Student trustee candidates discuss mental health, diversity

By Samantha Jones Toal

As the three candidates for student trustee debated in the Courtyard Cafe of the Illini Union on Tuesday, issues of mental health, the state budget impasse and diversity and inclusivity took center stage.

Collin Schumock, junior in LAS, Amaka Onwuta, junior in Business and Spencer Haydary, junior in LAS, answered questions from moderator Paul Schmitt, former student trustee and second year law student, addressing how they would handle campus-wide issues as the next student trustee.

Students can vote in the campus referendum elections beginning at midnight on Wednesday through Thursday night.

Referendum participants will have the opportunity to elect the campus student trustee for the 2016-2017 school year, as well as the members of the student senate academic affairs committee, the Student Organization Resource Fee Board.

Additionally, students will be able to express whether they recommend the renewal of the student organization resource fee, the study abroad and travel scholarship fee and the media fee. These fees are initially set by the Student Fee Advisory Committee and are subject to approval by the University administration and the Board of Trustees.

During the debate, Haydary told the audience that his campaign is about his fellow students.

“I have a vision for this University that is one where it doesn’t take three weeks to get into the counseling center, that vision is one where we don’t have traffic accidents where sorority girls are being killed, that vision is one where we recognize that we’re diverse and take steps that we are also inclusive, that vision is one where we are not held hostage by inaction in Springfield,” he said.

Haydary said the main points of his campaign are safety, inclusion and progress. Throughout the debate, Haydary emphasized his experience as a student trustee at Rock Valley College before transferring to the University.

Schumock highlighted his experience in the student senate and on various campus committees. He said, if elected, his main goals would be to, “challenge, connect and climb.”

For example, Schumock said, in his vision to help the University “climb,” he hopes the University will be a considered one of the top-five public institutions in the U.S. in the next ten years.

“This election isn’t about me, it’s about the future of the University,” Schumock said. “‘Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit under.’ As a senior, I’m going to be the old man on campus next year, and a lot of the things I work on, I probably won’t be here to experience and to enjoy.”

Onwuta, who is running as a write-in, noted her experience working with minority groups on campus, such as Being Black at Illinois, and said if elected, she hopes to promote inclusion and act for students on campus.

“I’m clearly not a politician,” she said. “My comfort usually comes from helping out students and being an advocate for students and seeing their faces when the job has finally gotten done, when the struggles that they have gone through have stopped.”

Onwuta said many students approached her to step-up for the position.

“I’m being a voice for those students who have reached out to me and said, ‘we need you,’” Ekene said.

Students can vote in the referendum election at vote.illinois.edu

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