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USG presidents focus on Multicultural Centers, pandemic-related initiatives

As Undergraduate Student Government elections near, current presidents reflect on a year of adjusting to COVID-19's boundaries


From left: USG Presidents Natalie Carranza, Nora Thompson, Tory Anderson, GPSA President John Oyas and USG President Jacqueline Palmer pose for a holiday card photo outside the University Club building on the Tempe Campus at an unknown date.

With COVID-19 being on campus for around a year, presidents of Undergraduate Student Governments across ASU's campuses have spent all their time in office under the boundaries of COVID-19. 

While all initiatives quickly adapted to COVID-19's guidelines, the presidents of USG at the Tempe, Downtown Phoenix and Polytechnic campuses all have made it a priority to get a Multicultural Center up and running on all campuses.

USGP President Troy Anderson campaigned on opening a Multicultural Student Space on the Polytechnic campus, which opened on Feb. 1 and is located between Devil's Den and the Poly Marketplace.

"Poly has officially opened its Multicultural Center," said Anderson, a senior studying political science and philosophy. "I encourage all of our students to come by and check it out at some point."

In September, ASU President Michael Crow announced 25 action items to better support Black students, faculty and staff — one of those items was to build a multicultural space on campus

USGD President Nora Thompson and USGT President Jacqueline Palmer both said plans are in the works for a Multicultural Center at the Downtown Phoenix and Tempe campuses. 

"We have been working closely with different groups in their calls for things like the multicultural center," Thompson, a senior studying public service and public policy, wrote in an email. "This has been a large part of the work that I do as president and the work that USGD does in general. As the pandemic created uncertainty, leaders and activists worked to harness that frustration and turn it into something productive. It's been incredibly inspiring to see this happen at the University level."

Calls for a Multicultural Center were brought to the forefront after students led an on-campus Tempe protest in August demanding ASU make a Multicultural Center, ASU’s police department be defunded and more equitable hiring practices for faculty of color. 

“(We are) making sure we’re more transparent with students, making sure that we are moving forward to being a more inclusive organization and advocating for the University to be more inclusive,” said Palmer, a senior triple majoring in political science, business and marketing. 

Natalie Carranza, president of USG West, did not respond to email requests for an interview.

READ MORE: Black students concerned about absence of multicultural center

In order to reach more students online amid COVID-19, USGT is producing videos and releasing newsletters. USGD even started a TikTok account to help engage with students, among other events and programming.

“I think a lot of students really want to know more information because they’re not having that in-person conversation,” Palmer said. 

USGP worked to have all of the same initiatives despite the pandemic, including Lyft codes, free printing and free health and wellness items for students. 

“We wanted to make sure that those amenities were still available to students, even during the pandemic,” Anderson said. 

For USGD, while many of their goals were accomplishable virtually, some actions had to be reworked. 

“My team is currently working on ways to still hold things like a sexual health pharmacy and deciding what that looks like,” Thompson said. 

With few in-person events, tabling on the Tempe and Polytechnic campuses has continued to be a way for students to ask questions and get more involved.

“We’ve had a much higher turnout than we’ve had in years past because this is one of the only opportunities for students to get swag and to come and talk about what’s going on,” Palmer said.

While governing online has been a "unique challenge," as Palmer put it, Anderson said he was ready for virtual work after campaigning last year during initial COVID-19 shutdowns. 

“I think we have a strong team, we have creative people,” Anderson said. “I think that all combined together allows for us to figure out a way to do things in an innovative way.”  

Thompson said she still ran "a successful campaign and were able to meet with a lot of students and organizations to get the word out about our elections," but she still has "$200 worth of buttons in my closet at my parents house.”

“I had to focus everything more on social media and figuring out how to connect with people online,” Palmer said. “Which I actually think was really good preparation for me to be able to do that now.”

The application to run for USG is already open, with applications due Feb. 22. Candidates will be announced March 1 and voting will be open March 30 and 31 through Sun Devil Sync and in person.

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Morgan FischerPolitics Editor

Morgan Fischer is the politics editor, she works with her desk to cover topics related to politics in the ASU community. She has previously worked as an intern for RightThisMinute. 

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