ASMSU primary election debate discuss issues facing campus

 The ASMSU Primary Election Debate, held on March 28 in the SUB Union Market from noon to 1 p.m., challenged the presidential running parties to address MSU’s most pressing issues. Kylar Clifton and Micah McFeely are running against Derek Hetherington and John Walker for ASMSU president and vice president, respectively. The teams articulated the intended programs they would implement if elected, and their thoughts on how to best tackle issues on campus.

The moderator, current ASMSU President Garrett Leach, began the debate by asking how the candidates would foster diversity if elected. Hetherington responded, “encouraging diversity on campus isn’t something we can sign away with legislation. It’s something that needs to be enforced by grassroots cultural change, and I think the best way to do this is to work closely with existing clubs on campus. We have the puzzle pieces, we have the individuals and the organizations who want to work on this, but we need to let them fit together and support them.”

McFeely said she and Clifton have a plan in place to address diversity. “We want to create a tier one paid position within ASMSU called the director of diversity and inclusion. Ideally, this director would work with university groups making sure that all students have a voice on campus,” she explained.

Concerning their role in helping students to graduate on time, both teams agreed that encouraging student involvement is instrumental. Walker said, “it’s been shown that if you’re involved in something, you’re more likely to graduate on time. Whether that’s finding someone to help with homework in class or feeling like you have a stake in something on the campus, it can help you stay.”

Issues in student housing were also a debate point. “Kylar and I have a unique perspective on this because we both have a background in Residence Life. I’m currently a resident advisor, and Kylar is an assistant resident director. I think the way we address student housing is by continuing to promote students to come to this university, but also creating new spaces such as the new resident hall,” McFeely said.

Hetherington added, “For a short term solution, we need to be looking at how to facilitate students’ transition off campus. We want to create a resource for students to go, get educated on what they should be looking for in leases and partner with legal services to make this possible. This wouldn’t help just freshman, but all students on campus.”

The candidates gave their thoughts on parking, a persistent problem on campus. Clifton said, “we need to look at other ways to alleviate this problem, whether that’s bringing in more bike lanes, creating hybrid lots or expanding Streamline bus services. We will work with the Transportation Advisory Committee to find solutions.”

Walker added, “We agree. However, we would also work with the City of Bozeman and Gallatin County to make sure that what we do here positively affects the community as a whole.”

Leach posed several questions to the candidates concerning their involvement on campus and what they believe they could bring to executive positions in ASMSU. Hetherington told the crowd, “I think the biggest thing that sets us apart is experience within this organization. We’ve been a part of ASMSU, we know how it runs, and we know what areas could see improvements. We know what we need to do to most effectively accomplish the goals of students on campus.”

When questioned about his greatest accomplishment in his time at MSU, Clifton replied, “I would say my greatest accomplishment has been becoming an assistant resident director. After my freshman year, I wanted to help freshmen transition to student life. I became an RA in South Hedges and was able to influence 60 freshman. Currently as an ARD, I assist in managing a building of 400 freshman and help them find the resources and tools they need to be successful here.”

McFeely said her experiences with programs on campus would translate in working through conflict within the student government. “Something I’m really passionate about is positive communication, which comes from my involvement in Sustained Dialogue. Through this program I’ve learned how to listen deeply enough to be changed by what I’ve heard, and I try to do that in all aspects of my life.”

The debate concluded with questions from the audience. The general elections will take place on the April 11-12 for both executives and senators.