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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Student body president candidates talk importance of diversity at A&M

Photo by Abbey Santoro

Candidates for Student Body President participated in a virtual diversity panel Tuesday evening. 

On Tuesday, Feb. 23, the Student Government Association’s Diversity Commission and Matthew Gaines Society led a virtual town hall and diversity panel open for student body president candidates.
Candidates Natalie Parks and Charlie Frawley were present in the panel, along with a proxy for Josh Feldman. Feldman and candidates Blake Martin and Matt Ryan were not present, as they were attending a separate virtual debate addressing free speech.
The event was hosted by SGA Diversity Commissioner Lily Pieper, the commission’s Vice President of Staff Tori Davis and Matthew Gaines Society President Erica Pauls. The questions for the panel portion of the event were submitted by students.
To start the event, each candidate introduced themselves before the call split into breakout groups, during which business management junior Frawley said he feels diversity initiatives on campus are not in opposition to the traditions of Texas A&M.
“It’s really important to remember that whenever as a university and as a group we want to increase and focus on or advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion, that doesn’t mean that traditions or Core Values are taken away,” Frawley said. “It just means that they’re going to be seen in a new light and get to be expressed in new ways.”
The call then reconvened to the panel portion, moderated by Pieper and Pauls, while Davis served as a timer. Each candidate had up to two minutes to respond to each question. When it came to a question regarding Latinx Aggies and the proposal for a Latinx community center, communication junior Parks said she supported the proposal.
“I’m excited this question was asked. I’ve had conversations with students that are very passionate about implementing a Latinx center,” Parks said. “A Latinx center for Latinx students to feel like they can go somewhere to find their community … is a big undertaking and is probably a couple years in the making, but something I do believe in is just getting stuff started, taking steps to get stuff done.”
The questions submitted by students covered issues of race, disability, sexual orientation and religion. John Rodriguez, Feldman’s campaign manager who stood in as proxy for the SBP candidate, said Feldman is especially passionate about religious inclusion across campus.
“The Jewish population here on campus is one of the smallest demographics that is present on A&M’s campus … [Feldman] is Jewish, and we’ve had those conversations about what differences [exist] between religions but also what can be celebrated,” Rodriguez said. “There’s not much stark contrast in what religions typically preach, that is love, unity, respect and being able to serve those around you, going exactly back to who [Feldman] is.”
In the final minutes, Pieper said accountability was the main goal of the panel.
“I think it’s incredibly important for us to hold our leaders accountable in promoting diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in order to create tangible change on this campus, within our campus and across the nation,” Pieper said.
Voting for student body elections opens at on Thursday, Feb. 25 at 9 a.m. and closes on Friday, Feb. 26 at 12 p.m.

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