VanderToolen Ticket Discusses Presidency Goals in Town Hall Meeting


Taylor VanderToolen answers a question at the town hall meeting for his ASUU presidential ticket on Feb. 7, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Hinckley Institute livestream)

By Abhilasha Khatri, Investigative Editor


On Feb. 7, 2022, ASUU held a town hall meeting to discuss the goals of the presidential candidates running for next year’s presidency. The town hall was broadcasted live on YouTube and is available to watch on the Hinckley Institute’s YouTube channel. 

The unopposed candidates for the 2022 presidency include Taylor VanderToolen for president, Benvin Lozada for vice president of university relations and Ashlee Roberts for vice president of student relations. The town hall was moderated by Sanila Math, the current chief of staff under the Wojciechowski administration. 

The town hall opened with each member of the VanderToolen ticket introducing themselves. This was followed by the trio answering a series of questions posed by Math. After around 30 minutes, Math transitioned into asking questions posed by the audience through comments in the YouTube Live chat. The town hall ended with closing statements from each member of the VanderToolen ticket. 

The candidates were asked about their qualifications and experience, the initiatives around which their platform is built and ways they will foster involvement and transparency with their administration. Their campaign is centered around “community, advocacy and inclusivity.” 

A major focus for the presidential ticket is promoting greater involvement from the student body with ASUU, turning the tide against past trends. 

“I believe last year we had under 3,000 students vote in our presidential election out of the 33,000 students on this campus and we think that a large part of that is due to students not feeling comfortable, not feeling included, not feeling as though ASUU represents them,” Lozada said. “We want to invite them [students] to join ASUU, to come into the fold and to have their voices heard.” 

This goal extends past ASUU to include increased involvement in other student organizations. One way the candidates hope to achieve this goal is by making it easier for student organizations to get funding. 

“One idea that we’ve had … is potentially having automatic funding that’s able to be given to student organizations,” VanderToolen said. “We want to make it so that student organizations, they don’t have to go through an entire process in order to get just $200 of funding, but instead they can just automatically apply for those reimbursements as long as it falls within specific guidelines.”

The presidency candidates also expressed a commitment to making themselves available to students, through more town halls and office hours. 

“We’re going to be dedicating time in our schedules fall and spring semester to just stay in the ASUU office, to have our doors open for students to come in here and talk to us,” Lozada said. 

Audience questions centered largely on student safety, including concerns about sexual assault and racist attacks.

With regards to student safety, an important initiative for the VanderToolen ticket is the creation of a campus safety board, which would coordinate and centralize relevant existing organizations such as SafeU and It’s On Us

“One specific policy thing that we’d like to implement is the creation of a campus safety board within ASUU,” Lozada said. “We have fantastic people working, like SafeU and It’s On Us, student organizations and students who really have this passion to make this campus a safer place … we want to provide a resource for these students to come together to really have that unified voice and to make a connection between them and university and campus partners.” 

They hope to extend this type of collaboration to the concern of sexual assault by promoting and unifying existing resources such as the McCluskey Center for Violence Prevention and the Rape Recovery Center

The candidates, two of whom are involved in Greek life, also addressed the need to make Greek life a safer space for students in light of recent reports of sexual assault.  

“We understand the things that are happening in Greek row … it’s not us versus Greek row or it’s not us versus the university admin — really, it’s just everybody versus sexual assault, and we hope to be able to work with the IFC president, the IFC chair and everybody that works with Greek life in order to best understand how we can provide them with the resources that they need in order to create a safer community,” VanderToolen said. 

In response to the numerous racist incidents that have occurred on campus in the past few months, Lozada wants to advocate for increased transparency on how such issues are handled and dialogue between administration and diverse student voices on what needs to be fixed.  

“We want to know how the university is handling these incidents, what actions the university is taking to make this a safer campus for students of color, and really, to take that back to the students to say, does this make you feel safer? Is this enough?” Lozada said. “And if the student voice says ‘No, the university administration isn’t doing enough to protect us, we need more resources, we need more help,’ to take that back. We want to create that dialogue because in the end, it’s a duty of this university to make the campus feel safe and feel welcoming for all members of the student body.”

One way the campaign hopes to facilitate this dialogue is by strengthening the existing Diversity Board on campus. Roberts, the candidate focused on the platform of “inclusivity,” spoke on this goal and what the role means to her. 

“I really feel strongly about this because as a woman of color, I have had experiences regarding inclusivity and how that has shaped who I am as a person,” Roberts said. “We want to revamp [the diversity board] and make it more accessible and more involved in better communications between all student organizations and students … we want to help bring student voices into the conversation and bring those voices to university leadership.”

The campaign slogan of the presidency is: “We see you, we hear you, let’s bridge the gap.” VanderToolen closed out the town hall by explaining what this slogan means to the ticket. 

“We’re here to represent you, to elevate your voices and your issues and the problems that you’re facing…we’re here to bridge that gap between students, organizations, ASUU and the university administration and leadership,” VanderToolen said. 


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