VSG Presidential candidates advocate for inclusivity, visibility in 2018 election

Sam Zern, Editor in Chief

Elections for this year’s VSG President and Vice President will open on Tuesday, March 20 at 8 a.m. and close the following day at 12 p.m. Prior to the vote, the two campaigns will participate in a debate hosted by the Vanderbilt Political Review on March 14 at 5 p.m. in the Rand Lounge.

The two campaigns this year are Phyllis Doremus and Nicolas Gardner and Tariq Issa and Lanier Langdale. Both campaign platforms address issues of financial inclusivity, visibility of student government to the student body and empower students to advocate for causes they find important.

Doremus and Gardner made financial inclusivity a priority in their campaign, with a third of their platform dedicated to initiatives that would increase the economic accessibility of Vanderbilt life. They propose implementing low-cost and flexible meal plans for students living in residential colleges, which have a required meal plan, as well as advocating for the use of free open-source textbooks and expanding financial aid to cover parking fees and ride-share costs.

“I’m a big believer that no matter who you are, where you come from, what your experiences are, you should be able to access every single part of this campus and every part of this campus should be open to you, no matter what the cost associated with that thing is or what your own financial situation is beforehand,” Gardner said.

Doremus has spent the past two years working closely with the administrations, and Gardner has served on the executive steering committee. As a result, both believe that they have a clear idea of how feasible all their platform points are and are confident that they will be able to reach many of their goals.

“The way that we wrote our platform was intentional in that it creates room for us to deal with the daily minutiae… that we are considerate of the ways that we can still get those core ideas because that’s what it’s really all about is those core sentiments and messages that Nico and I and the people on our campaign team when we were developing this platform really got fired up about in the room when we talked,” Doremus said.

Read Phyllis & Nico’s full platform here.

Issa and Langdale both emphasized the need for greater student voice in VSG and administrative decisions. Their platform contains a proposal that would allow non-VSG students to bring their own initiatives to VSG and use student government resources to further those initiatives, as well as a number of ways to increase VSG’s connection to students through tabling, office hours and a more accessible set of online resources.

“Before we made our platform, we tried to meet with as many students as we could,” Issa said. “We wanted to make sure that the platform we had wasn’t just me and Lanier’s ideas because two people can’t decide what the student body needs. We met with over 100 students to say vote for your platform, not our platform. We wanted to build a platform that students actually want and students actually need.”

Issa and Langdale’s platform also addresses inclusivity and wellbeing with plans to build a program that would sponsor graduate school applications, testing fees, travel payments and other pre-professional costs for students with demonstrated financial need and a proposal to use the VSG budget to award scholarships for student leadership. For both Issa and Langdale, the main focus of their campaign is making sure that all of their platform promises are followed by tangible, actionable plans. That way, they say, they know they will be able to achieve their goals, and students will be able to hold them accountable to those promises.

Read Tariq & Lanier’s full platform here.