Augustana forum shows VPSL candidates need more concrete solutions

When it comes to Augustana students, they need more than just vague pledges about important things like student services and supports from the candidates.

The 2024 Students’ Union (SU) elections vice-president (student life) (VPSL) candidates Renson Alva and Adrian Lam both show their desire to increase student supports and services at Augustana Campus. While those are nice sentiments, students need concrete ideas and a plan to go forward. Instead, the VPSL candidates gave vague statements at the Augustana forum, leaving students wanting more. 

Both candidates seemed to strive for long-term and increased supports at Augustana, similar to the ones that are already in place on North Campus. However, Augustana students had other initiatives in mind that were not on the agenda of the VPSL candidates, showing a disconnect between the goals of candidates and the needs of students. With Lam being an Augustana student himself, I expected his first-hand experiences to contribute to his ideas for solutions. However, they were just that —  personal examples, rather than solutions. These examples show that Lam knows the atmosphere of Augustana, and could’ve used this to his advantage. Personal examples — when combined with proper planning —  can be the backbone of really good initiatives. Lam was missing that aspect. 

One question asked by an Augustana student pertained to different supports regarding health care, especially for queer and international students. Alva’s response was that the students of North Campus are able to access services like The Landing and the health centre in the Students’ Union Building (SUB), and that this was something to look into for Augustana — since currently, similar services similar are unavailable.

“There’s lots of funding coming in, hopefully, from the government,” Alva added.

While he recognized the lack of health-care supports for queer and international students at Augustana, the mention of potential funding as a solution is not enough. We cannot rely on the possibility of money coming-in from the government as a way of ensuring proper care for these groups are provided. 

One potential remedy Alva proposed was taking an unused space at Augustana that could be converted from an old coffee shop into a place that could be used for these health-care services. While this is somewhat of a concrete idea, it seems like a solution that banks on the vacancy of the space. While this is a step in the right direction, it isn’t an entirely viable solution. But, it shows that Alva is thinking about how to make use of what Augustana already has, which is better than nothing. 

Because of Lam’s status as a student at Augustana, it seems obvious that his proposals for things like certain supports and fostering community would be solid. However, while he provided a list of initiatives he wanted to address in his platform — such as mental and sexual health, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), and affordability — any specific proposal as to how this would be accomplished was lacking.

When asked the same question pertaining to health care being accessible to international and queer students, Lam addressed the issue, but like Alva, lacked a solution. 

Similar to Alva, Lam mentioned how all services that are available on North Campus should be accessible to Augustana students. He once again mentioned that part of his platform is to foster a sense of community, and having these services provided is what can help students. While this is a great sentiment and promise to Augustana students, any substantial solution is nowhere to be found. As a student from Augustana, I was expecting Lam to have a better idea on how to actualize his plans. Instead, Alva seemed better prepared on this front, which was disappointing. 

But, Alva still has work to do. While his platform’s statement aims to work alongside Augustana students and hear their voices, this only goes so far. Especially when there are no definitive answers in terms of solutions for student supports and services. 

“I’m not from Augustana, but I can still commit to listening to you, working alongside you, consulting with you, and being here,” Alva said. 

That’s all well and good, but how he plans to actually listen to students really concerns me. Alva said that as a part of consultation, he would go to Augustana once a month as a part of office hours. I don’t know if this would be worthwhile, since it seems like Alva is hoping students will come to him with something to say. But, this should not fall on students. Instead, Alva would do better in his advocacy to consult with student groups and leaders at Augustana. 

When it comes to laying out specific solutions to things like necessary increased student services at Augustana, both candidates fell short. The fact of the matter is they cannot rely on future consultation from Augustana students to solve large-scale issues like health care for queer and international students. They’re the ones running for VPSL, not the students.

Alva and Lam could both benefit from shifting their vague and idealistic plans, to realistic and attainable solutions. Let’s hope both candidates figure out how to come up with these solutions to pertinent issues like student services and supports before the next forum. 

Brooklyn Hollinger

Brooklyn is the 2023-24 Deputy Opinion Editor. She is a Classics major and Creative Writing Minor. She is a lover of fantasy books, peach iced tea, and can usually be found obsessing over pictures of her dog Zoey.

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