From left to right on stage, Undergraduate Student Government presidential candidates Reagan Brooks, Stephen Post and Andrew Jackson attend a USG debate. Credit: Owen Daugherty | Lantern Reporter

Representation, mental health focus of USG debate

The three remaining Undergraduate Student Government presidential campaigns took turns fielding questions from USG adviser and debate moderator Matt Couch Thursday night throughout an hour-long debate that gave candidates one last chance to get their message out to the public, with much of the evening focused on mental-health services and efforts to make students feel represented.

The event may have been called a debate, but there was very little debating, as each candidate stayed close to home and focused on their own campaign. With campaigns wrapping up and the election taking place next week, each candidate took the opportunity to expand upon their many policy points while answering a wide-range of questions.

When asked what single policy point they would focus on if they became president, all three candidates listed a number of things. Presidential candidate Stephen Post, a third-year in economics and political science, listed three policy points — affordability, inclusion and a focus on mental health. Candidate Andrew Jackson, a third-year in Spanish and political science, while touching on a few points, said his No. 1 objective would be inclusion within the university, most notably gender-inclusive housing. Candidate Reagan Brooks, a third-year in marketing said their campaign focus would be to cut USG funding and give the money back to the student body, primarily student groups.

Mental Health Services

One thing that all three candidates agreed on was that the mental health and counseling services provided by the university need to be improved, but each had their own take on how to improve it.

Brooks said his priority would be to increase counselors to help cut down on wait times. Brooks cited a recent Lantern article that detailed how some counseling services were on an up-to-six-week wait for students, which he called unacceptable.

“A student that needs help, needs help now,” he said.

Post said he himself struggles with mental-health issues, said that when he went to OSU Counseling and Consultation Service, he was referred to services off campus, and stressed that the university should be able to have all resources available on campus.

“Having gone through our CCS services, seeing what it’s like, it wasn’t the best experience,” Post said. “If a student needs counseling every week, we need to have enough counselors on staff to provide that.”

Jackson, who also spoke of his personal struggle with mental health, praised the counselor that he works with right now through CCS, but said there could be improvements.

“We want to push for an implementation of an online mental-health portal,” Jackson said. “Students can go online, work through their situation with an online counselor, and that way they don’t even have to leave their bedroom.”

USG Representation

After touching on topics such as affordability and safety, Couch turned the discussion to USG itself in the closing question, asking each candidate if they thought that USG adequately represented all students.

Jackson acknowledged a misrepresentation in the past, but said that it is changing and improving, saying more progress is needed. He noted himself and his running mate, Sophie Chang, a third-year in environment, economy, development and sustainability, as minorities in society whose experiences can help them best represent the student body at large. Jackson is gay and Chang is a woman of color.

Post said it is part of the vision of his campaign to bridge the gap between USG and the student voice on campus, and that will help increase inclusion and diversity. Post cited his slate as a diverse representation of the student body, including 21 women and eight LGBT members running for positions within his campaign.

Brooks said that the misrepresentation in USG is a fair critique, and added that the problem is the disconnect between USG and the student body. He said that USG doesn’t “have a magic wand to solve all of the problems,” and needs to stop being viewed as such. Brooks is running a campaign as a USG outsider.

Upcoming Election

Each candidate may differ on approach, but they all closed in similar ways, saying that they want to bring change to a university that is going through trying times.

The election will begin on Monday, March 6 at noon and will close on Wednesday, March 8 at midnight.