The Associated Student Body candidates began their debate at the Overby Center at 6 p.m. Monday night. There are three candidates for president, five candidates for vice president and two candidates for judicial chair. The candidates for attorney general, treasurer and secretary are running unopposed. Find more information about all the candidates here. The ASB general election will be on April 2, and the runoff will be on April 4.
Follow updating coverage of the debate below.
ASB Vice President Walker Abel opened the debate in place of ASB President Elam Miller. Abbie McIntosh, the station manager for NewsWatch Ole Miss, introduced the student media managers who will act as moderators.
Secretary Debate: Updated at 6:12 p.m.
Hannah Chauvin, a junior political science major from Columbus, Ohio, and the sole candidate for the office of secretary, opened the debate.
“My platform is to decrease the information gap between ASB and the student body,” she said.
Chauvin highlighted her plan to increase transparency by keeping the ASB website updated. She also encouraged ASB senators to communicate more with their constituents so that students know who represents them.
Treasurer Debate: Updated 6:17 p.m.
Gianna Schuetz, a sophomore accounting and theatre arts double major who is running unopposed for the office of treasurer, took the stage for the next section of the debate.
“One of the most important parts of my platform is increasing the student activity fee,” she said. She proposed a five-dollar increase in the fee, saying it could have an “extreme” impact on funding for student organizations.
Attorney General Debate: Updated at 6:20 p.m.
Austin Fiala, a junior public policy leadership and French double major and the only candidate for the office of attorney general, said he wanted to ensure justice and accountability for ASB members.
He said that “ensuring elections are fair and equitable” is a top priority for him, especially after the creation of the ASB Election Reform Task Force.
Fiala said he wants to be sure that what is being done in ASB is in the best interest of the student body.
He said he was surprised by the amount of work that went into managing the department of justice. “It is a rigorous job,” he said.
Judicial Chair Debate: Updated at 6:31 p.m.
Two candidates for the office of judicial chair took the stage to debate about justice on campus.
Brynn Trahan, a junior public policy leadership and integrated marketing communications double major running, opened by saying she wanted to continue transitioning from punitive to restorative justice for students.
Disagreement between the two candidates was modest. Both Trahan and her opponent Liza Boyer, a junior political science major, focused on increased visibility for the judicial chair, not only within the student body but in ASB as well.
Boyer agreed with that approach but added that she wants to solve judicial issues before they become a problem. She proposed working with the Title IX office and the University Counseling Center to offer students help before the judicial council becomes involved.
Both candidates advocated for more awareness about and engagement in the judicial process so that it does not appear intimidating to students.
Vice President Debate: Updated at 7:01 p.m.
Five candidates took the stage for the vice presidential debate. In the night’s most contested category, candidates disagreed on topics such as increased training for ASB senators and the creation of an ASB liaison to bridge the gap between Senate and the Lyceum.
Sarah Doty, a junior public policy leadership major, opened by saying she wanted to make ASB focused on the students, not just on the organization itself.
When asked about student apathy surrounding ASB, she said, “They’re busy. We should be there putting ASB at the forefront of their mind. We should try to make meaningful change, whether or not they care.”
Nick Weaver, a sophomore public policy leadership and integrated marketing communications double major, said that he wants to get to know students before executing a policy plan. If elected, he would focus on following through on old goals more than creating new ones, he said.
Charlotte Shackelford, a junior political science major, said she wanted to focus on outreach, ensuring that students knowing who their senators are, in her opening remarks. She also suggested a newsletter to inform students about their senators’ activity in ASB.
J.R. Riojas, a sophomore majoring in public policy leadership, philosophy and the Arabic flagship program, proposed that the Senate research mental health needs on campus and work toward increasing funding for the counseling center. Multiple candidates agreed that they wanted to do more for mental health care on campus by using the Senate for research and support.
Riojas also proposed adding representation for international students in the Senate.
He proposed creating a position for a representative from the Lyceum to be at every meeting to write meaningful legislation. Shackelford added that ASB’s legislation monitor already fulfills some of those duties. Kies said that if ASB reaches out to members of the administration, they will be at meetings to support the students.
Brady Kies, a junior criminal justice major, wants to focus on training senators in Senate policies and procedures so that they can be more active in their participation.
“I kind of made a fool of myself this week,” he said, referring to a campaign video he posted in which he conflated the process in allocating funds from the ASB Internal Budget and the student activity fee.
Presidential Debate: Updated at 7:26 p.m.
The three presidential candidates were the last to debate, covering many of the same issues as previous candidates.
Barron Mayfield, a junior public policy leadership major, opened by saying students should come first on campus, especially in the work of ASB.
Tom Fowlkes, a junior public policy leadership and accountancy major, said ASB should “be brought down to earth” from “a pedestal” for students to get involved. He said the university has “momentum” in the right direction, and he wants to create “firm policy ideas” to continue that forward movement.
Leah Davis, a junior psychology major, said mental health needs and unity on campus are the two largest issues for students. Davis cited the University Counseling Center’s recent policy change limiting students to 10 counseling appointments per semester. All the candidates said mental health is a major concern for the student body.
The issue of moving the Confederate monument first came up in the debate between the three presidential candidates. Mayfield said he was “a strong advocate” for moving the monument to the Confederate cemetery on campus. Following Mayfield’s answer, Davis rebutted, noting that she helped write the ASB resolution calling for the monument’s removal. Fowlkes was silent on the issue during the debate.
During closing statements, the candidates highlighted different issues.
Mayfield reiterated his “students first” campaign promise.
“To me, this is our campus, and we are not being put first. Over and over again, we are ignored, excluded from the conversation and plain out shut down,” Mayfield said.
Fowlkes expressed gratitude for his time at Ole Miss in his final remark.
“I’ve been blessed by the Lord in incredible ways on this campus,” he said. “I hope you give me that chance to give back.”
Davis focused on her experience and record in governing.
“My track record and all of the work that I have done with ASB shows that I have put students first,” she said. “Together, we can move this campus forward and make some real change.”