Progressive Voter Coalition: Vice President of Finance 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)

Amir Shalabi: This issue is the basis of my platform. Too often, underrepresented communities do not get the funding they deserve because of the bureaucratic nature of USG. In order to fix this, increased transparency and education on funding must become accessible to all student communities.

Maggie Palys: For me, the process for funding more to MCC and GSAC organizations means maintaining a focus on these organizations all year, not just during budget season. The VPF needs to stay in contact with these organizations to make sure they are spending their budgets, and help them to build additional programming capacity to support larger budgets every year. Student activity money should be allocated in higher capacity to these organizations each budget season, but that won’t be enough for these organizations to achieve their goals to the extent that they deserve. I will make a conscious commitment to do everything in my power to ensure that all organizations, but especially MCC and GSAC organizations, can find the funding to hold impactful events and make change on this campus.

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)

Amir Shalabi: Yes. Rather than focus on being “audacious” we should, as an institution, work towards becoming the standard of inclusion, education, and innovation. We first must make up lost ground on issues surrounding our culture towards race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, and privilege in a community less fortunate than ours.

Maggie Palys: Yes, I strongly support this initiative and the push to reclaim Tulane’s racist history. I think this process starts with every student on our campus taking ownership of the problematic symbols around our campus, and taking active steps, like the current legislation, to make this campus a safe and welcoming place for all communities.

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)

Amir Shalabi: These signs were extremely disappointing to see. It is no secret that Tulane lacks diversity, but even more so, they are indicative integrated characteristics and cultural practices that are harmful to people of color. Correcting this issue should be a priority of the administration, USG, and all students on our campus.

Maggie Palys: I would classify my reaction as anger with the ignorance of the responsible students, and disappointment with the complacency of our campus leaders. I think it is easy as members of USG to pat ourselves on the back and believe that racism no longer exists on this campus, but especially in the wake of events like this one, it is consistently important to actively combat racism on this campus and strive to make Tulane a place where every student feels comfortable and accepted.

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)

Amir Shalabi: It would be very enlightening to see the Tulane administration implement some type of gun control initiative and lead other universities to follow.

Maggie Palys: Guns have no place on our campus. Period.

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)

Amir Shalabi: No. I believe that the intersectional nature of sexual violence needs to be addressed by the administration. This problem cannot be solved without also showing unequivocal support for people of color and the LGBTQ community.  

Maggie Palys: I was unfortunately unable to attend the Town Hall, but have attended similar solution-focused events including the Louisiana Sexual Assault Student Activist Conference last semester. While I appreciate the idea behind the Wave of Change initiative, I think it must engage all students in productive conversation and real change. I think the best way that I as an individual, and anyone, can work to ensure the protection of survivors, is to stand in solidarity. As the current Treasurer for Men Join the Fight, I am actively involved in work to engage members of our campus who have not been a part of this movement, and I intend to continue expanding on this work as VPF of USG.

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)

Amir Shalabi: Yes. As VPF I can ensure that these organizations have the tools and knowledge they need to have access to all monetary resources available to them. More importantly, I think getting more students to attend LGBTQ Ally workshops can increase overall knowledge and acceptance of the community.

Maggie Palys: I don’t endeavor to speak for queer students on this campus. Based on conversations I have had with queer students, I understand the queer community to be supportive but small. I think the next step for Tulane as a whole to improve the visibility of the queer community is to remain active in fostering the ally community without asking queer students to overrepresent themselves. I see USG’s part in that process as working to foster a culture of not just accepting queer students, but actively working to educate the ignorant and work against dissent.

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)

Amir Shalabi: College campuses are often centers of polarizing issues and Tulane is no exception. The Israeli-Palestinian dialogue on Tulane’s campus is hard to digest because of the incredible polarization and identity based association. As the son of Palestinian immigrants, I have had many experiences showing that this issue is complex and should be treated as such. To make this dialogue more inclusive, USG needs to push for a campus climate where all students, regardless of their affiliation with either side or identity, feel welcome to express their thoughts, feelings, and opinions.

Maggie Palys: With respect to this dialogue, I certainly think that around campus we are hearing a very one-sided discussion. I think that USG can and should sponsor open and inclusive discussions surrounding this contentious issue. In my capacity as an executive board member, I would certainly support such initiatives. In my capacity as Vice President of Finance, it will be my responsibility to ensure that such conversation bias does not carry through to biased funding: both sides of the aisle should have the opportunity to bring their opinions to campus, and only held to the same objective criteria as all other organizations.

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)

Amir Shalabi: It is not enough to get people of color onto our campus. There must be a conscious effort to ensuring that they are well accepted, adapted, and successful students at Tulane.  

Maggie Palys: Diversity is about statistics; it exists passively and does not require action and commitment. Anti-racism is an active and consistent effort to combat discrimination. As VPF, I will be in a position to support anti-racist efforts personally as a leader on this campus and by encouraging the USG to engage in anti-racist programming. Most relevantly, however, I will be in a position to put USG’s money where its mouth is, and that means supporting organizations that are actively participating in anti-racist initiatives, and subsequently supporting organizations actively as they look to use their allocated funding for these initiatives.

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)

Amir Shalabi: This issue emphasizes the need for supporting all communities after they begin attending our campus. It is not enough to accept students from underrepresented groups just so that Tulane can appear diverse.

Maggie Palys: As VPF, I will commit to maintaining a constant awareness of this tokenization. It should not be the responsibility of MCC and GSAC organizations, and organizations that support marginalized communities, to fight for funding to hold their events. It is, rather, the responsibility of USG to recognize the underrepresentation of these communities and support them in their efforts. That means finding funding for these organizations, and it means supporting these organizations as they endeavor to spend that money and to potentially find additional sources of funding. It is a fine line to walk, and it requires constant commitment to the causes of marginalized communities, but it is a relevant and important endeavor that I will commit to as VPF.

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)

Amir Shalabi: Many times students feel that their issues does not warrant a visit to CAPS or a call to The Line so they do not seek help and must deal with their issues on their own. I believe the solution to this is two-pronged. First, the stigma around mental health needs to be fought, and second, a more casual form of support for students should be implemented to help with day to day needs and concerns. Another excellent addition would a resource specifically designated for POC’s and members of the LGBTQ community for the many times exhausting and tough adversity they face.

Maggie Palys: First of all, while CAPS is a great resource on this campus, we need to be looking to expand it.. As a leader on USG, it means opening conversations that destigmatize mental illness and the use of mental health services like CAPS so that students feel enfranchised to pursue resources that protect their mental health. On the finance side, support for mental health means funding organizations that promote mental health. NAMI has received 4-time and 3-time increases in the past 2 years because of what they do for mental health on this campus, and it means continuing that trend. It’s about finding those organizations funding and continuing to support them in using that funding and finding additional funding throughout the year.

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

Amir Shalabi: I would first like to show my appreciation for all of the reproductive health resources on our campus. Looking to the future I foresee us extending these resources into the New Orleans community.

Maggie Palys: Look, I think what the VPF position boils down to is funding. Tyler set a precedent that the VPF develop pet projects and get involved in things they care about, and I think it is really important to make those projects intentional. Reproductive health is an issue that we as college students are dealing with consistently, and I will commit to demanding accountability from the University in providing resources for on-campus reproductive health and widely available resources for students looking for off-campus options. In the event that these initiatives fail, I will also commit to developing a USG-funded project for reproductive health resources for our students.

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)

Amir Shalabi: Yes, I have attended an LGBTQ Ally Workshop and am proud to say that I am an Ally of the LGBTQ community.

Maggie Palys: Yes, I have actually attended more in-depth versions of both of these workshops through RA Trainings over the past 2 years. I also enjoyed taking my residents to the Glam Jam Variety Show last year, which I thought was an amazing celebration of LGBTQ culture.

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)

Amir Shalabi: I have not, but I do commit to attending the Fall 2018 workshop. I have attended the Posse Plus Retreat on race. This retreat taught me many different perspectives on the complexities of racism and its part in Tulane culture. I now feel confident and well equipped to contribute to our University’s discussion on race in a beneficial and tangible way.

Maggie Palys: I have unfortunately not been able to attend a workshop, since I was otherwise committed in both semesters this year. However, I will 100% commit to attending the Fall 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)

Amir Shalabi: This week, I held a workshop giving my insight on the different methods of securing funding for organizations on our campus. By holding these workshops and being personally available as VPF during office hours, through email or texting, the gap between USG and the student body will be narrowed.

Maggie Palys: This is about outreach. It’s about not asking marginalized communities to come to USG, but USG intentionally making an effort to include historically marginalized students. On the finance side, one of my major initiatives would be to maintain contact with Treasurers of MCC and GSAC organizations especially, to guarantee that USG’s processes are clear and accessible to them. I will commit my time and attention in the coming year to guaranteeing that these organizations can find funding, can use their funding, and can earn budget increases every year through the intentional programming they already do.

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

Amir Shalabi: It is difficult to pinpoint the exact reason, especially considering this is a trend observed nationwide. However, through required LGBTQ Ally workshops, support from USG and the administration, students of the LGBTQ community will feel more supported which may help with these frightening statistics that surround the community.

Maggie Palys: I don’t know, and I will not pretend to know. I would be interested to hear how LGBTQ students on this campus feel about this issue, and action items that they would encourage for the USG and the campus community as a whole, and will commit to making those suggestions a reality.

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

Amir Shalabi: I do not have any current plans but look forward to working with USG on these efforts. An idea would be to Implement automated lights and AC in all Tulane facilities which would be an excellent way to decrease our footprint.

Maggie Palys: I was an active member of the Committee that funded the very first water bottle refilling station, and am so excited to see more capital projects like the Outdoor Classroom come through committee and more initiatives like the anti-plastic and anti-Polystyrene initiatives that have come through Senate. I don’t know exactly what I would do to make our campus more environmentally-friendly, but I do know that this is an issue I care about and that as VPF I will strongly support any environmental initiatives that any students are trying to start on this campus. I spent an entire semester researching environmentally friendly investment opportunities for Fir Tree Partners in New York.