Three candidates seeking presidency of the University of Minnesota’s Professional Student Government debated their platforms and ideas Monday night at Anderson Hall.
Racism, sexual violence and interdisciplinary communication were the main focuses of the PSG debate, which was only attended by about seven people.
During the opening statements, candidate Mike Sund acknowledged the lack of students in the room.
“One of the reasons I am running is because of the attendance in the room tonight,” said Sund, a master’s of public policy student. “I am speaking to an empty room.”
Throughout the debate, Sund emphasized the need for communication and engagement between PSG students and the rest of the graduate student community.
In preparation for the debate and as a part of his campaign, Sund said he reached out to every student group that has applied for a grant through PSG to hear their thoughts on the process and how it could be improved.
“The primary experience that I bring to [PSG] is as an organizer,” Sund said. “If we are going to advocate for issues, first we need to get folks in the room.”
Sonya Ewert, presidential candidate and master’s student studying business, echoed the concerns of Sund regarding student involvement.
Ewert said she prepared for the debate by reaching out to students from each of the 10 schools represented by PSG.
Many students identified PSG’s grants as an important resource, but were unsure of how to access them, she said.
PSG is funded by student services fees, a mandated fee students pay alongside tuition. During the debate, Ewert said if students have to pay the mandatory student service fees, PSG should be making use of the funds to benefit students.
Ewert said her platform is two-tiered, addressing PSG’s internal workings as well as their role in the campus community.
“We have an incredible opportunity to connect with students across councils,” Ewert said, “We can meet students where they’re at.”
Alanna Pawlowski, presidential candidate and law student at the University, advocated strongly for conversations about racism and bias at the debate.
Pawlowski highlighted the need for a space in which these discussions can take place, adding that PSG can help facilitate such discussions.
Pawlowski, who is also pursuing a master’s in public policy, advocated strongly for dual-degree seeking students.
“I have more experience across more schools ... [which] really helped me learn more about the University, build relationships across schools and really get to know fellow students,” she said.
Pawlowski also brought up the need for PSG to be involved in campus discussions regarding sexual violence and sexual misconduct, “to make sure PSG has a seat at the table.”
All student government elections take place March 5-7.