Updated: Jun 26
Myself and Lulu Castro, the content coordinator for Constellation, had the pleasure to talk to all of the executive tickets running for Undergraduate Student Government (USG) at ASU's Tempe campus. We asked Jacqueline Palmer of the Vote Palmer campaign, Max Fees of the Expect More Campaign, and Trey Leveque of the Vote Leveque Campaign questions regarding themselves, their campaigns, and their stances on sustainability.
Constellation Sustainability has chosen not to endorse any particular candidate as an organization, but rather hope that the information our candidates have provided will allow for you to make an educated vote on the changes you hope to see within ASU's Tempe campus. In addition to the questions we have asked, we encourage you to reach out to the campaigns if you have any follow up questions!
Please also check out ASU's United Nation Association chapter's upcoming event this week, their Sustainability Forum. All three tickets will be present at the Sustainability Forum to answer questions about sustainability and their sustainability plan for the upcoming year.
1. Tell us about yourself and what you're involved in on campus.
PALMER: I am a triple major in digital marketing, political science, and business law with a certificate in international studies. I started off in USG in my freshman year as a policy intern, then became the Director of Community Affairs in the policy department, and now am Director of Public Relations under the office of the president. I worked on the sustainability campaign leading up to Earth Day. I also was the Panhellenic Assistant and Chief Administrative Officer of Kappa Alpha Theta. I work at the dean’s office currently.
FEES: I’m Max Fees and I am a junior studying civic and economic thought and leadership and minoring in digital culture at Barrett, The Honors College, and I’m running for USG president. Over the years, I was director of Devilpalooza 2019 ft. Galantis, Campaign Finance Intern for Mark Kelly for Senate, Sigma Nu Fraternity VP of Philanthropy , Camp Kesem Counselor, USG Director of Outreach, Adidas Brand Ambassador, Devils Advocate, and a Pat Tillman scholar.
LEVEQUE: I’m a third-year student triple majoring in business with concentrations in global politics, law, and public service 7 public policy. I have been involved in the W.P. Carey School Business school through Business Ambassadors and the Dean Advisory Council and alos have experience in Changemaker Central, Vice President of Policy in USG-Tempe, Next Generation Service Corps, and the Medallion Scholarship Program.
2. What inspired you to run for USG President?
PALMER: For me, being in USG was a huge inspiration for me. Being in USG gave me determination to help ASU. I feel like I have demonstrated dedication to ASU, the students, and to understanding the students’ problems.
FEES: I felt inspired to run for USG president after being involved in USG and realizing that the real concerns of students were not being addressed. I also have a lot of brothers in Sig Nu that were in USG as well, and I was able to grow with them and see the problems that USG faces, like our budget, student services, and how we handle it.
LEVEQUE: I wanted to run because I am inspired by the work I have done already to support students. The reason I originally joined USG was because I reached a point where I wasn't being challenged enough, and I wanted to be able to really make an impact. I have learned a lot about the resources we have on campus, and I want to make sure that students know that they have these resources available to them. I know that there is so much more I can do, and based on the experiences that I have had this year, I believe that these experiences make us the most qualified ticket. Jay Matrecito, who is running as the Vice President of Services on the Leveque Executive Ticket, is currently the Executive Director for the Residence Hall Association at ASU and she brings a very important perspective to this role and brings a lot of good in terms of making sure that students are getting what they need and want. Rachel Caldwell, who is running on the Leveque Executive Ticket as Vice President of Policy, also has a lot of experience that makes her more than qualified for this position. This past year she served as the Government Affairs Director for USG-Tempe and has a lot of other policy based experience in nonpartisan roles such as working at the Arizona State Senate.
3. Tell us about your campaign.
PALMER: I am running alongside Josh Fried and Kajol Kapadia. I have 6 core pillars for my campaign, which include: Sustainable practices, Food Inclusivity, Safety and Security, Civic Engagement, Health and Wellness, and Transparency.
For Transparency, my primary goal is for people to understand USG and work on promoting our existing resources. We want to be completely transparent with students. For Health and Wellness, I want to urge administration to push for our student code of conduct to include medical amnesty for drugs and alcohol for ASU students. Both NAU and UA have medical amnesty for students, so I want to advocate to the AZ Board of Regents to make an all encompassing medical amnesty policy across the three state universities. Another integral part of our health and wellness pillar is that we want to destigmatize mental health and promote the confidential/nonconfidential resources that ASU and USG has to offer.
In Food inclusivity, we did a survey that showed that 50% of students believe that there is not great food inclusivity at ASU. We want to promote a better relationship with Aramark that would allow us to provide more inclusive options in the dining hall, like more gluten free, halal, and vegan/vegetarian options. We also want to address food insecurity by promoting the Pitchfork Pantry. We also want to work with health services to provide epipens in the dining halls.
For Safety and Security, I want to make sexual violence education and awareness a mandatory component of the ASU community by requiring all student workers are trained in sexual violence awareness, as well as making it a component of ASU101/equivalent classes. Lacking ASU infrastructure also makes it unsafe for students, where the light failures at night makes it dangerous.
Civic Engagement: ASU’s voter turnout for 2016 was 58.7% of all students. Since it’s another election year, we want to drive up civic engagement and match the University of Missouri, which had the highest college voter turnout of 67.4%. To do this, we will promote civic engagement by including it in ASU101/equivalent classes, distribute nonpartisan voting guides, and increased education of both parties in a nonpartisan method.
Sustainable Practices: Right now, only some of ASU housing has recycling programs. In off campus but ASU master-leased housing like The Rise and 922 Place, there are no established recycling programs. We want to expand our campus sustainability efforts by creating an effective recycling program. We also want to revitalize the student led sustainability initiatives fund, and create a green checklist for clubs to receive more funding.
FEES: My campaign is not centered around myself, but it’s called Expect More because we should be expecting more from our faculty, student government, and administration. My three pillars are: higher expectation, greater transparency, and data driven policies that question how we can improve based on student feedback. Currently, USG doesn’t produce a lot of surveys, so I would like to set up a USG survey about student satisfaction and measure progress through a third party data collector.
LEVEQUE: We are running on several main platforms. We are focusing on health and wellness, food accessibility, civic engagement, improving the safety escort service, representing student worker rights, sustainability, and also more transparency towards where student dollars are going. I believe that based on my experiences with USG, there are various ways to make spending more transparent by making it easier to find on the website. We are here to provide financial resources to student clubs and organizations. We want students to feel that USG is making an impact, and we want them to feel that they are being advocated for and that they can reach out to us. I want to make sure that they have impactful programming by having the ability to be prepared for the workforce post-graduation. We want to make sure that their time here at ASU is as memorable as possible.
4. What are some of the first changes you would make as USG President?
PALMER: One of the first things that I want to do is build better relationships with clubs and organizations on campus. I feel like there are lots of tension with clubs and USG, especially when it comes to funding. I want to better our relationship with the organizations on campus and let them know that USG is there to support them.
FEES: Right now, we are receiving a lot of feedback regarding COVID-19 and concerns that come with it. My first priority would be to address the fact that many of us are worried about the job market, so I want to really help the class of 2020 find meaningful jobs in this new, post-corona virus economy. I want to promote our existing resources like the career services to assist students and lessen their stress.
LEVEQUE: We're in a state where COVID-19 is affecting everything. We want to make sure that students are getting the funding and resources that they need for things like their mental health. No matter who gets elected, we will be working continuously to help students in this crisis. In my current role as Vice President of Policy I have been able to help students during this time through reallocating parts of our budget that would have gone to in person programs to resources for students. We want to help students to be financially assisted through this. We need to focus on food security and raise our voices in representing these vulnerable people. We need to make sure these students are being advocated for.
5. How does Sustainability fit into your campaign?
PALMER: Sustainability is important to me, so I included it in the 6 pillar plan. However, sustainability is more than just waste management. I want to develop a budget for sustainability funding for students who are working towards sustainable projects and initiatives. In addition, we want to expand current initiatives like replacing plastic straws with paper straws, addressing food waste in more dining halls, and increasing water refill stations on campus.
FEES: ASU does a great job of sustainability already, with our school of sustainability and we rank high in green schools due to policies done by the administration. It is important to keep advocating though, as our school is not perfect. It’s something that we keep getting better at. Sustainability has become a great part of USG even if our impact is pretty limited.
We have a few takes: It’s about where the money goes. The student programming fee is about 2.6 million, and going up. A lot of students don’t know about this, and we want to be more transparent about how we are handling that money. We want to advocate for local, sustainably sourced food on campus, sustainability education for all, and encouraging sustainability through the bike co-op, more buildings with sustainability standards. USG can make a really big impact with buildings, as ASU is the biggest land buyer in Arizona. We want to push for our new buildings to be fitted with sustainable construction and features. I believe we can also be better with waste management at events. As I’ve worked on Devilpalooza, I’ve learned from previous events and ensuring that we’re not as wasteful in the future. What’s important is that it’s not just waste management, or recycling, when we talk about locally sourced food and how important it is. We want to advocate on students’ behalf for sustainably sourced food in dining halls and across campus with programs like the Campus Harvest program. We want to help enrich these clubs that help out on campus. We aim to make a difference by putting our money where our mouth is, and we will work with them to maximize their impact.
LEVEQUE: Our sustainability platform encompasses 5 different aspects. For optimizing energy and water usage, residence halls usually try to tackle power down and only measure energy usage. Sometimes, students forget to turn off their lights when living on campus. We have a lot of development on infrastructure, and as of right now we only have 33 certified LEED projects which are comprised of 54 buildings. We want to continue that measure with buildings and have it actually be validated. We want to support organizational missions and the 55 sustainability clubs that are involved in this.
For waste management efforts, even though there are visuals, it is hard for students to recycle especially with food, so we want to invest in better compost education. Students don't know, for example, what to do with a pizza box. We have to make sure students have the education to sort their waste. Sustainability should be easy and not having the information prevents that. We also want to promote giveaways to make sustainable lifestyles easier and accessible as a lifestyle choice.
For locally sourced food, it lowers pollution so this is something we want to emphasize. We want to give out swag items that facilitate the support of lowering waste. We also want to bring farmers markets, local food options, and sustainable businesses onto campus, and make that more accessible.
For educational resources and initiatives, we need to make sustainability digestible. We want to make a resource dedicated to all the questions students might have to look up that directly relates to their lifestyle on campus. We also want to push for more advocacy initiatives because people perceive and absorb incentives differently. We need to try to meet the different needs of students so they can actually absorb this information.
For sustainable event planning, we will collaborate with the USG senate to make being sustainable and planning sustainable events easier. We need to incentivize sustainability and make it a domino affect. We will continue practicing that with USG events as well. We also want to have USG events be sustainably certified and be a role model for other clubs and groups.
6. What differentiates your campaign's sustainability points from your competitors' campaigns, as well as the previous administration's?
PALMER: What differentiates my campaign from others is that I have actionable items that can be completed with clear paths. Sustainability is a core value of ASU and I believe that USG can do more. I am ready to delegate and direct all of the directors, and I want to follow through on my promise.
FEES: These are things that we can really start doing early on in the fall. In terms of the campus harvest program, we have two main crops. We want people to know that it is available to them. The bike co-op is a large service on ASU that needs to be utilized. The biggest downside is that it’s not well located, especially when your bike is broken. We want to work with the bike co-op to build a better program where the mechanics can go to residence halls where they can help you there, or pop up shops across campus to make them more accessible. These are things that are high impact, but can be done during our term.
LEVEQUE: Our plans are extremely detailed and goal-oriented and we wanted to make that our mission. Our main focus is to be clear that this ticket is educated, and ready to actually implement what we are preaching. I think that through my experience that I need to push more, and I need to make sure that these are our priorities by showing that we are transparent with our goals. Sustainability, for example, is a director position that could potentially be very difficult because of all of the things that could be done within sustainability. We want to make sure we are hiring someone and pushing out to the School of Sustainability because we want to make sure we fill those positions with the people that have the most qualifications. We expect all tickets to be this informed and ready to defend their goals with information.
7. What do you think is ASU's top sustainability issue?
PALMER: Currently, I think that waste management is our top issue because on-campus dorms do not even provide recycling bins. If we cannot even do the basics like recycling, how are we supposed to elevate ourselves to provide further initiatives?
FEES: Our environmental footprint is large, especially because there are so many people at the university and there are so many parts. There needs to be future policies and standards so that we can have a sustainable future. We have a lot of potential, but we are expanding greatly and with that we need to grow sustainably.
LEVEQUE: There's a lot. One of the top is following through with our goals. We have a lot of ambitious goals, but we struggle to have students be aware of the progress. We need to do better and make sure our university administrators are actually following through with these goals. How do we actually become zero waste, have efficient zero-net buildings, and compost more? I think that the school of sustainability is understaffed, and there are a lot of ways USG could collaborate and help express students' interests. We are really focused on realistic goals in order to actually make the strides in the right direction. Especially with the small staff that the sustainability departments have, there should be an embedded contribution within these areas. We emphasize embedded because we want to highlight that that is something that everyone should be doing continuously.
8. Is there anything else you want to tell our readers? Any last comments we should know?
PALMER: I am here for all students, and this is a really hard time. I understand that it is difficult to ask people to support me right now with all the hardships they are facing, but I want them to know that I am here for them and here to assist with anything they need.
FEES: Regarding COVID-19, the ASU administration has put any talk about refunds on hold. Dr. Crow put it at the bottom of his list. We understand that the university’s top priority is safety, but we need to make sure that students are going to be well taken care of as well. ASU has already explicitly stated that they won’t do refunds, but UA and UAlabama have already. We also want to do a Pass/Fail option for Spring 2020. We understand that there are students who need the grade, grad school, or internships, but we have a lot of students who are worried about their home life. School isn’t a top priority for many right now. We want to set students up for success, and this is something we fully advocate for and support.
LEVEQUE: Make sure you go out and vote! I think this election, with the circumstances that were in, social media is one of the best ways we can communicate to a broad audience, but it obviously is not reaching all students. It is so important for students to be educated and vote. This election will influence everyone and it is important that they know that these student leaders are going to represent you. With COVID-19, our ticket has resources available to students on our website and we are open to anyone reaching out and expressing their concerns or questions about our campaign. Please feel free to reach out to our email (VoteLeveque@gmail.com) and through social media with any questions. It is so important that the student voices are the ones being shared and as a result we have also created a student focused Instagram account called @WhyLeveque where you can contact us in addition to our ticket account (@VoteLeveque).
Thank you again to Jacqueline Palmer, Max Fees, and Trey Leveque for taking time out of their campaign schedule to talk to us! Below, we have included a list of resources from all candidates.