affecting the campus, such as Greek life and creating a student organization lodge.
Lawrence and Spear discussed Greek life and its presence on campus multiple times throughout the debate. Polcari asked the candidates what role, if any, Greek life should play on campus.
Lawrence said he would want Greek life to be present as an option for students if they would want to join, but referenced the large inequity of social life on campus among students.
“I think reform [in Greek life] is definitely necessary because we see the perpetuation of so many inequities, such as racism, sexism and misogyny,” Lawrence said.
Spear referenced the importance of a student organization lodge and other opportunities for students to get involved and have a social life outside of Greek life. He said that he wanted Greek life to still exist on campus with reform.
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“My belief on having fraternities and sororities exist is bringing them back to their values,” he said. “We need to reform or else [Greek life will] go extinct and that’s not something I want to see.”
During the Q&A portion, a question was raised about Spear’s ability to be unbiased while making decisions about Greek life, as he currently serves as president of UR's chapter of Phi Gamma Delta. Additionally, Spear is both friends with and resides with the president of the Interfraternity Council, William Bartnett, who is also a member of FIJI, Spear said during the debate in an effort to be transparent.
“I don’t think I’ll be biased in that way at all,” Spear said, mentioning how IFC is composed of members of multiple fraternities and the Center for Student Involvement internal review committee is made up of many members of sororities, fraternities, and those not involved in Greek life who will give suggestions Spear will not have input in.
After the decision made by the Board of Trustees surrounding the name changes of buildings and the circulation of the Protect Our Web compact, Polcari also asked whether RCSGA should stand with students who support the removal of Robert Ryland and Douglas Southall Freeman's names from Mitchell-Freeman and Ryland halls. RSCGA passed a joint resolution with the Westhampton College Government Association in 2019 to rename Ryland and then-named Freeman halls, which passed 26-3.
To be transparent with the community during the debate, Spear said that in 2019, he had vocally opposed the renaming resolution. However, Spear would support any decision that the body put forth as a whole, regardless of his own beliefs, he said.
“I do want those buildings contextualized so that it is very apparent the problematic history of the individuals whose names are on them,” he said.
Lawrence said that RSCGA should support the full renaming of the building but also said that changing the name of the building is not enough.
“It doesn’t make me feel comfortable to walk through Ryland with that name being there because one of my ancestors could have been their slaves,” Lawrence said. “And to put the name of a slave next to Freeman is even more disrespectful to me.”
Lawrence and Spear both agreed on the importance of continuing a conversation surrounding sexual assault on campus with survivors and other members of the campus community.
They also agreed on the importance of creating more options for mental health services on campus for students and the installment of body cameras on officers of the UR Police Department.
The Richmond College presidential election will take place from 12 a.m. to midnight on Wednesday, March 10.
Contact news writer Westen Doran at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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