By Brooke Schultz
Being an educated voter is important—even on a collegiate level. This Thursday, Feb. 22, the polls open for Student Government Association president and vice president. Below is what you need to know about the candidates and their platforms.
Victoria Cline, junior.
Cline has served on SGA in several positions, most recently acting as Honor Board chair. These positions and responsibilities, she said, have given her the skills necessary for the role of president.
“From being Honor Board chair, I’ve come across students who have a lot of potential for success, but, due to a few poor choices that often involve substance abuse and actions occur out of that abuse, are not able to fully achieve that potential,” she said.
Through this position, she works closely with students to “set them up for second chances,” but “there’s so much room for growth” in aiding students. This experience helped inform her Mental Health & Public Safety component to her platform.
She said that she’s found some students are unaware of the educational resources that they could utilize that would be preventative, and the College has a focus on first-year students with no follow up education.
“PEAC is working with me on [this] in the task force to instill a four year education plan to provide resources to all levels,” she said. “I intend to continue reviewing College policy and rewriting portions of the handbook to help it be clear and concise and taking opportunities to educate the student body to educate them on what the policies are exactly.”
In addition to the health and safety component, Cline also wants to revise the budget process to make for smoother communication between the SGA and student organizations.
“A lot of clubs need individualized support and can’t be in these overarching categories we have now so it would be looking at making the budget more individualized for groups while also educating club leadership on what they can and cannot spend money on,” she said. “I want to devote time to making sure clubs utilize SGA’s abilities so they can grow.”
Similarly, she wants to build communication for students of all majors by creating a committee.
“I reviewed a lot of the other student governments in the Centennial Conference; they actually already have this committee of majors. I thought that would be a great tool to use and learn. Though we have a Secretary of Academics, she doesn’t work with students from all subject areas. There’s a lot of majors and minors that often go unnoticed or appreciated. … It would give an avenue of communication to add new majors and minors,” she said.
Diversity is also important to Cline, who grew up overseas.
“When I came to WC, I noticed there’s a huge separation between American students and international students and the SGA does not do a great job at recruiting international students into SGA positions,” she said. “International students students don’t really have a voice in the SGA right now. We could do a better job at communicating with them.”
That’s why Cline has the idea of creating an international student appointee position under the Secretary of Diversity, to better figure out exactly how to communicate best and recruit members.
Growing up outside of the United States has also helped Cline learn the importance of service, she said.
“I would be using this position to benefit the student body to the best of ability,” she said. “It would be about finding those students who feel they don’t have a voice or have needs that the College isn’t hearing, and basically putting a megaphone to those ideas and students, so that everyone on campus, regardless of background, can have an equal voice in the decisions being made.”
Ben Fizer, junior.
Having served as Speaker of the Senate and as president of the junior class, Fizer said that he has seen the “inner machinations of the SGA.”
“I went from being class president, as a senator, to jumping up to being Speaker of the Senate as a freshman through my sophomore year. It was almost like a culture shock,” he said. “I got exposed to it quickly and I feel I really caught on to it and adapted to it and I became passionate about it because it was something I care about now.”
Although Fizer hasn’t been on SGA for a year, he said that he’s still active on-campus, and sat on the Planning Committee.
“Even though I’m not in SGA, I learned through the SGA side this big group of people who were talking and voicing their concerns and had things they wanted to see done. … I’ve had interactions with every senator, every secretary—everybody in the SGA. That was my job. I liked doing that. I really did. I like hearing what people have to say because even though I’m just one person; if I was elected, I’d be representing the student body, but everything I see isn’t everything. There’s one person who’s the figure head, but the most important thing a person can do is listen.”
Fizer’s plans for listening involve making SGA more accessible to those who can’t attend or don’t want to attend Senate. Sending out a survey for students to indicate their concerns would be an easy mode of communication between the SGA and athletes, first-year students, and people currently abroad, he said.
This ties into his No Small Things component of his platform. For Fizer, the small victories add up—from decreasing the price of laundry (which occurred just recently), to getting an ATM from another bank on campus, to just fixing the Dining Hall TVs.
“A lot of issues SGA tackles are big things. Big things take time; it takes a plan. It takes execution. We don’t get to see the effects until we’re graduated and we come back as alumni,” he said. “We always hear about the people three, four years ago, about how they implemented something for us to use. I want to do things here, now, in the present, I want to show, ‘We had this issue a month ago. Now we don’t have it and the person who brought it up still goes to school here and will still see the effects of it for two years.’”
He also wants to work on communication between the SGA and the student population in several forms. One would be to open up the communication between the committees that interact on College-side or the Board of Visitors and Governors-side and the students.
Fizer sits on one of those committees, but he said that despite the fact he’s meant to represent students, “I’ve never felt like I’ve been able to relay the information I learned to students. That’s what I’m there to do; to absorb information that otherwise students would not be privy to, back to them,” he said. “I really think it should be a published document, the same way that the SGA submits something to the Board and the College on an annual basis. The SGA and its members should be doing that with students as well.”
Similarly, Fizer wants to acknowledge all the College’s students, be it through highlighting the senior capstone experience presentations or encouraging a more diverse range of senators from all different walks of life.
“Not just in the race sense, but in ability, class, traditional—we have commuter students, we have veterans, we have people from all around the world,” he said. “I feel like a lot of time, they get overlooked, despite the fact they’re doing just as much. … Coming from me, a white guy in a fraternity who’s a business major, I’m not looked to as the beacon of diversity ever. I’m not. I want to have people come to me and say, ‘I think this is a really great idea,’ and I want to be like, ‘Hey, I love that, let’s work on that, what can I help you with?’ If I was president, I would have those resources to really seize that. I would love to be able to do that.”
Brandon Gross, sophomore
As a second semester freshman last year, Gross became involved in SGA almost instantly as the director of communications and office management. As a sophomore, he served as vice president, for which he is seeking re-election.
As spokesperson for the organizations through SGA, Gross wants to help clubs maximize their abilities, he said.
“My goal this [term], I’m currently working on a club manual of sorts. It’s not necessarily rules and regulations, but it’s going to have resources and things like that to help clubs and the organizations on campus have a better atmosphere, and enriching the club in general,” he said. “Because you see so many of these clubs dwindle away after time and you wonder why because you have these people that turn in applications, they’re so excited about starting these clubs, and then about five years later, they dwindle away.”
Through this club resource manual, the clubs would have access to the proper way to conduct a meeting following Robert’s Rules, sample fundraising events, lists of what SGA and Student Events Board can do for you.
“The amount of resources under the OSE are plentiful, it’s just people don’t use them,” he said. “If everything is laid out in written form, rather than spoken word, I think that will really help.”
Another way is to implement Presence more. Through the application, club leaders can see which members are coming back, who attends club meetings, which academic years remain involved, and which residence halls are being advertised to.
Additionally, Gross is interested in implementing an adviser contract. He said that many organizations have a hands-off adviser figure, and having a contract would encourage the adviser to participate more and would add stability to the club through the faculty and staff.
As director of communications and office manager, Gross worked with Presence for much of his tenure and it helped him prepare for being vice president.
“That position helped me run for vice president, since they were quite similar,” he said. “And I honestly loved the idea of organizations and the club process. It kind of makes my heart a little bit warm. I think that’s why I would be prepared to do it again.”
His love of clubs also means he’d like to see more organizations on campus.
“Yes, we have a vast club diversity, but I don’t think we’re meeting everything for everyone,” he said. “There are people who aren’t active in anything; I would like students to be more involved on campus.”
Savannah Masterson, sophomore
Masterson’s goal, should she be elected as vice president, is bringing more attention to the clubs and their events on campus.
“After a club is approved by the senate, they do their own thing. I want to work on the relationship between the clubs and SGA,” she said. “They have a lot of events, kind of promote them. Working with The Elm, I see a lot of events that go through our student life and lifestyle sections” and she could incorporate that knowledge into this position.
“I want to make sure everyone has a chance to say what’s going on with us and why it’s so important,” she said.
Masterson currently serves as chair of the organization committee—a responsibility she dove into headfirst because the position was vacant.
“Being chair helped me build relationships with those coming in [to SGA],” she said. “I’m here to help you… I want to continue that open relationship where people can come to me and feel confident.”
This role also requires her to give committee reports, which she said “made her want to help others succeed.”
“I want them to feel just as excited about their ideas throughout the year” as they were in the beginning, she said.
On the other side, in SGA, Masterson said that the SGA secretaries do a lot different jobs on their committees and she wants to have a direct and cohesive way of dealing with students who come in with ideas. The hope is to better communication so all the committees can help each other and make the process more efficient.
Another role of vice president is managing Launchpad, a post-graduate success seminar to prepare students for life after graduation that occurs at the end of winter break.
“I think Launchpad is a great resource. I want there to be more people to be excited about Launchpad because I want people to take away true experience and true networking skills. I want them to be able to recognize that through workshops and alumni connections. They can talk about their experience and how it benefited them.”
Masterson thinks that it will help students who know what they want to do post-grad, or help the students who are unsure figure things out a little bit more. Both are positive outcomes, she said.
Regardless of the election outcome, Masterson said that she’s excited to be a part of SGA.
“I do want to be consistent in senate. If I don’t become elected, I still want to continue my work in the organization committee because that’s where I started and I feel I owe a lot to that,” she said. “Getting to work with the students one-on-one is important to me. I love watching people succeed and blossom in their own ideals.”
For more information about the candidates, attend the mixer and debate tonight in The Egg at 7 p.m.
** Please note that Cline, Fizer, and Masterson serve in different positions on The Elm. Cline is a staff writer, Fizer is the business manager, and Masterson is the social media editor.