On Thursday, Feb. 28, NC State’s Student Government (SG) held the first Student Senate President Debate. The debate was between candidates Caroline Miranda and Justin Pittman. Nubian Message had the opportunity to interview candidate Justin Pittman, a third-year studying political science and student senator for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHASS), following the debate.


Nubian Message: Why do you want to be Student Senate President (SSP)?

Justin Pittman: I believe in options for our students, especially officers since Student Senate President is a very important position if you knew how to wield that power. As I said in the debate in previously on my campaign, a strong a student senate is only as strong as its leader. And I believe I’m that person to lead a strong student senate. That’s why I’m running.

NM: What prior experience do you have with the Senate and its committees?

Pittman: So I’ve started I’ve started a full session as a senator. I’m currently on Student Affairs Committee. I’m actively involved with other senators with writing legislation, debating on legislation and really just having to say what I believe needs to be said on the Senate floor and representing CHASS on the students on the Senate floor.

NM: How do you plan to support Senators as SSP?

Pittman: Open door policy. I think innovation, capital ‘I’ innovation, for me. Like I said, I want to be a bridge for student senators, when it comes to working on their agenda. It’s not a barrier, you know, many of our senators have expressed concern about they’re being told no at the door, you’re not even being entertained about it, they’re not even getting there foot in. If I’m elected, I want that to change. I want to have a sit down and when a senator brings up their idea, even if even if I personally think that’s a little crazy, but how can I help you? What can I do for you? Who can I connect you to? What other senator or which student organization can I connect you to about this to further push this for you? Like I said, Senate President shouldn’t really have to push their own policy. I should help the senators has push their policy for the Senate as the presiding officer.

NM: What type of legislation would you like to see passed next year and why?

Pittman: I would like personally, I would like to see more mental health. Mental health, like I said, you can never address mental health enough, personally, I believe, but you can always do more when it comes to mental health. Mental health is big for us. Everybody has experienced with mental health, I believe and mental health is huge on this campus, especially with the emphasis on Engineering out here. You know, engineers have come to me all the time about their mental health experience on the site that’s concerning. And overall, I just want to see more legislation about student wellbeing. When it comes to accountability, transparency, you know, things like that. Essentials on campus like University Police Department, dining, transportation, really essentials that made the Wolfpack function and go.

NM: How do you plan to ensure more marginalized students are represented in the Senate?

Pittman: Two ways:  I’ve kind of already hinted at this, but we’re going to fill the Senate when it comes to senators being appointed. I’m not gonna look at you anyway. I don’t care how you look, I don’t care who you love. I don’t care about that. As long as you come committed and ready to serve as Senate, he will get appointed. I do not care who you are. Another way is ensuring fairness as the Senate President being impartial. Senate president serves as the arbitrator. If a senator wishes to speak, I will recognize that you have every right on that for speeches as much as I do, every right to put forward your legislation even if there’s something we don’t want to hear. Last night at one of our meetings, a senator spoke up about leadership and  it had to be said. The senator believed that had to be said, and I want to commend leadership for letting that happen. But at the same time, like I said, when it comes to filling the Senate, I believe 72 seats ensures accurate representation everybody’s heard on campus. That’s why my one of policies is filling the senate. By the end of session, all 72 seats will be filled underneath my Senate presidency.

NM: What can you bring to the table that you feel your opponent cannot?

Pittman: A unique understanding and appreciation of campus. As I said, I’m a transfer student. Last [academic] year was my first year NC State. This is a very personal story to me, but I don’t mind sharing it with you guys. So I didn’t get in the NC State the first time I applied. So I went you UNC Pembroke. I busted my tail and I came to Pembroke with unique understanding appreciation this campus, this campus took me in as one of their own, no questions asked, and I’m forever grateful for that. And now oh, this NC State to run for this leadership position. 

NM: One of the key aspects of your platform is tradition. Can you expand on how you feel traditionally more influential as Senate rather than change?

Pittman: So tradition is important, but at the same time, there’s traditions that need to be reassessed. We currently have a resolution the floor and it’s the Rename Poe Hall act. So there’s a lot of good traditions on campus, there’s a lot of questionable traditions and one of my roles as Senate president for preserving and discussing these is having that discussion. What does the Senate have to say? What is the student body and administration? And what should we do about it? I understand there are some names, some building standards, some I will say some very questionable people, impeachable records, I would say impeachable attitudes and I think we can address that. But there’s also some conditions that I think we should maintain as well. But at the same time, we shouldn’t get too trigger happy. We need have this civilly, and move slow, but at the same time, be efficient with it, too. If we’re gonna do it, we better do it. Tradition, like I said, makes this the Wolfpack. Tradition unites many of us, but there’s some traditions that we can maybe reassess on campus as well, that need to be changed and maybe replaced with new traditions if possible.

NM: In response to one of your debate questions, you said that multicultural organizations are the same as Greek, religious, or educational organizations. Do you believe the same methods of outreach will work across all organizations?

Pittman: I believe so. I have a holistic approach when it comes to this outreach. I’m going to go to as many organizations as I can or as many organizations come to me, I’m willing to work with them just as much. I don’t care if they have 400 members, two members, I don’t care if they come from this certain area of the world, or I don’t care if they come from the state of Ohio, I do not care. I have a holistic approach when it comes to outreach. If anybody’s willing to work of this, I would welcome that. I want to encourage any more people to work with us to expand the scope of student government and its outreach.

NM: You said identity doesn’t matter to you. But for many students and student organizations, such as cultural organizations, identity is an integral part of their community. How do you plan to acknowledge their identities while remaining impartial? 

Pittman: When I said identity is not important to me, that comes to when I say appointing senators and recognizing the senators, but understand identity is what makes people people. We each have our own unique identities where we come from, where people are, who we worship. That’s what makes us unique. That’s what makes NC State special.  We’re not a one specific category university. Everybody here is so unique. I was so encouraged looking out in the audience and seeing people from different backgrounds, religions and everything that was so encouraging. That’s what makes the Wolfpack unite, were so unique compared to other places on campus. I’m still going to remain impartial. Like I said, when it comes to being Senate President, Pittman is impartial. I just look at you as a person.

NM: What else should people know about your platform that was not covered in the debate or this interview?

Pittman: I think I covered as much of the platform as I think is appropriate. But one of the parts of outreach is also reestablishing some connections with student organizations that may have been tarnished over the years. I have an emphasis on Greek life, because a lot of Greek Life kids come to me and say, ‘you know, student government, we just don’t have the relationship with him as we do anymore.’ I was like, What can we do about that? They said, ‘We just need somebody to talk.’ You know, often Greek Life makes up 11% of campus. They’ve contributed many great things to campus, but they’re often left out of the conversation. Many organizations only come to us for appropriations, that’s the only time they touch us, but I think we should involve the legislative and executive process to support the Treasury branch too. I think the biggest emphasis I have is innovation, though. Innovation is my biggest emphasis of my campaign. Innovative Senate means an innovative student body.