USG presidential candidate forum: Allison Foster

Editor’s Note: The following questions were posed by the PVC, a group of progressive student organization leaders that hold a forum and endorse USG Executive Board candidates. The organization was formerly known as The Progressive Voter Coalition and was deferred for a name change due to a USG bylaw that states coalitions whose name or mission statement includes political language will not be recognized. The coalition now is known as the PVC.

1. What actions plans do you have to create a more inclusive, engaged, and sustainable student government? (Students Organizing Against Racism)

First and foremost, I plan to increase the access students have to their [Undergraduate Student Government] leaders by having weekly public office hours and emailing a monthly newsletter about the initiatives USG is working on, and to actively recruit for cabinet and committee positions from all organizations to reduce the culture of exclusivity often associated with USG. I plan to continue to invest USG resources and lobby administrators to ensure accessible buildings, gender-neutral bathrooms, adequate resources for survivors of sexual violence, affordable textbook options and to implement a food swipe bank to address food insecurity.

2. What resources need to be expanded to improve the lives of students of color at Tulane in order to make this campus safe and welcoming for all students? What can be done to improve relationships between Tulane University Police Department and people of color? Slightly longer answer acceptable. (Intersections – 2018; Finding Intersectionality Together)

The university must invest in resources for our most marginalized students if it wishes to boast a safe and welcoming environment for all. This includes continued support for programming and staffing at The O, affordable textbook options and physical and mental health resources implemented with these students in mind because students deserve providers that look like them. On the same note, all students deserve to feel safe on campus. I plan to work with TUPD to integrate implicit bias training and to build on programs like Coffee with a Cop to provide opportunities for students to candidly interact with police.

3. 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? What have you done to reduce the tokenization of students of color on your campaign, and what will you do to reduce the tokenization of students of color in senate? (Finding Intersectionality Together; Amnesty International)

As a candidate, I have reached out to every student organization with a speaking request because all students deserve a voice and an opportunity to ask questions of a candidate. By actively recruiting for cabinet and committee positions from all student organizations, I hope to provide students of color opportunities to work as a part of the USG team rather than being expected to represent their entire race or sexual identity by being in the room. I vow to actively consider tokenization in my every day work if I am elected President and be accountable to the students of color that have voted me as their representative by listening to them rather than speaking for them.

4. 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 Spring 2019 workshop? (Students Organizing Against Racism – 2018; Finding Intersectionality Together)

Yes. I attended the workshop last spring, and it has impacted my work in USG, in the classroom and in the community. I believe that constantly confronting my privilege is important, and plan to attend the upcoming workshop as well.

5. 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? (Intersections – 2018)

Yes. This process looks like Tulane acknowledging its history, from the President’s Office to incentivizing professors to teach courses and pursue scholarly activities that hold the university accountable, as was done with the push for university-wide sexual violence awareness after the climate survey release. Buildings should be named after Tulanians that fought tirelessly for the voices of our most marginalized students to be heard, and I will continue to lobby the university to focus on the safety of its students rather than the fundraising they gain from racist namesakes.

6. 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? (Finding Intersectionality Together)

I feel that all students’ opinions should be respected on this campus, and that both sides of the conflict should be more represented in university dialogue and student organizations. Currently, there is only one organization that represents students that support Palestine, and those students deserve to feel at home on this campus as well. As resources are distributed through USG to student organizations, I pledge to commit to providing resources equally to students on both side of the conflict, and vow to speak out against hate towards students on either side.

7. Did you attend Shifting the Paradigm this year? What do you think are the most crucial steps to reducing sexual violence on Tulane’s campus? What do you think are the shortcomings of the post-climate survey initiatives? Please evaluate the effectiveness of Tulane administration’s campaigns around sexual violence. (Progressive Voter Coalition)

Yes, I attended Shifting the Paradigm and have spearheaded USG’s efforts to prevent sexual violence in the past year. Post-climate survey initiatives need to work alongside the students most affected by sexual violence, LGBTQ+ students and students of color to craft solutions and resources that best support them. I think that the administration has taken leaps to include students in the conversation surrounding sexual violence, but the onus is still heavily placed on students to advocate for the resources we need to feel safe.

8. What additional mental health services do we need on campus to supplement [CAPS for Counseling Services]? What needs to change about the mental health culture on campus? (National Alliance on Mental Illness – 2017)

CAPS needs more staff and improved facilities, as well as providers that look like students. This year, they have debuted groups in the [Lavin-Bernick Center for University Life], but those groups deserve to be promoted and well-attended. Tulane culture focuses heavily on “work hard, play hard,” and more conversations need to be had and led by USG about focusing on self-care and mental health.

9. How do you plan to support the expansion of reproductive health resources for students on and off campus? (College Democrats)

In my time as Director of Student Health and Wellness, I advocated for the elimination of the semester cap on Get Yourself Tested STI testing. I plan on continuing to work with campus health on ensuring ease of access to affordable birth control options and full-panel STI testing for students, and advocating for continued affirmative training on providing health care to transgender and gender non-conforming students.

10. Do you feel that Tulane is accessible for students with disabilities? If not, what will you do to make our campus more accessible? (College Democrats)

No – in my work as an EMT with Tulane [Emergency Medical Services,] I actively confront the lack of accessibility the campus has. All future capital improvements should be designed with accessibility in mind, and the Goldman Center deserves many more resources to support students in and out of the classroom.

11. Do you have any plans to make Tulane’s campus more environmentally friendly? If so, what are they? (College Democrats; Amnesty International)

Yes. I hope to continue the conversation about solar energy on Tulane’s campus, and allocate additional resources to Climate Action Week to incentivize creative solutions for making Tulane more sustainable. I also hope to advocate for a glass recycling bin on Tulane’s campus.

12. What role do you see Tulane playing in combating climate change, especially given our ties to the oil and gas industry? How would you influence administration to take a more proactive role? (College Democrats)

Tulane is training the next generation of world leaders, so our work in and out of the classroom should focus heavily on the impact oil and gas has on the global climate. I plan to lift the voices of the leaders on our campus that are knowledgeable and passionate about this global impact and make space for them to make change.

13. There have been many complaints about the problematic nature of student engagement in local New Orleans communities through service learning programs. What are some ideas of yours to improve service learning programs, and how do you intend to improve city-student relations more generally? (Finding Intersectionality Together)

Culture around service learning is one that should center around the community partners’ needs rather than a student’s academic growth. I will advocate for the Community Engagement Advocates trainees and work to facilitate a dialogue between the Center for Public Service and community partners to continually provide feedback about the programs Tulane offers. I also plan to start workshops about how to be a good neighbor in the New Orleans community and integrate discussions into orientation.

14. Do you support the USG-backed campus initiative to include all-gender restrooms in all buildings on campus? If so, how would you use your position to advocate for this? (Gender and Sexuality Affairs Council)

Absolutely. This should be a first priority for existing buildings, and an important consideration in the construction of future buildings on campus. Students deserve to feel safe and accepted by their university.

15. Have you been to a Trans 101 or LGBT 101 training? What interactions with the LGBTQ+ community and LGBTQ+ activism have you had at Tulane? (Gender Exploration Society; Gender and Sexuality Affairs Council)

No, I have not, but I vow to attend one this semester regardless of whether I am elected or not. Through my work as Director of Student Health and Wellness, I have advocated for non-gendered clinics at the Student Health Center, intersectional programming to address sexual violence and the specific needs of the LGBTQ+ community, and increased access to STI testing resources, improved provider relationships, and preventative screenings.

16. How would you implement more inclusive spaces for trans individuals at Tulane, including gender-inclusive housing?

We are at an important point in Tulane’s development, as there will be new campus housing being planned in the coming year. I vow to advocate for Residential Learning Communities that all students would like to see, and to reach out to the LGBTQ+ community to ensure that I advocate for new housing that best fits their needs.

17. What role do you see USG playing in increasing voter turnout among students in federal, state, and local elections? Will you commit to funding voter registration initiates such as TurboVote through USG’s budget? (College Democrats)

Students look to USG as government leaders on a smaller scale, so this body must lead the charge for voter registration and engagement initiatives. I pledge to continue to allocate resources to bi-partisan civic engagement and will lobby for an on-campus polling place.

18. What initiatives or changes not addressed in the previous questions will you advocate for to better serve our changing student body, especially the increasing numbers of students of color, queer students and trans students? (Progressive Voter Coalition)

I will actively work to check my privilege in all I do as a student leader and listen to those that are most marginalized, including differently abled students, LGBTQ+ students, and students of color. I believe that all students only benefit from resources when they are designed with the most marginalized students in mind.

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