Student body president debate focuses on transparency, increasing CMHC access and addressing food insecurity

Sheryl Lawrence

Candidates for the 2021-2022 student body president and vice president discussed key points of their campaigns at the Student Government debate Monday evening.
The four executive alliances debated virtually on issues including lack of transparency between students and Student Government, improving access to resources for students, and restructuring the student experience.
Universitywide representative candidates, who will work in the legislative branch of Student Government, were given one minute by The Daily Texan’s opinion board at the beginning of the debate to discuss their platforms. The Universitywide representative candidates focused on increasing services from the Counseling and Mental Health Center, expanding COVID-19 pass/fail options, and providing financial stability for students.
In their opening statements, candidates for the executive alliance discussed plans on how they will help students during their term. Students in attendance were also able to ask questions.
Executive alliance candidates focused primarily on increasing transparency between Student Government, University administration and students, increasing access to mental health services and addressing the University’s racist history.
Presidential candidate Dwight Peton, who is running with Domanique Williams, said one of the biggest challenges facing students is inaccessibility to resources. 
“If you don't have accessibility to housing or to food, that affects your mental ability,” architectural engineering senior Williams said. “Expanding the amount of resources we have for UT students, specifically during the pandemic … is very important to us, and that's our main target to attack.”
Presidential candidate Gautham Metta, who is running with Quenton Stokes, said they want to restructure student orientation.
“(There are) many individual examples of students who have come together and achieved change,” finance junior Metta said. “We want to re-educate everyone through orientation so they can learn about these measures, so that they can be empowered to change the world themselves.”
Metta and Stokes said they have not previously been a part of Student Government, which Stokes said gives them a “unique perspective to Student Government and how (they) can solve these issues.”  
Vice presidential candidate Danielle Buffa, who is running with Javier Lopez, said they want to use at least $10,000 of the Student Government budget as donations to the UT Outpost.
Buffa and Lopez said throughout the debate they want to have students talk directly to University administration with their issues. 
“Every single student at UT, not just the leaders of orgs … would be able to show up and voice their concerns directly to us, to the executive agencies and to a representative from the Office of the Dean of Students,” political communication sophomore Buffa said. 
Presidential candidate Kiara Kabbara, who is running with Ethan Jones, said they are committed to supporting low-income students, specifically by adding support for Riverside. 
“The recent winter storm … demonstrated the University needs to support Riverside and the community,” government junior Kabbara said. “Therefore, we will create a Riverside hub that serves a community by providing a first responder station.”
Kabbara said other steps to support low-income students would include partnering with SureWalk and stores like H-E-B to make grocery shopping more accessible. 
Throughout the debate, Kabbara and Jones said the experience they previously held in Student Government and in leadership positions in other student organizations made them well suited for the role as student body president and vice president.

Editor's Note: This story first appeared in The Daily Texan's March 2 print edition.