Meet the Candidates from RiseTU, the Temple Student Government Campaign Team Aiming to Change TSG's Reputation

By Yasmine Hamou

As the second week of Temple Student Government executive campaign season comes to a close, both teams are looking to the final debate, happening on Monday, April 1, in HGSC 200C at 4p.m. Elections will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday. We had the privilege of speaking with two of the candidates of RiseTU: Diamante Ortiz, candidate for Vice President of Services, and Alex Rosenberg, candidate for Vice President of External Affairs (Alexandra Gordon, Presidential candidate, in another meeting at the time). RiseTU is the campaign team looking to engage the student body and change the Parliament system; we spoke to them about their leadership and vision for the university, should they win next week’s election.

From left to right: Alexander Rosenberg (candidate for Vice President of External Affairs), Alexandra Gordon (Presidential candidate), and Diamante Ortiz (candidate for Vice President of Services). | Photo by Nick Zumpino courtesy of Diamante Ortiz

From left to right: Alexander Rosenberg (candidate for Vice President of External Affairs), Alexandra Gordon (Presidential candidate), and Diamante Ortiz (candidate for Vice President of Services). | Photo by Nick Zumpino courtesy of Diamante Ortiz

Disclaimer: This interview has been edited for style and length.

Why did each of you want to run?

Rosenberg: I actually reached out to Dimo the beginning of last semester, and I was kind of like, “What’s your feel on TSG?” I was thinking about running; I was on Parliament, and I was kind of disappointed with how things were done. I felt like being in a co-equal branch, that Parliament had no representation in TSG. It was about, how can we engage more of our student body and make TSG not some elite club and separate from the student body? What can we do to make it interact with all of Temple’s students? So that was a big inspiration for me. I believe I’m approachable; I like talking to people and hearing what people have to say.

Ortiz: Yeah, when I was approached by Alexander I had a pretty good understanding of TSG. I was a TSG representative for aDEL (Asociación de los Estudiantes Latinos) sophomore year and I had a pretty good basic knowledge of TSG. I had a lot-of-face time with Almas (Ayaz), Kate Lyn (Broom), and Tyrell Mann-Barnes (2017-2018 TSG President). So when I was approached, I was really surprised. Mayor Street’s class really helped me understand local government in Philly and I acknowledged it was a grassroots approach. I saw a lot of that with this current administration and I want to continue that.

What does RiseTU mean to you?

Rosenberg: To me, it means representation. We are really proud of the fact that we believe our whole ticket is representative of Temple––we have every racial, sexual, and gender identity. We are truly what Temple embodies. I’m a firm believer that you can only truly function, truly do well, if you talk to all of your students. You won’t be able to make changes you believe you really are advocating for, without that representation.

Ortiz: To me, RISE not only means representation to the student, but essentially, to uplift those voices who may have not been heard or seen. For me, I have had the opportunity in these past two weeks to know students with real issues that may have not been addressed by this current administration. RiseTU wants to advocate for students and to listen and engage. I also believe that we’re the underdogs who want to hold the university accountable for those voices who aren’t heard.

What initiative(s) on your platform are you most excited about?

Rosenberg: The initiative I’m most excited about is our food initiatives. We know that around a third of our student population is food insecure and we want to make more concrete initiatives. First, we will bring SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)* and LIHEAP (Low Income Energy Assistance Program) applications into the TSG office. Secondly, I want to strengthen Representative Dwight Evans Fresh Food initiative. The FFI was vital in bringing Fresh Grocer to Broad Street in 2009, but now that it is here, we are realizing it is not totally sufficient. With the FFI, which is a program already in place, we plan to give local corner stores produce suppliers, as well as bringing more consistent access to farm stands and farmers markets. It's important to note that we although many students might be able to afford the Fresh Grocer’s high prices, many in our surrounding community might not. Our core mission behind these two initiatives is based on the fact that if our students can’t eat, and can’t sleep in a warm home, then how are they going to do well?

Ortiz: The initiatives that I’m excited for are adding more reporting tools, such as having the Title IX office partner with the Castillo Project, which allows members of Temple University to file cases with the option of anonymity and creates a case number to help track their reports. There is another option that students can use on their mobile device, which is called JDoe, that was created by a male sexual assault survivor that also helps with filing reports and assisting with legal action centers. Another initiative that I’m hoping to see brought to campus would be the No Hate Initiative, which holds the university accountable for bias-related incidents. I believe it’s time for Temple University to have this as a part of student life to create a peaceful community where members can be open minded and feel safe.

*Fact check: 33 percent of Temple students are food insecure, however, the USDA has strict requirements for college students to be eligible: https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/students

What sets you apart from your opponent?

Ortiz: Representation. Having students from multiple identities and intersectional identities as well. I think it’s the fact that in terms of building on those organic relationships, making your own mobile office hours, and really just having those moments where you get to talk to folks and really engage with them and promoting that visibility. We’re doing work and we’re trying to not only prove why we want this, but why Temple Student Government works. So, with conversations that I’ve had in the past with folks in regards to this current administration, people are like, “Oh, I hate TSG, I hate TSG” and it’s like, “No, you don’t. You just dislike or disfavor the administration”. And that has stained your views on what it means to be a student advocate, and so we want to utilize that and utilize resources on campaigns to promote advocacy. So that’s how I feel like we stand out.

Rosenberg: My idea is a little different. To me, it’s representation. But I think our platform is different in that it’s not just broad goals. If you go through our platform, we’ve gotten down to the nitty-gritty of what we want to do. We have very specific points that we are confident that we can accomplish. With food insecurity, we have three different things on our platform about how we are going to fight food insecurity. Going along with the past administration we’re going to go along with what they’ve done because they’ve done great work, but we’re going into more specifics. Every platform point that we have, we’ve thought out, we have spoken to people who would be involved in these things. So working with these different branches, starting the conversation, and working our way up to make these concrete changes. So for me, it’s really  having these hard-set, well-developed platform with specifics on how we’re going to accomplish these things.

RiseTU candidates. | Photo by Nick Zumpino, courtesy of Diamante Ortiz

RiseTU candidates. | Photo by Nick Zumpino, courtesy of Diamante Ortiz

What is RiseTU’s biggest strength?

Ortiz: I think the dedication that we have. I know Alexandra (Gordon) and I talked to a student organization about endorsing our platform and being as transparent as possible with them. And then me apologizing like, “I’m sorry if I stutter or have lapses in my speech” because we’re putting in 13 or 14 hour days with this. That’s because if you really care about something, you want to have the work to prove it. I definitely see that with our team, everyone is vying for this and wants to have this position to not only elevate our voices, but to elevate us as students who may feel like they have not been heard in the past or feel like they may not have access to Temple Student Government as much as they want to.

Rosenberg: I have to completely agree. No one’s on Rise because they want power or a resume booster. We have three people on our team right now that are graduating seniors and they’re on our team because they believe in what we can do. We have people on our team who won’t even––if we win––see the results, but they believe in the message so hard that they want to be part of it. Our greatest strength is that everyone really believes in the platform. Everything was a group effort and everyone really believe sin what we’re doing. And I’m proud of that. I’m proud of that everyday and I send in our group message, “I’m so proud of everyone!” But I really am.

What is your favorite way to practice self care?

Dimo: I love a good face mask. I also love to write. I write poetry; I do a haiku a day. There’s one thing, one of my friends told me about which is the term ‘sufficient grace’ which is the equivalent of celebrating every tiny victory throughout the day. So I’ll write a happy list. It could be a completely crappy day, so I write a few things that make me happy. Something that really grounds me is every morning; my mom and I will send Bitmojis to each other. That really helps me set up the day. I also like finding quotes and having a quote of the day. Writing and seeing how I can spread positivity and uplift myself in that way.

Rosenberg: A lot of masculine spaces, we don’t talk about self care and what that means. I talk about it with my friends, we talk about mental health. So, things I do: One, I have a dog. Taking Kona for a good, long run is a great way that I de-stress. I take her to run and she gets all happy and that makes me happy. Beyond that, I really focus on breathing a lot of times when I get anxious or overwhelmed; I sit on the floor of my room and do some breathing. I talk to my grandma about three times a day, so that’s always an act of self-care. She’s 89 years old and going strong and everyday, I make sure to talk to her at least once (Editor’s note: I’m crying). For me, it’s like a free therapy session. I can vent, even in campaigning and I’ve had stressed-out days, I just call her like, “Sheryl, what’s up?” and she’s like, “Talk to me, what’s going on.”

And Diamante, How did being on this year’s Temple Student Government administration prepare and motivate you to run yourself?

Ortiz: That’s a great question. I definitely feel like last year’s administration prepared me for this year’s run because I understand the resources I have and maintaining those connections. I’ve definitely made great partnership with the Temple University Police Department. Officer Wimberly, I just have to give him a shout out. He’s amazing and he’s been such a great motivator throughout this entire journey. We’re both from New York, so our first conversation was just swapping stories about him being from Jamaica, Queens and me being from Brooklyn, the Bushwick area and the grit in that and how motivational that is in itself. People can try to knock us down, but we’ll just get back up two feet higher when that happens. Those really small moments that have helped me keep going in this process. As well as understanding the processes in terms of allocations and other services on campus in order to help students. It’s kind of just having that conversation and breaking down those barriers.

RiseTU made a point of mentioning their efforts at keeping the peace with their opponent, BecomingTU. “I actually got to speak with Francesca yesterday in terms of potential partnerships if they win and vice versa,” said Ortiz. “It’s been a great thing to talk about. We’re trying to make this as healthy as possible because it is really stressful as students.” Continue to pay attention to this election, as Temple Student Government plays an integral role in our lives as Temple students, even though you might not see it in your everyday life.

Best of luck to all involved!

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