Student trustee candidates face off in first debate

By Bill Lukitsch, @Bill_LukitschDE

Candidates for SIUC student trustee debated for the first time Wednesday night in the Student Center Auditorium as election day for the 2016 student trustee draws near.

The four students, all of whom have assumed various student leadership positions on the Carbondale campus, are vying to succeed current Student Trustee Allen Shelton. The position gives one student at the university a seat on the university system’s board of trustees for a yearlong term.

Following the elections at SIUC and SIU-Edwardsville, Gov. Bruce Rauner will appoint one student trustee with  voting power on the board. The trustees from both campuses are expected to work in concert with each other to represent the interests of all SIU students.

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Students will decide the next trustee by general election next week. All voting will be conducted electronically through the university’s Desire2Learn server from April 26 to April 27.

MORE: Only USG presidential candidate speaks about hopes for future of student government

The debate was prefaced by Laurie Stettler, dean of students and vice chancellor of student affairs, who said “visibility, approachability, accountability and trustability [sic]” are attributes each trustee should have.

“This isn’t a position, you can take lightly,” she said. “It comes with great responsibility.”

Candidates answered a series of questions drafted by an election committee and several from the audience. The state budget impasse, improving race relations and increasing student safety were notable subjects addressed as the most pressing concerns facing students at SIUC.

Joshua Bowens

Bowens is a junior from Chicago studying political science, and represents the university as the treasurer for Undergraduate Student Government.

“These concerns have been going on for a while, and it seems like it’s just getting pushed under the rug,” Bowens said.

Bowens also said he would work to promote student involvement in the board’s procedures and hold board members accountable for their decisions.

Joseph Schneiders

Schneiders is an exploratory freshman and senator at large with Undergraduate Student Government. The biggest issue SIUC students are facing now, he said, is the state’s budget impasse, which has stagnated the Illinois General Assembly since July 1. 

“If we don’t have a budget, we’re not going anywhere after college,” he said.

If elected, Schneiders said he would try to work with state leaders to assist in passing a state spending plan that meets the needs of students pursuing a college degree.

Naomi Tolbert

Tolbert, a junior studying political science and international studies, said she wants to focus on promoting an inclusive environment for all SIUC students and ensure the board understands the value of programs like the Illinois Monetary Award Program grant.

Tolbert added the divide and tension between students of different racial backgrounds is “like a ticking time bomb.”

“I plan on combating that issue with the help of the board by letting them know that this is a major problem,” she said.

Kimberly Woudenberg

Woudenberg is a non-traditional junior studying psychology who has held a number of leadership positions on campus and in the community.

Concerns Woudenberg mentioned during the debate include the budget impasse, campus security and racial tensions on campus. She added that, if elected, she would not only bring the concerns of students, but also potential solutions to the board. 

“We need to make it a priority that these cuts have the smallest impact on students as possible,” she said.

Bill Lukitsch can be reached at [email protected] or 618-536-3329.

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