Staudt talks safety, diversity in State of the Student Body

Christie Smith

Three days post-inauguration Student Government President Cole Staudt delivered a State of the Student Body address at the Iowa State Alumni Center on Thursday night.

Staudt reiterated the goals he built his campaign on —medical amnesty, the Dead Week policy and diversity— and addressed other issues such as overcrowding, drunk driving and sexual assault.

“It is our duty to leave Iowa State a better place than when we got here,” Staudt said.

Although Staudt addressed several important issues on campus, he said the most important issue ISU students faced is understanding and accepting one another.

“We have so many students who do not feel comfortable at Iowa State,” Staudt said. “Having a diverse student body benefits everyone.”

Staudt described a photo on social media of a truck near campus with the words “white power” written on it.

“It doesn’t matter why it was written,” he said. “The fact that it was written is unacceptable.”

The Student Government president reminded his audience that in order to succeed at Iowa State, students must feel safe; they must feel welcome. Staudt said there is no solution for diversity, but through education and discussion with respect we can progress.

Staudt’s comments came just a day after Leaders United for a Change spoke at an open forum during Student Government Senate’s first session. Members of LUCHA spoke about racism and exclusion on campus and asked Staudt directly what he planned to do about marginalized groups at Iowa State.

In his address Thursday, Staudt said he and Vice President Cody West will expand Student Government’s Diversity Committee and will invite the director of diversity and inclusions to speak to the Senate weekly about issues relevant both locally and nationally. In addition, Staudt said he hopes to create meditation rooms around campus where students can go to pray, meditate or relax.

“Ensuring that all students feel welcome, safe and comfortable to practice their customs is my top priority,” Staudt said.

Safety was a theme throughout Staudt’s speech as he touched on pedestrian safety and improving mental health services for students who need long-term care. True to his campaign promises, Staudt said medical amnesty is an important component of student safety.

“All too often, students try alcohol or drugs,” Staudt said. “When things go south, many times, students are too afraid to call for help because they fear they may get in trouble.”

Staudt said Iowa State is on its way to implementing a policy to protect students from reprisal in order to seek medical help, but he called on the state legislature and local law enforcement to partner with the university to protect students.

Medical amnesty is a multi-faceted approach to safety, he said. In addition to allowing students to get medical help, it will also encourage students to intervene in instances of sexual assault, he said.

Staudt said 7,500 ISU students will experience sexual misconduct before graduation, according to statistics.

“That is more than the freshman class you came here with,” Staudt pointed out. “…That is unacceptable.”

Staudt will continue to work with the It’s On Us initiative to lower the number of sexual assaults on campus through education and intervention, he said.

During his address, Staudt also announced another step toward student safety — discouraging drunk driving. As part of an initiative with Uber and several local businesses, Staudt will be driving for Uber next Thursday, Friday and Saturday and will be donating 100 percent of his earnings to the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

Students who are new to Uber and want to help Staudt’s initiative can use the code ISU4MADD to receive $20 off their first ride. Every time the code is used, Uber will donate $5 to MADD.

Staudt said he hopes his initiative will not only encourage students to avoid drinking and driving but will also send a statement to state legislators who recently introduced a bill that could force Uber out of Iowa.

Staudt wrapped up his speech with an issue that was not safety related, but is still near and dear to many students — the Dead Week policy. Staudt and West made Dead Week policy reform a pillar of their campaign. Staudt said 75 percent of students have had major assignments, tests and quizzes on the Thursday and Friday of Dead Week

The president’s plan to reform the current policy would make Wednesday of Dead Week the final day for assignments and tests and would call for “reading days” on Thursday and Friday. Despite the number of students who told Staudt they’ve had Dead Week problems, he said some faculty members did not believe it was a widespread issue.

“So I ask again, in front of the cameras, raise your hand if you have ever had a project, paper, test or quiz due the Thursday or Friday of Dead Week,” Staudt asked. Then, as a majority of the room raised their hands, he said, “There you have it.”

While Staudt continues fighting for Dead Week policy reform, he said he was successful in getting the library’s hours changed to 24/7 for all of Dead Week and Finals Week.

During his inauguration on Tuesday, Staudt said, “Strap in, we’re going for a ride.” And so far, it appears Staudt has hit the ground running.

As Staudt’s State of the Student Body address and first week in office came to an end, Staudt left students with a message of unity.

“This is our university,” Staudt said. “We can make changes when we stand together.”