USG vice president of academic affairs candidate forum: Shahmeer Hashmat

Courtesy of Shahmeer Hashmat

Courtesy of Shahmeer Hashmat

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)

For me to create an as inclusive student government as possible, I will reach out to [Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Committee] and [Gender and Sexuality Advisory Council] when selecting senators and students-at-large to sit on my committee, in order for there to be a thorough selection process that is as representative of students as possible on this campus. Along with this, whatever legislation I plan on taking through my committee will also go through DIEC and GSAC to be reviewed before bringing it to the senate floor.

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)

Academic Affairs does not only have to deal with education for Tulane students; it also applies to staff and faculty, as well. TUPD can go through updated modules on how to interact with [students of color] at Tulane, and can also attend [Community Engagement Advocates] facilitations on diversity and inclusion. This will hopefully improve relations between students of color and TUPD officers, ultimately helping TUPD officers understand how to best interact with and properly treat those marginalized students.

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 plan to reduce tokenization on campus through pushing for the hiring of faculty and staff that can properly educate students on how to push for marginalized rights, and ultimately create educational workshops so as to show the importance of all students fighting for issues of those who have far less benefits.

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)

No. I have not attended an Undoing Racism workshop in the past, but I can be assured to attend one in the future. Last semester one was offered, but I was unfortunately out of town and in the end, unable to make it. In the future, though, I will make sure to reach out to the organizers far in advance to plan my schedule around the event.

5. Do you support the Undergraduate Student Government 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. To have the name of a staunch segregationist on the building of our history department is absolutely unacceptable. Tulane must take steps to remove those monuments/odes on this campus to individuals who oppressed, or were in support of oppression of, marginalized groups on campus. For me, this would include pushing initiatives through [Academic Affairs Committee] that would create a review committee on campus that would look over and ultimately come to a conclusion on whether or not certain buildings, programs, departments or any entity at Tulane would need to be renamed due to an oppressive legacy left by the name that was bestowed.

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 the dialogue has been very one-sided for a long time, and that Palestinian sympathizers have had difficulties expressing their views. Steps should be taken to make the dialogue more inclusive, and through my committee, this would be done by pushing the history department and the anthropology department to include more classes on Palestinian history and culture, along with hiring more Palestinian faculty and staff.

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)

No, I did not. I believe some of the most crucial steps to reducing sexual violence on Tulane’s campus would be through the use of education materials and spreading knowledge through all Greek organizations on their shortcomings in dealing with sexual assault and what they need to do to prevent it. Some of the issues I have seen with the post-survey initiatives include a lack of consistent data put on progress and a full force effort to show Tulane is all on board to prevent sexual violence.

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)

Additional mental health services that need to supplement CAPS includes simply increasing the amount of [professionals] available to students so students do not have trouble booking appointments and waiting long periods of time before they can get help. Along with this, I believe individuals focused on addiction and drug recovery are vitally important to include in the office. Mental health culture still needs to be far less stigmatized. Students should not feel that being overwhelmed is something they have to live with and cannot properly handle, and ultimately, they need to feel more comfortable asking for help and feeling there is hope for the disorders they suffer.

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

I plan to support this expansion through working with different organizations to create workshops and educational programs for administrators on campus, so they can understand the importance of increasing these resources and placing proper funds to expand these resources.

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. I do not. Through AAC, I hope to improve sensory use in classrooms, so as to allow individuals with all disabilities to be able to learn in a classroom environment like their peers.

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

I plan to lay the foundation for all textbooks to eventually be electronic so as to completely rid of paper waste, along with making sure all [tests] and homework are also eventually put on laptops/internet apps as well. Finally, I hope to implement a required capstone project for all environmental sciences majors so as to allow them to put their knowledge to work through and creating projects that can give back to Tulane.

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)

The best way to have Tulane veer and move on from its ties with the oil and gas industry is to improve its environmental studies program and improve the environmental business and finance programs in the business school. This is to allow alternatives for students who might traditionally go into careers in oil and gas to focus on business energy, but if more alumni went into environmental energy business and found the benefit in being financially involved with environmental programs, there would be more support for the school to move on from its ties with the fossil fuel industry.

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 biggest issue with service learning comes from improper allocation of students in service learning programs that (1) are oversaturated with students already and (2) that students and partners do not feel their resources are being fully utilized. [The Center for Public Service] must review community partner reports on what is working and what is not working for their sites, and act accordingly in terms of putting students in areas that need them more than others. Along with this, CPS can help to craft more specific site workshops so that students know exactly how to interact properly at certain sites that have had historical difficulties with students in the past.

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)

Yes, I do. I would use my position to advocate for this through reaching out to deans and faculty about this, educating them on its importance so they may further support it through their committees.

15. Have you been to a Transgender 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. In the past, I have worked the [Sexual Aggression Peer Hotline and Education] line, where I was trained through workshops on how to specifically interact with LGBTQ+ groups when it comes to sexual assault response.

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

I’d work directly with faculty and staff who make decisions on gender-inclusive housing and present them with information and statistics on how a lack of gender-inclusive housing can affect academics, along with how it has improved academic performance at schools who do include it, ultimately presenting why it is necessary to improve for their educational benefit.

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)

USG can be a major force on campus to help with voter turnout in all levels of elections. They have the reach and the ability to interact with most students, so in turn, they have the capability of reaching the most students to increase voter awareness. I will commit to funding the voter registration initiatives.

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)

In total, I am really pushing for an equitable education platform. I want to increase disability education and work on increasing staff and faculty with disabilities so as to inspire and bring more role models to campus for individuals with disabilities. Along with this, I hope to create a review committee spearheaded through the Provost’s office so as to look over and review all classes to makes sure they are taught in a manner that is not seen through the perspective of wealthy [cisgender] white males. Finally, I hope to implement more grade forgiveness programs, so those who struggle early on due to a lack of proper resources before college do not get permanently damaged.