Student Government presidential candidates square off in first debate


Student Government presidential candidates Conner Tillo and Cody West square off for the first and only debate Feb. 23.  

Chris Anderson

Student Government presidential candidates Conner Tillo and Cody West squared off in a debate over the future of Student Government Thursday evening, discussing issues ranging from how they would deal with specific issues to transparency and outreach to state budget cuts.

Roughly 80 students were in attendance to watch the debate that took place in the Campanile Room of the Memorial Union at 7 p.m. Presidential candidate Anthony Chavez was not invited to debate because of his write-in status but was in attendance with his running mate, Emeline Hanscel.

The Iowa State Daily moderated the event. 

Emily Tosoni, senior in political science and former Student Government senator, was among the students who asked questions. Tosoni attended the debate to get more in-depth information about the canadidates’ positions.

She said one of the biggest issues facing the student body is the cost of tuition.

“It’s gonna eventually come to a head where there is either going to be less students coming here or we’re going to have to find more people to donate,” Tosoni said.

She worries about the lack of say a Student Government president has over tuition increases, but still expects her representatives to fight for affordable tuition for their constituents.

Student Government and its outreach to students was another issue that received attention during the debate. Tosoni said she had decided not to run for re-election because of her dissatisfaction with the atmosphere of Student Government.

“I think working on seeming more approachable and making things easy to understand is going to be the best way to get students more involved in the process,” Tosoni said. “I know people who have never heard of Student Government before.”

Both candidates acknowledged the lack of outreach by Student Government as a very real problem facing Iowa State.

A major part of Tillo’s platform is to increase the transparency of the Student Government. If elected, Tillo said hopes to inform students about budget cuts and help educate them on how it might affect them.

Tillo also has proposed to restructure the student Senate. His proposal would give groups of student organizations representation in Student Government.

As current vice president, West said he has already worked to help improve Student Government’s outreach to students. If elected president, he hopes to host more town halls, like the one he and President Cole Staudt hosted earlier this year. 

West also said he hopes to inspire a culture of outreach among senators, but that outreach is a two-way street, and students need to take initiative by getting involved with Student Government.

Tillo responded by sharing a lesson he learned during his time as a part of the Air Force ROTC, a lesson that you must be held accountable for your actions.

Tillo said he hoped to hold senators accountable for outreach with their constituents. He also expressed support for looking at implementing rules requiring outreach to students.

Tillo and West also discussed ways an alternative to Veishea could eventually be implemented in a certain capacity.

West has made restoring tradition at Iowa State a focal point of his platform and hopes to create an event that can replace the Veishea event.

Both candidates voiced their support for a proposed event called ISUnity. The event would bring together different groups for a festival that celebrates unity among Cyclones.

West acknowledged the need for such an event during the debate because Veishea once acted as a way to bring alumni back to Iowa State.  

A proposal from Tillo’s platform that has drawn praise and concern from constituents is implementing an electronic version of student IDs.

West voiced his concerns with the proposal, including a lack of infrastructure to be able to use a phone as a replacement ID as well as what is stopping students from simply sending a screenshot of their ID to a friend.

Tillo responded by emphasizing that the electronic version would not be a replacement but an alternative. He also hoped to work to implement an “ApplePay-type system” that would use electronic sensors to read electronic IDs.

In both of their opening and closing remarks, Tillo and West expressed the different messages of their campaigns.

West shared a story of his desire to be a Cyclone since he was a child. As a biology major, he does not consider himself a very political person but said he found his “niche” in Student Government. He said he is passionate about Student Government and helping students through the organization.

Tillo shared his thoughts that come from a central message of bringing together individual voices at Iowa State and his military background. He shared the fact that 5 percent of Iowa State is connected to the military and that he represents that and is set apart by what he calls his servant leadership mentality.

Tillo also brought up the disconnect he sees between students and administration and hopes to bring those voices together for a common cause.

“At the end of the day, we’re all just Iowa State students, we’re all Cyclones and we’re all just trying to get the best education,” Tillo said.

Another voice that did not get the chance to participate in the debate was that of write-in candidate Chavez.

Chavez and Hanscel built their campaign around their experiences as a minorities at Iowa State. Although they are both descendants of immigrants, they branded themselves rather as political minorities – conservatives.

The two have both been active in ISU College Republicans and were dissatisfied when they saw their choices for Student Government president.

“I didn’t like the choices, so I made my own,” Chavez said.

Chavez’s platform includes a proposal to build a relationship between the student body and Iowa Legislature, the ones who hold power to fund or not fund public universities.

Chavez said if there was more of a working relationship between the two entities, Iowa State may have seen a less drastic or non-existent funding cut to public universities.

Chavez also sees the recent vote to eliminate collective bargaining for public employees in the state as an opportunity to lower funding.

“Traditionally, colleges haven’t had their tuitions lowered, but it’s possible,” Chavez said.

He also criticized the other candidate’s proposals for increasing student outreach, including Tillo’s proposal to restructure the Senate to include student organizations.

Chavez said that by giving students who are involved in certain organizations triple representation, it marginalizes students who might be less involved.

Students who wish to vote for who they want to be the next president and vice president of the student body, along with senator representatives, can vote on March 7 and 8.