SBP/SBVP Candidates: Natalie Salazar and Joan Song

Natalie Salazar and Joan Song are running for Student Body President (SBP) and Student Body Vice President (SBVP). Salazar and Song have embraced the possibility of becoming, if elected, the first Latina SBP and the first queer SBVP, respectively.

Their platform advocates for a higher minimum wage for work-study jobs on campus; improved diversity among faculty; serious consequences and handling of Title IX violations; and, overall, better representation and inclusion on campus. Their agenda fits into three categories: equity, access, and transparency (EAT).

"We're here to EAT," Salazar said during The Tartan SBP/SBVP debates on Wednesday. In an interview with The Tartan, the candidates emphasized that their agenda is not three separate agendas, but a plan working in tandem.

Song said, "I think that our platform goals really mesh well and align well together." Both Salazar and Song highlighted transparency and a line of communication as being crucial towards their goals. Song noted, "all of that together will definitely be our greatest tools when we first get into office to [ensure] that we have a successful year working on our other initiatives."

One the most prominent items on Salazar and Song's agenda is their proposal to get Carnegie Mellon to institute a $15 minimum wage for all work-study‚Äč positions. Experiencing life at Carnegie Mellon as low-income students, they emphasize the importance of a minimum wage increase.

"While to some it may just be a supplemental income for a lot of students, it's not at all," Song said. They added, "it's very critical." Salazar and Song have raised the possibility of a student-led strike if a minimum wage increase is not negotiated.

In an interview, though, Salazar and Song made clear that they did not think a strike was the first option. "It is going to be our last resort," Salazar said. She emphasized that her and Song's first course of action will be to communicate with administration for the minimum wage increase. In addition, Song offered the prospect of a graduated minimum wage increase over multiple years instead of a sudden hike.

At The Tartan debates, opposing candidate for SBP Jacob Chan commented, "This is a populist point to say that we should raise the minimum wage." The winners of last year's election also proposed a gradual raise of the minimum wage to $15. Nonetheless, Salazar and Song see this as a goal worth fighting for.

"We're not advocating for this because it's popular," Song replied. "I know from personal experience working three jobs my freshman year that [the current wages] will kill you."

Salazar and Song also believe that Carnegie Mellon needs more diversity and inclusion at the student and the faculty levels. Speaking on BIPOC communities on campus, Salazar said, "it's [important] to uplift those communities because they are a minority on this campus and have been overlooked for so many years. ... We pride ourselves on being these identities, but our platform, our campaign extends past these identities. More than anything, we want to create awareness of the importance of diversity on this campus."

Their campaign proposes the construction of more gender-neutral restrooms on campus and adding spaces like The Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion to more buildings. In addition, they want to improve existing systems like bias-reporting, which they said has not been advertised effectively. Song said, "If professors could include a brief section about the reporting system in their syllabus as part of one of the resources and hotlines that are available at CMU, I think they should include that."

Salazar has worked with campus leadership on issues of diversity and inclusion before. She serves on a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) roundtable with Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Gina Casalegno and interned with University President Farnam Jahanian. Salazar said her existing relationships with administration along with her and Song's identities will "enable CMU to actually implement [DEI] efforts."

Salazar emphasized that despite her work with Carnegie Mellon administrators in the past, she considers herself most accountable to students. "This is not performative. We're not going to win and then stop communicating with [the] student body and just sit with our titles," Salazar said. She continued, "We're going to use those to create a more safe, equitable, accessible, transparent community for all of CMU."