Meet the ASG Candidates: Ani and Alex
Earlier this week, Sherman Ave reached out to the four ASG presidential tickets asking to interview them. All four tickets were gracious enough to accept; this is the final of four interviews. Look for more #ASJizz013 coverage to come.
What's your favorite shitty beer, or assuming you're not 21, what hypothetically would be your favorite shitty beer, and what does that tell us about you?
Alex: Hmm, if I had to choose just one, I'd probably go with PBR. I don't think it would be my drink of choice for a nice Friday night, but it has the right mixture of cheap, affordability, and taste to get you through that point in life. If you choose to.
Ani: Hypothetically, if I were to be a legal beer fan, then Busch Light. That's what I've heard at least. I'd assume that it tastes like you'd expect beer of it's ilk to taste. And it comes in these large cases, that are ridiculously low-priced--as I've seen, and not purchased. So I can only assume as to the quality of it. I've seen people react to it in strange and odd ways, in basements and in crowded rooms. Something magical. What does it taste like?
So I'm just curious, Ani. How many people did you have to ask until Alex finally agreed to become your VP?
Ani: It's funny, because I was asked by someone else to be their ASG candidate. I don't want to reveal who. But I've worked with all of them before, all the other candidates. Alex and I, we were first choices for both of us. It really is about the chemistry between the pairs as well. Literally, we share calendars.
Alex: It's kind of creepy. Buuuutt, it's necessary.
Ani: There's always that thing, 'Where are you!? Oh wait, I already know. Never mind.' But you're working for the next year with this person. You're working very closely. It's not just about sharing an office, it's about sharing calendars, it's about sharing a mission in life, oh God it sounds like we're getting married.
Alex: My girlfriend kind of thinks so. But...
Ani: It's also about the shared values. Alex and I, we're from two different worlds. Like literally two different worlds. I'm a guy, I was born in Bangalore, India. I've lived in Vietnam and the U.S., in Arizona and North Carolina and Texas.
Alex: And my family has been in Ohio since the late 1700s. So... pretty different.
Ani: But it's amazing. We've been brought together at Northwestern, we share similar values regarding what this community has. We've met amazing people. We have relationships with many of them, many of whom are listed on our website. People who we've actually worked with and not just, you know, pretended to.
Alex: I think, as far as when it happened, I knew from--over the summer I was like, 'Alright, who's going to be taking the reigns next year?' And I was like, 'I really want Ani to be president.' So I remember I was over at his house and we were hanging out, he made some really good Indian food that his mom shipped over, and I remember asking him, 'What are you thinking? I think you should be president.' And he was like, 'Well, I don't know about that, so we'll figure it out.' But I knew in my mind that I wanted Ani to be the leader of ASG next year. And I told him that I would be willing to do whatever it took to get him there, because I really believe in his leadership and his vision for Northwestern. And I knew that somehow, I wanted to be a part of that.
Ani: Then we met at another restaurant, it might have been the same dinner, might have been Koi? Might have been Flat Top. We had a couple dinners. I said there's no one I'd rather see as VP than you, Alex. The reason I said it, again, despite being from different worlds, despite being completely different people, despite not having much in common on a surface level, the fact that I felt a certain kinship towards him, and loyalty towards his ideals and principles, meant a tremendous amount. This is someone I will have to trust with every thought, trust with the legacy that we each leave.
We all leave a legacy here, and that's perhaps the most important thing we can do. And for me, my legacy is incredibly important, and I'll be sharing it with Alex. And to be able to make that decision, you have to know that you and this person click. And right off the bat I knew that going into the summer and fall that Alex--I could only see myself campaigning and talking to folks with Alex. And also I think I'd say that one of the things we did immediately say at the beginning of fall was that we had jobs to do. I was speaker of the Senate, president of Delta Tau Delta
Alex: I'm still Student Life Vice President. We knew we had to concentrate on our jobs to do. We had been elected to these positions, to lead in this aspect of ASG. And concentrating on anything else would be not appropriate in the fall.
Ani: And whatever the consequences of that was, whether it put us behind, it didn't matter. We had jobs to do, we had responsibilities we had asked for and been awarded. We didn't do anything until winter break happened, when we started talking to folks.
So how would you use this relationship you forged to replace the Keg?
Ani: You know, first answer that came to my mind--nudist colony. I don't think that's feasible. It's too cold. It's too cold, but that's just because I'm from the sub-tropics. I've lived next to a beach all my life--never a nude beach, but there's always a first for Chicago I guess.
Alex: I don't know if we want that to be the first for Chicago. Especially considering the things that have happened in the Keg.
Ani: There's so much to put there. I guess maybe this could be a space that we use to have off-campus events, to have off-campus retreats. That's not too off-campus, per se.
Ani: Hey, there's no alcohol at university-funded sanctioned events. We had been hoping on talking to Tiv-daddy, but alderman and Northwestern, "we have a great working relationship and everything," but we'll have to speak to the land-owner.
Alex: I think another good question would be, 'How can we bring the Keg to Northwestern?'
So you want to ask the questions now?
Alex: I think when we're looking at a new students center, and trying to get a new Norris, I think the better question to ask is, 'How can we get the Keg here?' So maybe instead of having the Norris Game Room, we have a Norris bar. And that becomes our Keg.
Ani: I can see where the dance floor would be. I can see people doing horrific things there already.
Alex: It would be great for community, for campus, for bringing people together. In a lot of different ways.
Ani: You know that area where the ping pong tables are? That's like a perfect--that represents the Keg. You could like pack people in there, and you could recreate the Keg atmosphere. Sweaty, uncomfortable, somehow satisfying in some creepy way. I think you could do it, as long was you remove the ping pong--well, you can keep the ping pong tables there.
Every week or so, a bunch of Sherman Ave writers like to go put flaming bags of dog poo on Mayor Tisdahl's lawn. What do you think you and other students can do to improve town-gown relations?
Ani: The first actual serious answer, because I have some relationships with aldermen and various organizations that I could really damage if I said something stupid, but first thing, stop calling it 'town-gown.' That's the one thing I've told Northwestern students to their face. Stop calling it 'town-gown.' It implies some sort of, you know, we're the gowns, we're the elites intellectually and Evanston is all townies. 'Campus community.' 'Campus and broader community.' I work with LEND, the microfinance group. I work with Mayor Tisdahl--she's referred clients to us before. People who might need help, specifically ex-offenders, working with them in the community. Working with aldermen to meet them half way, saying 'These are Northwestern's resources. How can we put them to uplift your communities?'
And the same thing we're going to do with student groups here, invite them back, invite them to dinner, have dinner with them, with student groups the amount of alcohol involved, I can't comment on that. But with aldermen, probably more.
Alex: Especially with Mayor Tisdahl.
Ani: Maybe she likes a good stiff gin. Who knows? You don't know until you try. Or offer. There are things to improve. Personal relationships should be built.
Can you describe your first power trip?
Alex [to Ani]: Probably when you met Chet Haze.
Ani: Well, when my younger sister was born. She's six years younger than me. I had a good assistant there for awhile, until her own personality kicked in. Now she's just real cheap, and she won't do anything I ask her to do. No more getting glasses of water from her from downstairs. It's all good. Now she bosses me around. I don't know if I want to drag my sister into Sherman Ave. She's only in 8th grade.
Alex: First power trip? There's been so many. I'd say the first time was when... when I got my first car. You like go through all these years going, 'Ah, if I could only drive. I'd go all kinds of places, do all kinds of things.' That's when you make it in life. When you get that driver's license and you're sixteen. We were really cool. My parents wanted me to get the safest car possible, a nice mom car with a good golden color. All my friends were asking me for rides and I was just like, 'I got this.' I'd ask for money from them to pay for the gas, and I knew I made it.
A serious question for once. An increasing amount of the student body is on psychiatric medication, and an increasing amount of students has complained that Northwestern is not doing enough to address the mental health of its undergraduate population. What would you do to improve mental health on campus?
Ani: I think first we need to talk about how the administration deals with mental health issues on campus. I was on the selection committee for the new dean of students, and one thing we talked about was crisis response, and dealing with distressed students, which is something that the new dean of students is responsible for. So what happens when a student is sexually assaulted? Statistics show that an alarming, unacceptably high number of our women have been sexually assaulted. At Northwestern, across the nation. Especially university women face a lot of that. How does the university respond?
I had someone write to me just a couple of days ago. She suffered a mental health crisis her first couple of years at Northwestern, and when she went to CAPS she felt like she was treated very coldly. She did not feel like she got the right emotional response that she needed. So I think it's twofold. One, there are resources at CAPS. There are resources that the university provides. It's a matter of broadcasting them and pushing them out in the right way. The administration doesn't know how to communicate with students. We do. And when I say 'we,' I mean NU Active Minds, I mean NU Listens, I mean PHA, IFC, RHI, RCB, all the acronyms in the alphabet soup. We understand how to communicate with students, and we can do it better. We can do it through the One Northwestern website.
The other part is talking to the administration, saying one, how are you trying with students. What is it that the normal emotional transparence look like, what does that conversation look like. And two, we're going to develop a peer listening service. It's not illegal, it's possible. We need to develop the right legal framework for it, we need the right staff support for it and training for students so that if it happens that an administrator is seeing their 600th student of the month and they're tired and they can't give the right emotional response that the student needs at that moment, there's a peer to turn to who can understand it better.
Alex: I think a lot of what ASG needs to work on moving into next year is being more proactive. Because we can talk about how we respond to emergencies, what resources are there if an emergency occurs. But I think a more important thing is how are we maintaining mental health? I think the conversation needs to be shifted to where it's something we pay attention to just like our physical health. We eat right--well, kind of. We exercise--possibly. So it's one of those things that we need to be maintaining constantly and paying attention to and checking in constantly. I think that's where we can make real strides. Right now the conversation is, 'Alright, when something happens what resources are there?'
But I think we need to rephrase that question, because this is something that affects all of us. Whether or not it's extreme or not, we will all struggle with feelings of depression, or anxiety, or feelings of social isolation. So something that we need to do is figure out ways in which we can be talking to each other. I think something that was really cool that we did in the winter, was we brought QPR training--Question, Persuade, Refer--suicide prevention program that CAPS offers that talks about how to have those tough conversations with friends who might have some risk factors. We were able to train all of Senate and the entire exec board in that. If ASG is going to talk about improving the culture of mental health on campus, then we need to be leaders in that, improving the conversation in our own organization.
So I think being proactive in training and also working on things like the One Northwestern site. It's putting mental health within range of resources available to students, like FitRac or health appointments at Searle, and making students are aware of certain things. Like stress relief students, or realizing that CAPS isn't just there for emergencies, but for helping you maintain mental health, because you're somewhere on that range, and it's something that we need to focus on in terms of maintaining it.
Ani: And I think the point we want to drive home is that we have experience doing that. We have experience working with CAPS, we have experience working with NU Active Minds--that's why we have their endorsement. We know how to work with a student organization, with the administration to push things forward. We've already started the discussion, we're already well on our way to improving the resources available, published, and broadcasted at this university. And we're fully equipped, I think more so than any other candidate, to take control.
On a lighter note, if you were elected can you give me a potential Sherman Ave headline regarding your term?
Alex: There might be some questions about Ani's legitimacy as president.
Ani: You know, I'm actually a foreign citizen. Just don't read the ASG constitution. Let's just say that. "Crisis of Confidence?" I don't know. Maybe... I don't want to say "Embezzlement of ASG funds," because I don't want to draw attention to it.
Alex: I think possibly "Therapy Cats Brought to Norris" would be a good headline.
Ani: Subheader--"Seventeen students rush to the hospital with massive blood loss."
Alex: Actually, one of my big passions is bringing therapy sloths to campus. I'm a big sloth fan.
Ani: We're huge sloth fans. Most of the emails we exchange are of sloths.
Alex: In every single campaign email is like a nice gif of a... sloth.
Ani: Alex is really the one with the obsession. I feel like I stand apart as a witness to his obsession. I mean, yes the sloth is funny, but it's creepy as hell. But I think it's hilarious that he's really into it.
Do you worry that you'll slide into an addiction?
Ani: I think it's already too late.
Alex: If we were starting a cult for sloths, I think I'm already like the Vice President or President. So that may be a cool thing we could start. A cult of sloths.
Ani: A cult of sloths. It's like the alternative to Deru. Which I don't think we'll be invited to. Because sloth-enabling behavior is not allowed in respectable institutions.
I don't think Sherman Ave will be either.
Ani: You know what? Then you guys can go fuck yourselves. We're proud of our sloth obsession.
Whoa buddy. I was talking about Deru.
So would you rather find a dollar on the ground, or have the Chicago Sky, Chicago's preeminent WNBA team, win the championship?
Alex: I think it would depend on if there's a vending machine nearby, and if something in the vending machine costs a dollar. Because if so, then I'm there.
Ani: I'm a huge fan of Chicago. I'm from Houston, and I'm not hating on my homeboys back in Texas, but I think Chicago's really cool, that's why I came here, I think the city's really neat. I want the city to succeed. So I'll probably go for the dollar bill--just kidding. I think the WNBA team would be really cool. Yeah, vending machine. Really though? That's tough.
Ani, I noticed that your campaign focuses on linking perspectives. So, like, how awkward is it when you come across somebody who's perspective is wrong? Do you, like, still try and link with them? Maybe just no eye contact? Awkwardly smile?
Ani: We do a lot of linking. We have some tried and true methods for breaking through perspective barriers. Nobody has a wrong perspective. There's just bad ones. Everybody has perspectives, I think the problem comes about when somebody is closed-minded. There are some people at Northwestern who are closed-minded. I'm not going to call them out by name. But I think the good thing is that we've met a lot of people who are open-minded, who share similar perspectives. What we've found more often than not is that perspectives are shared and not linked.
But if we find someone with the wrong perspective, and especially if they're wearing a jersey from another school, then they're not heard from again. That perspective is broken. BOOM!
Alex, we discussed how you're VP of Student Life. Do you believe Student Life begins at conception?
Alex: I think I would go with the Arizona response, which is that Student Life actually begins about five weeks before conception. When you choose to enroll at Northwestern, that's when Student Life begins.
So one serious question, and then we'll end on a lighter one. It's been almost exactly one year since the Beer Olympics/Racist Olympics sparked campus-wide discussions on diversity. How would you have responded to a similar situation if you were ASG president?
Ani: So, I mean, a couple of things right. The first thing is that, and there are going to be people who disagree with us when we say this. They are going to disagree with us profoundly and you're going to see comments on it. But the first thing that ASG should do is apologize. Because there's a role we play as an institution, as a member of the community, there's a role we have been playing in maintaining institutional racism, in perpetuating a culture that allows it and allows these things to keep happening. So apologizing for it and acknowledging that we're responsible for it.
I'm not going to break down percentages here, but it's important because societies have to start acknowledging these things. That these are not aberrations that just happen--some of them are, acts of violence are often aberrations--but we have to acknowledge the role that our culture plays in it. That the way our campus is set up plays into allowing such things to happen.
Alex: Even apologizing for the fact that, by not doing something about it before it happens, that through not doing something we have contributed, if that makes sense.
Ani: The way we can do something about it, it really comes down to the sort of institutional things we have been doing. The academic diversity requirement. Sustained Dialogue, the SD model we're about to institute. It's good, SD especially is going to change things because Lesley-Ann is great. But culturally speaking, students feel unwelcome in each other's spaces right now. Communities feel isolated. Communities feel like the other community doesn't understand them. That was the fundamental problem at the Beer Olympics. I don't think I knew anyone there, but I certainly understood their perspective, which is important. You can't just reject it outright, you have to understand why they have that perspective, and they have that perspective because they didn't understand the context.
Understand that before you come to Northwestern, the entire point of Northwestern is to broaden your horizons and understand that things like blackface are not acceptable, because of the historical context, because of what it implies. I've seen this with my own culture. I'm Indian, I have an Indian passport, ethnically, culturally, I embrace it, it's a huge part of my identity. But when somebody says 'Oh, you know, I'm going to dress like an Indian, it's going to be a part of my costume for the evening,' it implies, it's just like 'Oh, I'm wearing jeans, it's going to be my costume for the evening.' It's something you dress up as, like dolls or that kind of thing.
But acknowledging instead that these heritages, these cultures, these lifestyles are important parts of this campus, important parts of our society. That we're taking the time, when we come back from summer break and the freshmen are here, doing National Hispanic Heritage month to acknowledge like ASG partnering with Alianza, with A&O to film movies that highlight our hispanic heritage and what that means and how that enriches and contributes to our experience.
And I hope that we will not be faced with something like that again. Because I think that we're able to do things in the next year that will substantially shift us away from that, away from the past where we keep seeing things happen over and over again. And a lot of that is bringing people who don't talk to each other, who don't understand each other's perspectives into the same space.
I'll just give you some random examples, it's not examples of people who have actually been offensive to one another. Bringing a social fraternity or sorority into the same space as a group that focuses on a cultural program--I'm not going to call them a cultural group, because they do more than that, they're a student group that does a lot of cultural programming. Bringing them to the same space and saying 'We are Northwestern students. This is why we are in this space together, this is why we're on Deering Meadow together, this is why we can celebrate together. Understand my story, I'm going to tell you my story, we're going to undertand each other, I'm going to tell you why wearing a sombrero on Cinco de Mayo and acting like a jackass is not acceptable and not the intent of the occasion and three not an accurate depiction of my heritage and why that's offensive.'
Not doing so just in an angry manner or in a frustrated manner, although there is anger and frustration, but doing so in a manner that understands, you know, I've had the fortune of travelling the world, so I understand that people are different. But other people haven't been exposed to that, and there are perspectives that I have not been exposed to. We need to acknowledge that, and make sure we link those two perspectives.
Alex: And I think that as President and Vice President, being elected by 8,000 students--well, probably 3,000--that kind of gives us the responsibility to care for those students. And I think something that has been resounding over the past three years for us has been that if somebody on this campus is feeling unwelcome, then that's a huge problem for us. And that's something that ASG needs to be active in trying to fix. We ran into this with gender neutral bathrooms when we were working with Rainbow Alliance.
Ani: We're still working with them.
Alex: That because there are no gender neutral bathrooms in Norris or the University Library that some students don't feel comfortable going in there.
Ani: To the University Center and the Library.
Alex: To the main hubs on our campus. If that's something that's happening right now on this campus, and that's something that affects even one student and makes them feel like they aren't as welcome as say myself or somebody else, then that's something that we need to take an active role in as ASG and as representatives of the student body. And I think that's something that we can really step in and start to take a role that perhaps past Presidents and Vice Presidents haven't played.
So fuck, marry, kill: David, Benison, Aaron?
Ani: I believe in reincarnation.
Alex: You're going to pull that card?
Ani: Yes, I'm about to. God damn. This is tough. They're all great candidates for a lot of different things. I think that I would definitely marry David. I think he's a great--in terms of sharing a life together, he's a great manager. He really is. He's a fantastic manager of services. He's manage our finances and affairs. Have affairs. Whatnot. I would definitely kill Aaron, because I believe in reincarnation. He's a big guy. You know? I think that he could come back as potentially a differently sized human being. I think it would be amusing to watch, and I think he'd agree with me. He really would.
Alex: So that leaves
Ani: Benison, because he's so happy. So goddamn happy. He just wants to please you, so it's just going to be a great experience.