Progressive Voter Coalition: Vice President for Academic Affairs 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)

Claire Namboodri: USG has recently partnered with Newcomb-Tulane College, and I’d like to explore opportunities for funding by co-programming with this institution. Additionally, Newcomb-Tulane College offers grants to students; I would like to connect students in MCC and GSAC organizations to those opportunities.
Shahmeer Hashmat: As the Vice President of Academic Affairs (VPAA), I can promote more funding for these organizations that represent marginalized students through working with the VPF and the VP of Student Life to create and promote workshops for the members of these committees to understand and realize the importance behind funding these organizations that have been historically underfunded.

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)

Claire Namboodri: Yes. Removing the racist namesake of F. Edward Hebert is the first of many important steps toward creating a more inclusive and supportive environment at Tulane.  Inclusion and support are key aspects of a positive academic experience, and acknowledging Tulane’s role in creating a welcoming, respectful community for students, faculty, and staff of color is essential in my goals as VPAA. To continue this process I would advocate to bring speakers to facilitate open discussion about Tulane’s racist history and give students a greater voice to the administration about our vast shortcomings in recognizing and tackling Tulane’s legacies of oppression.
Shahmeer Hashmat:Yes, I do. Honestly, if changing the name of Tulane University was possible, I’d work on that. But I realize we have to start small and work to such large scales. As VPAA, I will build strong relationships with the deans of the various schools in order to channel through them a voice for the students who want to change these names that carry such history of racism and oppression.

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)

Claire Namboodri: My immediate reaction was disappointment. Too many of our community members assume that Tulane is united in efforts to combat racism and, as a liberal college campus, would be shielded from such an ignorant nationwide campaign. However, those signs posted around campus, as well as effective demonstrations by Tulane student groups, have helped expose the true unsolved problems with race relations on our campus.  As VPAA, I will support initiatives that focus on acknowledgement of privilege, as well as the intersectionality of our privileges as students at Tulane.
Shahmeer Hashmat:I was extremely disappointed by this, but not surprised. Tulane is an institution filled with wealthy, entitled individuals who feel they are not being justified when those who have been marginalized for centuries critique their actions. This shows that when various organizations and groups on campus work toward change from school policies that favor oppression and discrimination, those who benefit from these policies rather do not embrace and work toward the right change, but they feel attacked, and hinder great change from being done.

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)

Claire Namboodri:I believe that possession of any weapon should continue to be prohibited on Tulane’s campus with the current exceptions for law enforcement officers. Arming professors, administration, or students is not the answer to preventing a mass shooting. We can’t solve the issue of mass shootings in the United States at Tulane in the next year; so, it is important that everyone (faculty and students) have Active Shooter Response Training, in an effort to prepare students in the case of such a horrific event and give them a greater sense of preparedness and security. I have attended these trainings and participated in the demonstrations, and I feel this was an extremely valuable experience to my personal feelings of safety.
Shahmeer Hashmat:Guns should be banned on Tulane’s campus, and those weapons that are carried by authority figures on campus should be harbored in very secure locations with only strict authorization allowed. Also, as VPAA, I hope to tailor gun-violence prevention educational sessions, and work with the Director of Student Safety to implement the active-shooter workshops into a facilitation program which organizations and students can request.

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)

Claire Namboodri: Yes, I attended the event. This is a deeply multifaceted problem that is critically connected to shortcomings in Tulane’s support systems. I believe that education on sexual violence prevention is essential in the Tulane experience. Part of my platform includes adding a sexual violence prevention workshop in TIDES classes. One of the most obvious shortcomings of the climate survey initiatives was not hosting the Wave of Change Town Hall event in a larger area where more students could attend, as the student voice will be able to drastically improve Tulane’s plan of action. Other universities have been known to under-report their statistics and I think it’s beneficial to the student body that Tulane has taken the initiative to be candid with students. However, as VPAA, I want to do more to support survivors through counseling and awareness of all the resources available to them, emphasizing the unique opportunity that professors have to facilitate dialogue about sexual violence prevention in their classrooms.  Further, we should also work to shift the attitudes of the student body so that survivors feel better supported by their community and people feel empowered to intervene in situations of sexual violence. As VPAA, I will support expansion of One Wave trainings as well.
Shahmeer Hashmat: Yes, I did attend the Wave of Change Town Hall. For me, the most cruical steps in reducing sexual violence on campus is rigorous education. I want to implement sexual assault education into basic Tulane core requirements, and have it so every student who plans to graduate from the university must attend a sexual assault course. The Wave of Change event had many shortcomings, including providing no real plans of action to change the sexual assault climate on campus. The initiatives were not clear and focused, and I want to work with administration, faculty, and sexaul assault survivors to create educational programs that will ultimately protect survivors and prevent these same crimes from happening again and again on our campus.

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)

Claire Namboodri: Yes, I believe that queer students at Tulane hesitate to come out of the closet. It’s hard to succeed academically when you are worried about coming out, and it’s important to offer as much support to these students as possible. USG and Tulane can help queer people feel more comfortable by supporting the O, increasing publicity for their events and co-sponsoring events. It’s also important to address the biases of the general community with initiatives such as USG hosting a campus Pride Day, in conjunction with the national Coming Out Day in October and fostering closer relationships between organizations like QSA and USG.
Shahmeer Hashmat:I do feel queer students can be hesitant to come out of the closet at Tulane. The lack of diversity, in racial, class, and gender terms, to name a few, makes it a difficult place to feel accepted if one identifies as queer. USG and Tulane can help people feel more accepted and welcome through initiatives and plans that provide safe spaces for these students, such as increasing the size of the Mosaic Lounge and working to make all bathrooms on campus gender-neutral and through providing a lot more gender-inclusive housing.

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)

Claire Namboodri: I think it’s great that we have so many organizations on campus that feel so passionate about their beliefs. Particularly on our campus, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an extremely controversial topic. I think it’s important to stay educated and informed on what every organization is doing on campus, and I think every organization should have the opportunity to teach other students about their mission. To make the dialogue more inclusive, I would suggest events where multiple organizations, both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine, have the opportunity to interact and discuss matters in a constructive and effective way.

Shahmeer Hashmat:The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, I feel, can go on to be very Pro-Israel dominant on this campus. Just recently did a group get started dedicated to education and activism for Pro-Palestinian positions. This dialogue can definitely be more inclusive through providing more courses and educational sessions on not only pro-Israel positions. A diversity of professors and facilitators, from both nationalities, have to be teaching this information in order to provide for discussion and discourse that does not heavily favor one side over the other.

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)

Claire Namboodri:Diversity is having people with different genders, races, ages, religions, sexualities, ethnicities, languages, political views, etc. together. Having diversity is an asset as it brings different perspectives to the table which will make Tulane stronger. Anti-racism is actions to make changes in individuals or systems to break down existing racism whether it’s a policy or a belief. Anti-racist efforts are essential to ensure that efforts to expand diversity are succeeding in creating a more vibrant and inclusive environment at Tulane. As VPAA, I believe education is key and that we can promote anti-racist efforts by having uncomfortable but necessary discussions on what racism looks like on Tulane’s campus. We need to increase the frequency that community engagement advocates come to classes to facilitate dialogues about racism. I have been through diversity training in the past, which helped to clarify misconceptions I’d previously had.  However, trainings are not going to be enough, so I will support initiatives to facilitate these essential discussions led by students of color, as well as making diversity training mandatory for (at a minimum) all student leaders.
Shahmeer Hashmat: Diversity can be very tokenizing, but anti-racism is an active effort to level the playing field and make up for marginalization. I plan to make anti-racist efforts through pushing for more facilitations and educational sessions on these sorts of issues in all TIDES courses.

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)

Claire Namboodri:I would address this precedent by increasing awareness of resources offered by the Office for Institutional Equity. I will also offer open-ears to the student body so that I can better understand, from all students, how to best address this precedent.

Shahmeer Hashmat: I want to address this issue through providing more equal opportunity education workshops and sessions for these students. These would include accelerator programs tailored to help marginalized students best understand how to challenge and combat the inequalities they might face in the workforce, and even provide for them resources, such as research positions and internships, that they might not otherwise have been able to obtain through applying against a pool of nonmarginalized identities.

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)

Claire Namboodri: I believe there is already a disconnect between many services that Tulane offers, making it difficult for students to access these services. So, instead of compounding that problem by introducing additional offices, I would advocate to grow CAPS by increasing group therapy options and times to connect students to each other and grow the support system, as well as instituting an online patient portal for CAPS appointments, removing a barrier that many students face in terms of having to make a phone call to schedule these appointments.

Shahmeer Hashmat: Other mental health services that need to be available include information on outside resources for students who may not be happy with CAPS faculty or staying on Tulane’s campus to discuss mental health issues and by also providing free off-campus transportation to these off campus resources.

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

Claire Namboodri: In addition to the “One Wave Policies and Resources” section on professors’ syllabi, it could be helpful to include a statement about where and how students can learn more about reproductive health.

Shahmeer Hashmat: Through working with TUPHES, SURJ, and other similar groups on campus I hope to expand these resources through providing funding for those who want to research specifically what resources would be best for Tulane students and for Tulane to invest in and also by providing a team who can travel to various off-campus Tulane student houses and provide free reproductive health resources.

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)

Claire Namboodri:No. Unfortunately, I have not had the availability to attend these workshops, but this is a priority of mine moving forward, and I promise to attend these workshops in the Fall. Having family in this community, I have begun to understand the importance of these trainings in offering support to a community that’s often marginalized.  
Shahmeer Hashmat: I have attended the LGBTQ Ally Workshop, and other LGBTQ workshops I have attended include Drag BINGO. I plan on attending a multitude more of LGBTQ events in the Fall and in my coming years as a Tulane student.

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)

Claire Namboodri: No, I wanted to attend the past two years, but due to conflicts, such as being out of town for my job, I have been unable to attend thus far. I think this is a really valuable opportunity that students should be taking part in. Although I have been unable to attend in the past, my role as VPAA will take highest priority and I look forward to attending in the Fall 2018.  

Shahmeer Hashmat: I have not attended an Undoing Racism Workshop before, but I very much plan to attend a few in the Fall and my coming years as tulane student.

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)

Claire Namboodri: I went to a STEM boarding school. The summer prior to my senior year, I was an ambassador for a two week “camp” for incoming minority students. The purpose of the camp was to build a community to increase retention of the minority students. I was the only Caucasian student so prior to the camp, I went through training on diversity. Part of this training was to help us to recognize little things that we do that may put off people from different races, genders, backgrounds. If the leaders in USG were required to, not just encouraged to, attend the Undoing Racism Workshop, this would be helpful in making USG more accessible. This workshop could be offered the week prior to classes starting so that all USG students who haven’t had the training could attend. I think it’s also important that USG provides an open forum once a semester for students to bring forth issues they want to see USG act on.
Shahmeer Hashmat: I plan to promote Exec Board and Senator one-on-one’s with marginalized students so they can clearly be heard by USG and also I hope to promote a more diverse cabinet that can representative of those students who might not be represented by elected Senators.

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

Claire Namboodri: This is a hard question to answer without extensive research. Since I don’t have that experience, I don’t feel comfortable speaking on behalf of this marginalized group. However, I do think that bystander intervention may be less effective in protecting marginalized individuals due to bias. It’s important to make people aware of these biases in an effort to increase the effectiveness of bystander intervention, which is one of the methods Tulane administers to reduce instances of sexual violence.  

Shahmeer Hashmat: Rates of sexual assault are most likely so much higher for these groups because of a lack of respect and legitimization for these groups, and an ideal held by many students that these people are “not normal” or do not belong. This can lead to dehumanizing actions against LGBTQ students, such as violecnce and sexual assault. As VPAA, a part of my platform includes an intesectionality core requirement for all Tulane students that includes more courses on LGBTQ education and how these students deserve just as much validity and respect as any other.

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

Claire Namboodri: I want to start a “How TU Adult” series to teach students important life skills. USG could have a session on recycling and waste management. Additionally, USG could encourage more students to get involved in environmental research studies through programming, such as research talks and lab tours.
Shahmeer Hashmat: Yes, I do. I want to work with faculty and administrators to have reward or extra-credit for students for recycle old quizzes, homework, or assignments that they might otherwise throw away and also I want to promote professors to present lectures in “theatre lighting” so the entire rooms of large lecture halls do not need to be lit when only the professor does.

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

Claire Namboodri:  Yes, and I plan to work with administration to integrate sexual violence prevention training into TIDES classes. Just as importantly, professors should be required to attend sensitivity trainings so that they can recognize behavioral or academic changes in their students, so as to best prepare them to address these issues with students.

Shahmeer Hashmat:Absolutely. I believe this is so much so that all TIDES courses must have a day dedicated to a facilitation for this that all students must attend as a part of completing the class.