By Amy Rudolph
Elm Staff Writer
Election season is in full swing at Washington College. This term, there are four presidential and one vice presidential candidate running for office. Juniors Melat Kiros and Lindsey Jackson and Sophomores Benjamin Fizer and Victoria Cline are all vying for the presidency. Freshman Brandon Gross is the sole candidate for Vice President.
The Student Government Association gave students a variety of opportunities to meet the candidates and hear their stances before Thursday night’s debate. The hopefuls were available for questions at a candidate mixer in Hodson Dining Hall before the event. Cline and Gross were present for interviews with The Elm.
The debate consisted of three rounds. In the first round, the candidates answered questions that were drafted by the SGA Review Board. Fizer was not including in the drafting of those questions as he is on the review board and running for president. The second round was titled, “Candidate Crossfire” in which each candidate was given the opportunity to ask their opponents questions. The third and final round consisted of questions from the audience.
Current SGA President Utchen shared insight and advice for the candidates. Utchen hopes to continue to see progress on the SGA’s accessibility and sustainability initiatives. “Having a campus that is ADA accessible is really important. We have a number of students where their voices aren’t always heard and this is one way where we have been able to successfully hear them and have their concerns voiced.” “It is important that whoever is in the position this coming term takes that into consideration and that yes, you have your own initiatives and what you want to do but you also have to realize and look at it from a perspective of every student not just the majority of students because our disabled students are a very small percentage of students but they are a very important percentage and they are what makes Washington College unique,” said Utchen.
The work towards sustainability will depend on whoever is hired as director of sustainability. Utchen said, “We have formed those [environmental] standards but we have not been able to do a lot of action with them as we do not have a director of sustainability. Once that director is hired we can go on full steam ahead so that is something that the new group of people will need to keep in mind.”
“I think what we really need [in a president] is integrity,” said Cline. “We have to reinforce communication, honesty and fiscal responsibility in the decisions we are making as an SGA,” she said. Cline then expressed the importance of service in leadership. “As a leader on this campus you should not be serving yourself in anyway or trying to promote yourself. You should be putting the student back in student leadership,” she said.
Cline’s platform was built based off of values that correlated to letters in her last name. Community, both that on and off campus and bringing the two together; Loyalty, to increase school pride and spirit; Integrity, to promote honesty and communication; Nurturing, to provide clubs and organizations with leadership skills and resources; and Equality, reflecting the diverse community at WC in the SGA.
Fizer is currently serving as Speaker of the Senate, President of the Interfraternity Council and as Parliamentarian of the Kappa Alpha Order. As SGA president, Fizer would work to build communication between the college administration and the student government and student body as a whole. “We have had some problems [with communication] in the past and I really want to better that. I’ve seen our shortcoming as a student government and I want to aim to fix those.”
Fizer would also like to create a stronger college environment that he said, “encourages us to interact with each other and the town more.” Fizer ended his opening statement with the conclusion, “I want to run because I’ve seen how the student government works. I know how we can do it better and I want to be the person to do that.” Fizer believes he is most qualified for the position because of his work in the SGA already and because of his experience as class of 2019 president until his appointment to Speaker of the Senate. He also values his beginnings as a senior patrol leader for his Boy Scout troop. These experiences have shown Fizer what it means to be a leader. “You don’t lead from the front. You don’t just tell people what to do, you get up there, you get with them, you show them how to do it,” he said.
Jackson has served the class of 2018 as their president for the past two years and as a senator before that. “Student concerns come first,” she said. Jackson hopes to use her position to aid the student body in ways that help the individual as well as the community. Jackson’s other points concerned student connections and school unity. “Student connections: making connections between students and future employers and increase the amount of people who graduate here with jobs in their fields. Student Unity, bring all of our diverse students together and have unified events where we can meet each other and create more connections and have a united spirit on campus with school pride,” Jackson said.
Kiros is actively serving as the Vice President of the SGA and believes that her experience working with sitting President Audrey Utchen makes her a strong fit for president. Like Gross and Jackson, Kiros believes in delivering student concerns to the administration; “I don’t think there is a good enough method to actually gather those concerns and deliver it to the administration,” Kiros said.
During her time in SGA, Kiros has been able to see the inner workings of the SGA from a resource standpoint. As Vice President, Kiros is in charge of the clubs and organizations on campus and acts as a liaison between them and the rest of the SGA and Senate. Kiros said, “One of my main concerns is figuring out how to make sure that every student knows that the SGA has incredible resources that not very many colleges have and that they have the opportunity to fix any concerns that they have or at least come to a compromise.”
Kiros holds many leadership roles on campus outside of the SGA, including acting as Treasurer of Alpha Omicron Pi and as a Resident Assistant in Chester Hall. If she were to become SGA president, her time would be limited but she plans to remain as AOII treasurer until Oct 2017. “Other things that I’m in, I will have to drop like being an RA. I would be pushing those to the side to really effectively serve as a president.” These changes would come as a result of trying to be deliberate with her time. “While I think it’s great that we have so many different students on campus who participate in so many things, I think it does take away how effective you can be in those different groups and positions. The golden rule…is doing one or two things and being really, really good at those things.”
Kiros has worked with Utchen and the SGA executive board on multiple initiatives including those that promote sustainability and ADA accessibility on campus. Kiros is committed to continuing work on these plans but has her own in mind. She said, “one of the things that I really want to do is a leadership symposium kind of thing…I think it is something that will really increase the productivity and effectiveness of the clubs on campus because all of the events on campus that don’t follow through or are not as successful is because of training or gaps in knowledge that isn’t the fault of their own. Some training would really help them with [that.]”
The way that the SGA elections are structured does not allow for running mates as is typical in other democratic processes. The Vice President will have to the work with whatever president is chosen and vice versa. Gross is confident that he will be able to work with any of the candidates if they were to win. “I feel like I can work with every single one of [the candidates.] I have seen them all at Senate, I have worked closely with the ones who are sitting on the executive board,” he said.
Gross echoed Cline’s sentiments relating to student involvement and open communication, “I want students to be able to have walk in [to the SGA office], I want them to be able to create a meeting with me or just walk into my office hours or schedule a time to be with one of the secretaries and spread their points,” he said, in lieu of the current system of a suggestion drop box outside of the SGA office.
Gross is not afraid of the position and it’s time commitment. He said, “I am that worker that will get the job done when it needs to get done.”