Home » Campus » USG vice-presidential candidate accuses opponents of taking policy points during YAF forum

USG vice-presidential candidate accuses opponents of taking policy points during YAF forum

USG candidates Reagan Brooks, Reese Brooks, and Shawn Semmler stand with Nathaniel Lamb, YAF Activities Chair. Credit: Courtesy of YAF

Undergraduate Student Government vice-presidential candidate Shawn Semmler accused the Brooks’ campaign for taking policy points from his and Shamina Merchant’s campaign during a presidential candidate forum Monday night in the Ohio Union.

During the closing remarks of the forum hosted by the Young Americans for Freedom, Semmler, a third-year in finance, said, “We both actually now have very similar policy, and I would encourage you to cite us as a source next time you take our policy.”

Semmler did not comment on what specific policy points he felt the Brooks brothers had taken. But after the event, he said in a text message that he is happy the other team embraced some of their policies, adding what differentiates them from their opponents are the tangible steps they have outlined toward each goal.

Nick Davis, a fourth-year in natural resource management and campaign manager for the Brooks brothers’ campaign, said Semmler’s claim was baseless.

Throughout the evening, Semmler and the Brooks brothers answered questions prepared by YAF, a non-partisan student activism group that emphasizes conservative values. The candidates answered questions from the audiences about their campaign’s policy platforms and their stances on issues such as USG and student organization funding, campus diversity and free speech.

Merchant, the presidential candidate and a third-year in information systems, was unable to attend the event because she had a USG leadership meeting that required her attendance as deputy chief of staff.

The Brooks brothers’ campaign said it is running an outsider campaign, meaning they have had no active experience in USG, but they feel their experience as student organization leaders for Students for Liberty gives them an advantage.

“I think that our campaign really embodies that idea of having student organizations and more students as individuals to represent their voice on campus,” vice-presidential candidate Reagan Brooks, a third-year in marketing, said. “So I think having [student organization leadership] experience is an absolute advantage coming into USG.”

Merchant and Semmler, both have experience in USG, a point the believe makes them more than adequate candidates.

“To be honest, I’m not sure whether I really care if [students] view it is a positive or negative aspect because that’s the work I’m doing,” Semmler said. “I’ve been honored to have the opportunity to serve on the University Senate Fiscal Committee, and that’s a two-year term. So whether or not, I’m going to be there next year.”

The issue regarding USG’s and other student organization’s funding — a major policy issue for the Brooks brothers’ campaign — was posed more than once throughout the night. The brothers said they want to change the way USG reimburses student organizations for activities by being given money upfront instead of being reimbursed after the event takes place.

“This issue is very personal to me. As someone who started their own student organization on campus, I know all the loopholes student organizations go through when applying [for activity money with USG],” presidential candidate Reese Brooks, a third-year in marketing, said. “Currently it is very difficult if we want to host a speaker or an event on campus because you don’t get reimbursed until the event occurs.”

As it stands now, student organizations have to front the money themselves for a trip or event they want to have, and USG reimbursements them after the activity occur.

Semmler also expressed frustration with the system. He said he’s experienced long wait times for reimbursement and thinks it is a conversation USG can approach together.

The Brooks brothers have attacked USG’s spending methods throughout their campaign, using USG’s budget as a reference, but Semmler defended the organization’s finances, He said the brothers only pulled numbers from the budget of the third fiscal quarter and not the whole budget.

During the Brooks brothers campaign, they have claimed to have been questioned on their plan to be educated about minorities and campus diversity

“As a white male, I don’t understand all the experiences and needs minorities [have], “Reese Brooks said. “It really begins with having those conversations with [minority] students.”

Their campaign has seemingly lacked diversity within the senators they are promoting alongside their candidacy.

In a rebuttal, Semmler said, “One thing I point out that is incredibly important … is the idea that representation matters, so making that your campaign, if you would decide to run a third time, is reflecting of that that because representation does matter.”

When asked about students’ right to free speech, Semmler said the importance of this freedom for minorities is part of the Merchant-Semmler campaign’s vision.

“At the end of the day, freedom of speech isn’t something the majority care about, it’s incredibly to minorities,” Semmler said. “The majority already got it; we’re fine. But it’s incredibly important to a minority, and that’s exactly what we are trying to do with ‘Share Your Story.’ We are trying to bring to light those conversations that are important to students who don’t feel like they are heard.”

“Share Your Story” is the slogan for the Merchant-Semmler campaign.

Reese Brooks said he personally has had a lot of experience with trying to bring better free speech rules to campus through writing petitions with his student organization’s chapter he co-founded to the university to support the student’s right to free speech on campus.

“This is definitely an issue that I think USG is lacking currently in, and I believe that me and my brother perhaps bring the best experience as it relates to bringing the free speech to OSU as it relates to USG.”

Voting for the USG general election is open now and will close Wednesday at 11:59 p.m.

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