Photos by Jonah Hokit

Lack of diversity, communication and transparency within student government were the major issues that presidential candidates brought up during UVUSA’s elections debate Feb. 28 at Centre Stage.

All of the presidential candidates selected values of transparency and communication as part of their campaigns; however, not all the candidates were cohesive in how they would solve the issue.

Presidential candidates Marc Reynolds, Taylor Larsen, Anthony Collins and Dustin Draper discussed communication problems between the student body and student leadership, while presidential candidate Tong Li identified the lack of diversity in student government.

“A lot of the demographics of UVU are just not represented whatsoever,” Li said. “There’s a minimum of LGBTQ students, there’s very few of any people of color, female participation is a bit higher, but it’s not what it could be, and also, there is no voices of students who are suffering from disabilities.”

Tong Li addresses questions during the debate.

Li is a first-generation immigrant from China running for student body and has promised to appoint the chief of staff in his presidency from one of the three aforementioned minority groups.

The UVU student body is pending transition of university presidents that will occur in June of this year.

“UVU is in this really awesome, perhaps scary, position, where we have a new university president coming in,” said Reynolds, emphasizing the influential role that the UVU student body president has by sitting on the school’s board of trustees.

The recent appointment of Kyle Reyes as vice president of academic affairs has left the UVU administration in need of a new chief diversity officer.

“I feel [minorities] have been underrepresented in voices of power within the university. I’ll be sure to appoint people who aren’t just white, male Mormons,” Li said.

Draper, in a rebuttal to Li, promised to work on inclusion.

“I’m gonna work with the chief diversity inclusion officer whose coming in as well because I’m not the expert, he is,” said Draper.

UVU at this time has made no announcement about who the new chief diversity officer will be.

Student officials and candidates all agreed that involvement would increase as students shared their voices with UVUSA.

A student submission from a 2017 Fall Omnibus survey was cited by Collins stating, “I just don’t feel valued as an individual here. We need more spirit and student involvement to make this university feel more like a university! It’s easy to feel lost, like you are one of 30,000, and it wouldn’t make a difference if you were there or not.”

“I like the fact that UVU is unique in that regard [of diversity]. It’s a place for everybody,” said William Angus, a junior majoring in accounting. “That’s one of the core values I don’t want to see go away, but I do want UVU to progress forward to a point where we are just as top-tier as any other university.”

Student body elections will take place starting Mar. 5 at 8 a.m. and end on Mar. 7 at 4 p.m.

Correction: original headline read UVUSA debate exposes issues in student government