USG vice president of student life candidate forum: Adolfo Garcia

Courtesy of Adolfo Garcia

Courtesy of Adolfo Garcia

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)

I firmly believe that the Vice President for Student Life should stand for the lives and benefit of all students, not just the majority or those who choose to be involved, and therefore, fostering an [Undergraduate Student Government] that works with all students is integral for the betterment of Tulane. Some of the initiatives I would enact and support as VPSL would be the public awareness campaign surrounding on-campus STI testing, improving Tulane’s transportation system to give access to various religious centers in the Greater New Orleans area, and pushing the DIEC review process to make the legislation that sees the senate floor the most impactful and inclusive it can possibly be.

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 TUPD and people of color? Slightly longer answer acceptable. (Intersections – 2018; Finding Intersectionality Together)

Tulane should strive to increase the staff that works for and with students of color, bolster the number of inclusivity training and facilitations that our community can attend, and improve the relationships between students and faculty when it comes to advising and tutoring. We as a USG should commit to increasing the number of events geared towards facilitating and improving the relationship between TUPD and people of color through town halls or student forums: because we represent our constituents, their issues become ours and it is our duty to be a vehicle for conversation and true change.

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)

I am one of these students and have openly expressed my disappointment with other student leaders who hold positions in USG due to the “blanket statements” made throughout their campaigns. As a senator, I have invited other senators to DIEC, have gotten other student representatives to work with me on initiatives that will better Tulane for all students, and have opened my schedule to discuss the issues that students of color face on our campus: I commit to continue this work as VPSL and empower the new senate to work for ALL STUDENTS. I intend to hold all members of the senate accountable to the promises they made, and this will hopefully disseminate the workload is among multiple members of the senate, not just the students of color who are affected or need to care.

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)

I have not, however, I do commit to attending one in the future. I believe that these workshops empower the student body to make impactful change and it is important that our student leaders be well-versed when it comes to systematic oppression and the effects it can have.

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. Our university unfortunately has a history muddled by racism and white supremacy, however, this history should not impede the change the Tulane community deserves. Buildings like Hebert Hall promulgate ideologies inconsistent with the future course of our university, and I believe that it is USG’s direct role to hold the administration accountable for its shortcomings. In DIEC (the committee I have sat on for two years now) I have avidly suggested the protesting of Hebert Hall and even a fundraising effort to counter the financial ties that keep the Hebert on our campus, and I am excited to continue these conversations as VPSL and see them to fruition.

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)

First and foremost, I acknowledge that I am not an expert when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict however, I do know that Tulane’s Jewish community outnumbers the Arab representation on campus, and therefore the dialogue can seem very one-sided. These conversations have been ongoing, and as VPSL I commit to listening to the concerns of both sides and making Tulane a place where students, regardless of their stance, feel safe, empowered, and corroborated.

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 did attend Shifting the Paradigm. I am not involved with organizations like SAPHE or One Love that do sexual assault prevention, however, the work they do is integral to reducing sexual violence on our campus. USG must continue to support these organizations and be at their disposal to better our community and ensure the safety of all our students. I believe that Tulane’s work in educating the incoming class about sexual assault prevention could improve, and as VPSL, I want to work with Admission and NSLP to ensure the conversations surrounding prevention and education end with orientation.

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)

Tulane has improved the discussions surrounding mental health, but we are no where near perfect. CAPS counselors should be representative of the students they serve and actively work to make therapy accessible to all students. The culture surrounding mental health at Tulane is also not perfect. I have seen students equate their busyness to success, talk about stress as if it more of it makes you somehow more professional, and ignore the destructive “do-it-all” culture that we find ourselves in. We should work to deconstruct the preconceived notions surrounding mental health services and improve the student life by supporting an inclusive CAPS experience.

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

I plan to work effectively with the Well and the Student Health Center to ensure students have access to the resources they need to be safe and healthy. I am also interested in expanding the range of Tulane’s shuttle and transportation to include free testing centers and health professionals equipped to address student’s reproductive needs.

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)

I believe that overall our campus is accessible, but there are some outliers. Irby, Phelps and Josephine Louise are three of our dorms that are not wheelchair friendly, two of these will be demolished, but throughout the next year, I am excited to work with [Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Committee] and any other interested parties to address [Josephine Louise Hall]’s accessibility and ensure all students can enjoy our campus regardless of ability.

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

I do not, however that does not mean I am not passionate about the potential change that is to come. I have seen the impressive work done through and by the Director of Sustainability, and I believe that instituting more programs like the 15-cent tax on plastic bags will prove to positively impact Tulane and New Orleans.

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)

Again, I am not well-versed in Tulane’s environmental interests or the current work being done, yet I would like to see our university expressly dictate how they are to reduce their carbon footprint and what they are doing to reduce the impacts of climate change. It’s not an overstatement to say that climate change is the civil rights movement of our generation, and it’s current and future Tulanians who will be directly impacted by climate change. USG should stand for its constituents’ best interests, and as VPSL, I will see that our administration is held accountable for its actions.

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)

The city of New Orleans and public service are two of the main selling points of our university and the unique student experience we provide, however the city is negatively impacted by the apathy exhibited by students when completing their service learning requirements. There is often no consideration for the communities they are serving, and the work sometimes comes with an immense white-savior complex. I believe through our Center for Public Service we could better educate students before they perform their service learning and help foster a better cohesion between our city and the students that inhabit her.

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! Bluntly, the only thing different between “male” and “female” restrooms are the urinals. It is time to be truly inclusive and give students the basic necessities they deserve. As VPSL, I will continue to make the student experience equitable and inclusive for all students and support the push for All-Gender restrooms.

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)

I have not been to a Trans 101 or LGBT 101 training, but I have attended programming by Tulane’s Rainbow Alliance, The O, and The Center for Academic Equity among others.

16. How would you implement more inclusive spaces for trans individuals at Tulane, including gender-inclusive housing improvements? (Gender Exploration Society)

I believe that normalizing the use of pronoun introductions, continuing the work for all-gender restrooms, and eliminating the binary issues regarding the various Housing and Residence Life applications will make our community more inclusive for all students regardless of gender.

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)

I passionately believe USG should have an active role in increasing voter turnout across all elections. We as a body must stand for the betterment of our communities and one of the most direct ways to do that is to vote. The discussion is preliminary and must be continued, however I am in full support of directing appropriate measures to ensure Tulanians are engaged with the national political sphere.

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 love Tulane. The opportunities given to me by this institution, the friends that I have made, and the impact I have been able to make in two years would not have been possible without the backing of such a reputable and engaged community. I love Tulane, and because I love this school, I see its potential. I want to make this campus a place that all students, marginalized groups like students of color, queer students and trans students included, can brag about. I fit into two of these categories and too have felt on the outskirts of our school, like I don’t belong, like I don’t have a place. I firmly believe that if you’re not a part of the solution, you inherently become a part of the problem, and I want to be the one drafting solutions. I want all students to have access to secure, 24/7 study spaces. I want all students to have access to free, confidential STI testing. I want all students to be able to depend on their university to support their mental health. I want a game room, extended shuttles, better dining options, equitability, egg chairs and blankets in the library, and more Tulane traditions! I want the future of Tulane to be more diverse in every applicability of that word. I want people from all walks of life on McAlister walking to class, going to work, or lounging under the oaks. I want all students to love Tulane as much as I do, and I believe together, we can make monumental changes that will impact the scope and vision of this university for years to come.