Progressive Voter Coalition Answers: President Candidates


Editor’s Note: The Progressive Voter Coalition has since been disbanded by the USG Awards and Elections Committee. Click here for more information.

The Hullabaloo is reposting the answers as written by candidates and submitted to the Progressive Voter Coalition. These responses have not been copy edited by our copy team.

The Progressive Voter Coalition (PVC)’s goal is to advocate for progressive goals and values and ensure that the voices of students are heard with the same volume other powerful institutions. We are excited to present the PVC Questionnaire for the 2018-2019 USG Executive Board candidates. We contacted over 40 progressive organizations for questions they wanted to ask candidates and have included the most poignant ones below. All USG Exec. Board ballot candidates were contacted for responses and we have listed what we have received. Thursday, March 8th, the PVC will listen to oral presentations from all participating candidates and make a public slate of endorsements for each position. Candidates were asked to keep their answers to a minimum of 2-3 sentences. Answers are divided by position and candidates are listed in alphabetical order by first name. The PVC is an AEC-confirmed coalition and has been in contact with the AEC to follow standards and rules.

How can more funding be given to Multicultural Council (MCC) and Gender and Sexuality Advisory Council (GSAC) organizations on campus? If so, what would this process look like for you? (Gender Exploration Society)

Erin Blake: The regulations on increases in budget from year to year for student organizations makes it harder for organizations with smaller memberships (which MCC and GSAC organizations traditionally have) to receive any significant increase for any impact to be made on individual students. I hope to work with the Vice President of Finance to integrate active engagement and participation into allocation of funds, even if an organization is traditionally small (especially with motivation money, which can be used for a wider variety of things as opposed to the yearly budget). This would directly impact GSAC and MCC organizations as they have extremely dedicated followings and are very active for their members.

Eva Dils: I think more funding should be given, and I promise to stand with MCC and GSAC organizations in their fight to secure more funding because I believe this funding is a meaningful investment to build community and elevate the voices of people in marginalized communities. As a part of this commitment, I will work with members of the USG Finance Committee to work closely with these organizations to assure better budgeting. Additionally, I think we need to look not only at the amount of money given, but what it can be used for. If elected, I will work with the VP of Finance to find a way to allow MCC organizations to purchase cultural food with USG money.

Justin Sandoval: I will personally promote the transferring of more funding to MCC and GSAC organizations to the VP of Finance and the USG Finance Committee. One student mentioned to me that USG must create a training session for all clubs before they present before the USG Finance Committee. This training will be available for all clubs, but I will make sure USG puts forth the effort to specifically tell MCC and GSAC clubs about it.

Do you support the USG initiative to remove the racist namesake of F. Edward Hebert? Do you support a push for Tulane to recognize legacies of oppression and to reclaim its racist history? What would this process look like to you? (Students Organizing Against Racism)

Erin Blake: Absolutely, I support the removal of the racist namesake of Hebert Hall and have been extremely proud of our senators Juju Worku and Shahamat Uddin and our Diversity and Inclusion Chair Sonali Chadha for their hard work and dedication to this initiative. I support  Tulane administration and staff working harder to do their own research into these buildings, rather than pushing work off to our students who care about these initiatives. At the end of the day, if Tulane advertises that they are an inclusive campus, yet refuses to recognize the history of oppression from many of our past benefactors, our students of color can’t expect to feel included.

Eva Dils: Yes, I fully support the initiative to replace the name of Hebert along with other racist names that are incorrectly honored on our campus. USG must expand on this work with actions like pressing the administration to expand funding for the Africana Studies department in order to make our school a place that cultivates and supports leaders to initiate change beyond Tulane. These, however, are only my preliminary ideas. To comprehensively address this issue, USG must work with students as well as on-campus offices like the O, the Center for Academic Equity, and the Office of Institutional Equity to form a plan to address the racist history of Tulane. I will also demand that the administration takes initiative on challenging Tulane’s racist history.

Justin Sandoval: Yes, I will work to rename the buildings that are named after people who economically benefited from slavery and supported the Confederacy during the Civil War. By doing this, we can begin to address the oppressive history that Tulane, as an institution, was built on. I want Tulane to be more honest by recognizing the legacies of oppression and by reclaiming its racist history. I plan to attend the Tours of Truth in April.

When the “It’s okay to be white” signs were posted around Tulane’s campus, what was your initial reaction? How do you see this in representation of race relations on Tulane’s campus? (Students Organizing Against Racism)

Erin Blake: I was extremely disappointed when I saw the “It’s okay to be white” signs, but I can’t say I was surprised. White fragility does exist on this campus. I will push for increased education on race relations on Tulane’s campus, especially within the evaluation of our academic curriculum. This incident was representative of the progress that needs to happen at our school.

Eva Dils: Our whole country is built upon and upholds whiteness, but our society often tells people who aren’t white that it’s not okay to be black, brown, or whoever they are. Given this, I found these signs to be extremely inappropriate. At Tulane, this shows up in the disproportionately low membership in Greek life among students of color, the disproportionately white faculty and administration, and the unacceptable treatment of staff who are predominantly students of color. Specific to USG, it shows up in the policy that it’s okay for student organizations to use their money to pay speakers, but it’s not okay to use their money to cook cultural foods that connect students to their culture – food they wouldn’t otherwise have access to on Tulane’s predominantly white campus.

Justin Sandoval: The “It’s okay to be white” signs attempted to tell white students that they should not feel the need to fight white supremacy in Tulane spaces. I was shocked and horrified that this occurred on our campus. All students are accountable for fighting white supremacy at Tulane.

In the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, what do you think gun control should look like on Tulane’s campus? (Students for Justice in Palestine)

Erin Blake: I have actually been working with our Director of Student Safety Joseph Sotile to discuss how we as USG can address gun violence on this campus and in our country. We will be working to increase the frequency and turnout of Active Shooter Trainings on campus, and are constantly looking for ways we as a body can do more. I, personally, have contacted my Congressmen to advocate for gun control, and are advocating for other students to do the same.

Eva Dils: Gun control is a pressing issue facing the policymakers at our country’s highest levels. I believe the policymakers of Tulane can influence the paths that other universities and communities around the country take. For this reason, Tulane must unwaveringly continue to prohibit the carrying of concealed or open carry weapons on campus. We must also continue to prohibit the possession of guns in the residence halls.

Justin Sandoval:  I understand the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has impacted many Tulane students. I will make sure Tulane remains to have a no weapons policy in place. I, and the Director of Student Safety whom I appoint, will promote USG’s Active Shooter Training to all students.

Did you attend the Wave of Change Town Hall event? What do you think are the most crucial steps to reducing sexual violence on Tulane’s campus? What do you think were the shortcomings in the Wave of Change and climate survey initiatives?  What will you do to ensure the protection of survivors? (Muslim Students Association)

Erin Blake: Yes, I attended for the entirety of the event. Even after the Wave of Change, I have still been disappointed on the tangible action items coming from the administration regarding eradicating sexual assault. Through personal research some of the best ways to face this issue are bystander intervention training and education. I will work to implement sexual violence education into our curriculum, beginning freshman year and continuing the conversation throughout our time. I also want to work with the Student Conduct Office to make our conduct process for survivors of sexual assault more accessible and supportive, creating tangible change for our students and supporting them now.

Eva Dils: Yes – the Tulane community must demonstrate a larger commitment to OneWave bystander intervention, and it must use a significant portion of the #OnlyTheAudacious funds to finance research on sexual violence prevention. The Wave of Change event glazed over issues relating to students of color until students dug deeper in their questions; while praising the fact that students said they trusted Tulane, administrators ignored the fact that gender non-conforming folks, LGBTQ+ folks, and students of color demonstrated much lower levels of trust; and they didn’t focus enough on the disgustingly high rates of rape among LGBTQ+ women and men. I’m currently working on a piece of legislation to permit anonymity for USG-funded student organizations that seek to provide healing spaces for survivors. My goal for our campus is to create a Tulane in which every student feels welcomed and protected regardless of race, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Justin Sandoval: Yes, I attended the Wave of Change Town Hall. I want the administration to involve Sociology and Gender & Sexuality Studies professors’ in the study of the culture that Tulane has created which allows for sexual assault to fester. I will work with the administration to make sure students know what “Wave of Change” is and what it can be.

Do you think queer students at Tulane hesitate to come out of the closet? How can USG and Tulane help queer people feel more comfortable and visible? (Queer Student Alliance)

Erin Blake: I cannot speak for queer students at Tulane, but I do believe our campus needs to work to be more inclusive to all identities. One thing I believe USG can do for queer students is advertise for LGBTQ and Trans 101 Trainings, along with improve visibility of funds such as the co-programming fund, and help advertise events and initiatives utilized by that fund. I also want to work with administration to create a platform for queer students to regularly speak candidly about their experiences, and collaborate to find solutions.

Eva Dils: Yes – I did at first, and I’m a white cisgender person. USG can start increasing visibility even with little things like placing rainbow Tulane stickers on water fountains, trash cans, and other USG-funded objects around campus. Tulane, for its part, needs to start by ensuring that Resident Advisors have more than just a one-hour training on queer- and trans-related issues so they don’t dismiss issues of homophobia among their residents. I think USG, Tulane, and HRL specifically must ask pointed questions in any feedback forms they put out in order to receive the important information they need to rectify issues that queer students face. As with many of these issues, my ideas are just a starting point. Developing relationships with and collaborating with students is where the real change will occur, and I plan to foster those types of conversations as USG President.

Justin Sandoval: Yes, I want to require all new students to complete the (currently optional) LGBTQ online pre-freshman training. I will work to create more gender-neutral spaces on campus for transgender (MTF, FTM, Non-binary) and gender non-conforming students. I want to make sure gender-inclusive housing is available to anyone who needs it, regardless of what dorm or RLC they live in.

How do you feel about the current dialogue on campus regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Should any steps be taken to make this dialogue more inclusive? If so, what specific measures can you commit to enacting while in office?  (Students for Justice in Palestine)

Erin Blake: I don’t feel that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict gets brought up in an unbiased light very often. Being a school with a large Jewish population means that the Palestinian supporters are a very small minority, and in my time at Tulane have had a hard time being heard. I don’t think that the dialogue has had enough of a place at Tulane because it is such a sensitive issue, but more education on the topic is important because of our connection to Israel (like our school sponsored Birthright trips to Israel). The solution to the conflict is so complicated and we’re not going to solve it at Tulane, but to inform the students of both side’s opinions is crucial to creating an inclusive campus.

Eva Dils: I don’t know much about the current dialogue on campus regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I tried to join Students for Justice in Palestine several weeks ago, but unfortunately the meeting time conflicts with my weekly RA staff meeting. As a general rule, USG should provide space for student organizations to display differing opinions, except when those opinions are hateful toward other humans.

Justin Sandoval: I don’t feel like there is enough dialogue on campus about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It has been explained to me that there are many direct ties between Israel and Tulane, such as Hillel. So, the first thing that we must do is to create more dialogue about the conflict. When we do this, all should be open to hearing both sides of the issue.

What is the difference between diversity and anti-racism? If elected, how do you plan to use your leadership position in anti-racist efforts? (Students Organizing Against Racism)

Erin Blake: Diversity means to include and have different races, backgrounds, identities, and experiences represented while anti-racism is actively working towards promoting racial tolerance. I will work to bring conversations about race relations and supporting students of color without tokenizing into the evaluation of our academic curriculum. I also acknowledge that there needs to be a cultural change surrounding racism at this school, and will advocate for students and leaders on campus to acknowledge their individual privileges and keep those in mind through their work.

Eva Dils: Diversity implies that people of many identities occupy a single space, and it is often a step toward anti-racism; anti-racism itself involves much more. Namely, it involves actively working to undo the systems of oppression that negatively impact the lives of people of color. If elected, I plan to continue engaging in conversations with SOAR at weekly meetings, and I plan to collaborate with student organizers and use my platform as USG President to support students’ anti-racist efforts whenever possible. This would include advocating for more funding for the O, restructuring the Service Learning program which perpetuates white saviorism, and requiring that USG members attend an Undoing Racism training or other race-related workshop within their year in office.

Justin Sandoval: When an organization is racially diverse, it means that it includes people of many different races. Anti-racism is actions taken to fight racism and white supremacy. I support the list of demands put forth by Tulane’s Black Student Union and Students Organizing Against Racism.

Some students feel that there is an unequal distribution of labor put onto marginalized students to address their own issues. If elected, how do you plan to address this precedent of tokenization? (Students Organizing Against Racism, Muslim Students Association)

Erin Blake: I believe there needs to be more education and open dialogue about how students of color feel on our campus. In the evaluation of our academic curriculum I hope to initiate, I believe conversations about how to support students of color without tokenization is another key to creating a more inclusive campus.

Eva Dils: Part of this goes back to the fact that non-oppressed people often don’t see oppression until it smacks them across the face. On the other hand, it seems that, some students are scared of saying the wrong thing in spaces that work on issues related to marginalized students. To solve each of these problems, I think we need to focus on educating USG members, Freshman Leadership Program members, and other students who are likely to care about doing public interest work but may not have the level of analysis to go about it the right way. If we do this, more students in “leadership” positions will be able to start with some baseline knowledge about the issues that (1) may motivate them to act and (2) will give them a better understanding of the issues, hopefully alleviating some of the ‘scared of being wrong’ feeling.

Justin Sandoval: I believe that there is an unequal distribution of labor put onto marginalized students to address their own issues. Many student have become fatigued by all of the work that they must do because no one else is going to do it. The way that we stop tokenization is to not just make USG diverse, but to support these marginalized students once they are in their leadership roles.

What additional mental health services do we need on campus to supplement CAPS? What needs to change about the mental health culture on campus? (National Alliance on Mental Illness- 2017)

Erin Blake: There needs to be more facilitation between faculty and CAPS in order for faculty to better understand the implications that the rigorous academics at Tulane have on a student’s mental health. I feel that this relationship would make Tulane a healthier environment, and would support the general well-being of our students.

Eva Dils: CAPS must have longer hours for students who work during business hours, the group session times need to be more accessible for all students, and CAPS needs to have an online scheduling mechanism for students who are too anxious to call or walk in during business hours. Mental health also needs to continually be destigmatized, particularly among professors. Finally, we need to shift our perspective from CAPS being the “mental health place” to the entire campus being the “mental health place.”

Justin Sandoval: I want to change the mental health culture on campus by fighting the stigma around mental health. I will fight to extend CAPS’ hours to include times in the evenings and on weekends. I will also work on diversifying the employees of CAPS

How do you plan to support the expansion of reproductive health resources for students on and off campus? (Students United for Reproductive Justice)

Erin Blake: Living in New Orleans produces an entirely new set of struggles for women in terms of reproductive health. More education about the resources we offer at the Student Health Center, and where to get those we don’t is crucial to supporting the women on this campus. Tulane is full of powerful women and have every right to get and choose the healthcare they need to succeed in every endeavor.

Eva Dils: I will continually advocate for the continuation and expansion of Campus Health’s Get Yourself Tested program, an issue I worked on earlier this year. I will also promote the idea of incorporating a trans- and queer-inclusive sex-ed course into the student experience for all Tulanians. Beyond my passion for this issue on campus, I am trained as a clinic escort – a person who promotes the safety of the area outside the Women’s Health Care Center. I escorted about once a week this summer, but I haven’t had time to take any shifts this year due to my class schedule. Next year, I plan to schedule a free morning each week to take shifts.

Justin Sandoval: All Tulane students deserve reproductive justice. I will work to expand reproductive health resources, such as increased access to safe sex supplies and STI testing.

Have you attended the LGBTQ Ally Workshop or Trans 101? What LGBTQ events on campus have you attended? If not, will you commit to attending one in the Fall? (Queer Student Alliance, Gender Exploration Society)

Erin Blake: Yes, I have attended the LGBTQ Ally Workshop. Last spring, I attended the Trans Day of Remembrance, which was an extremely powerful moment of solidarity. I have not attended as many events as I would like to, but I would like to attend more this coming year and advocate to our student leaders to do the same.

Eva Dils: Yes, I’ve attended both the LGBTQ Ally Workshop and Trans 101. I’m a member of QSA and an O Peer Mentor, so I’ve attended many LGBTQ events on campus. For a few examples, I attended a “Beyond Consent” sex ed workshop for LGBTQ students the other week, I went to Glam Jam in the Fall, and last year I was a member of Prism – a queer Christian group.

Justin Sandoval: I have completed the LGBTQ Ally Workshop and Trans 101 trainings. I want to get as many students, faculty, and staff members to attend these workshops as possible. I also enjoy attending multiple LGBTQ events a week. One of my favorite LGBTQ events that I have attended this semester was a talk on polyamory with my Gender and Sexuality Studies professor, Mimi Schippers.

Have you attended an Undoing Racism workshop in the past – if yes, when? How did it  change the way you act as a leader on campus? If you have not attended, will you commit to attending the Fall 2018 workshop? (Students Organizing Against Racism)

Erin Blake: Yes, I attended the Undoing Racism workshop this past fall. This workshop helped me understand my implicit bias and the institutional racism engrained in myself and our institution. It helped me be more conscious of the things I advocate for on campus, and has made me work to create real impactful change without speaking for students whose identities I don’t represent. Even though I have already attended, I would attend again in the fall as I feel there is still so much more to learn.

Eva Dils: Yes – I attended Undoing Racism during the Fall of my freshman year in Fall 2016. One of the most important things I took away from this experience is that there’s a fine line between supporting and uplifting students of color’s efforts and needs and co-opting them. I also learned that, as a white person, the most important thing I need to do to combat racism is listen; as a person who is not oppressed by the color of my skin, I must listen to the experiences of people of color before I can do any anti-racist work.

Justin Sandoval: Sadly, I have not attended the Undoing Racism workshop yet. However, this past weekend, as a Posse Scholar, I attended the PossePlus Retreat titled “Hope, Hate, and Race in the United States”. I know that my fellow Posse Scholars and PossePlussers put a lot of work into the Undoing Racism workshop, and I plan to attend the Spring 2018 workshop.

What strategies do you plan to implement to make USG itself a more accessible place on campus, especially for groups historically marginalized by this institution? (Students Organizing Against Racism)

Erin Blake: I will work to facilitate relationships between environments that are typically not as inclusive to students of color (USG, Admissions, etc.) and student organizations already focusing on these issues. I also think it is imperative for USG to reach out to students who are already organizing and doing anti-racist work to ask for their input on what initiatives USG should push to the administration. I also think increasing support from senators on diversity initiatives is crucial, and this conversation can be started through diversity and inclusion trainings at the USG Retreat.

Eva Dils: Personally, I believe in the power of individual relationships. For example, last year I posted in an LGBTQ+ announcements groupme asking if anyone was interested in joining the Student Health Advisory Committee, the committee I currently chair. I reached out to everyone who responded and added people to groupmes, set up coffee dates, made phone calls. Then when people came to the committee, I made it fun and personal – creating weekly playlists out of each member’s song of the week. I think if we can make USG less of a scary, hierarchical entity by developing and maintaining personal relationships with people and inviting them into USG spaces – especially committees – we can eventually have a large-scale positive impact on the perceived accessibility of USG.

Justin Sandoval: I will work as USG President to make Senate and the university a more inclusive environment. Many student leaders talk about making USG a more diverse and inclusive space. I believe this starts with the Executive Board members, like President, because they create the culture of the student organization. For example, gender pronouns WILL be used during Senate.

Why do you think the rates of sexual assault are so much higher for LGBTQ students? (Queer Student Alliance)

Erin Blake: This question is an extremely complex question that sociologists and top experts are currently also exploring. One prominent reason stems from the hyper-sexualization of the LGBTQ community in our society. I personally have not experienced the marginalization of the LGBTQ community on our campus, but fully intend to engage in conversations about how to make these students feel safer on our campus and give them a platform to speak.

Eva Dils: An important place to start is to not treat LGBTQ students as a monolith on this issue; even the Climate Survey data shows vast discrepancies between different groups under the LGBTQ umbrella. For instance, 68.9% of GBQ+ men who were assaulted were assaulted by a man while only 10.8% of LGBQ+ women who were assaulted were assaulted by a woman. It seems incredibly likely that the higher rates may partially be explained by the homophobia and transphobia ingrained in our society and on our campus. But as a complex issue, it must have complex causes. For an expanded look at one of my theories, please read my recent letter to the editor of the Hullabaloo.

Justin Sandoval: I think the rates of sexual assault are so much higher for LGBTQ students because (1) our community is so small, (2) our community is marginalized, (3) dating apps that put some students in unsafe situations, and (4) some of us have few good examples of healthy queer relationships in our lives.

Do you have any plans to make Tulane’s campus more environmentally-friendly? If so, what are they? (Green Club)

Erin Blake: Yes, I think Tulane can always strive to be more environmentally conscience. I plan to work with our Director of Sustainability to continue the hard work and initiatives of John Alexander, our current Director of Sustainability, and the Sustainability Committee. I would like to advocate for more USG involvement in events such as Climate Action Day to improve the environmental impact our campus has, along with focusing on increased reusable energy on campus.

Eva Dils: Yes – I think we need to start by actually publicizing the resources that we have. I was an Energy Advocate for the Tulane Unplugged Energy Competition my freshman year, and that event does a good job of bringing sustainability to students’ attention. But it’s the only event that seems to capture students’ attention on these issues. We need to incorporate more environmentally-friendly information into orientation, I think we need to blast the Climate Day of Action into student’s consciousness next year, and USG must get Tulane excited about sustainable energy by funding a solar umbrella in the new Outdoor Classroom by Tilton.

Justin Sandoval: I support divestment legislation. I will work on getting more Reusable Water Bottle Stations around campus. I will push for more recycling bins inside dorm halls, or at least a better system to recycle than what exists now. I promote the usage of OZZI containers to minimize waste.

Do you believe that sexual violence prevention training (e.g. bystander intervention) should be mandatory for all students? (Tulane University Peer Health Educators)

Erin Blake: Yes, I think this is something that can be implemented in TIDES courses, but should also be translated to our current sophomores and upperclassmen as well. I also think it is imperative to start conversations about how not to assault rather than only how not to get assaulted in conjunction with these trainings.

Eva Dils: Yes – I’m currently working on a piece of legislation with Senators Christina Krisberg and Caroline Scott to mandate OneWave bystander intervention training for student organization leaders, and I think we need to create a similar mandate for all USG members. I will continue to push for schoolwide OneWave mandate, but we also need to press for a multi-dose approach to sexual violence prevention so that students receive this training many times throughout their Tualne experience.

Justin Sandoval: I have completed the One Love training at a NAMI meeting. I have also completed the One Wave Bystander Intervention Training as well as the One Wave Training designed for LGBTQ students. I believe that this sexual violence prevention training should be mandatory for all students. I think TIDES courses could also be used to have conversations about sexual violence prevention.

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