Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
All but two of the candidates currently running for Student Council were at the Candidate Forum on Wednesday night, where they presented their platforms and fielded questions from an audience slightly larger than the candidate pool.
Candidates were first asked to introduce themselves and briefly explain their platform. Nate Erskine ’10, the only candidate for Vice-President, said that “over the past year I’ve worked with Student Council and had a fantastic time… we’ve gotten ourselves involved in some very important issues,” citing Dining Services, security, and increased efforts to reach out to IC/BCC communities. “I decided to go for VP because although I loved being appointments chair, I really wanted to use this next year to tackle some of the meatier issues Student Council has been dealing with and transform from being reactive to a proactive organization… right now we have a talented group of people, but only when something big flares up do we leap into action… having spent a year on Council I understand what we need to do… I want to open it up.”
Dennis Fan ’11 was the first of five students running for Campus Life Representative. “One of the things I really love about Swat is that any night of the week when I don’t feel like doing homework there’s always something for me to do. A great part of the community is that so many students are so active and there are all these options open to people.” He said he hoped he would be able to organize the way students communicate about events better, and that “I would like to contribute my energies into continuing to make this campus the great place that it has been.”
Ambar LaForgia ’11 was also running for CLR. “As a member of SAC, I’ve learned a lot about how the Swat social scene works… no matter how much we try there’s eight parties on Saturday, two on Friday, and some scattered in the rest of the week,” a situation LaForgia would like to change. “Also as a SAM I’ve talked to students a lot about trying to balance their lives and we talk about balancing Swarthmore… I’m very into publicity and trying to make student council a bit more fun… we need videos!”
Omari Scott ’12, another prospective CLR, promised that “as a freshman I can bring new perspectives and fresh ideas, [and] I want to act as a voice for the community… I work well on a team… accessibility is very important and I will work hard to be accessible.”
Due Ho ’12 said that “As a freshman I didn’t feel the presence of StuCo too much… I feel like StuCo should be more accessible and want to bring student council to the people more than having them come to us… if I’m Campus Life Representative, I will go meet the people.”
Cindy Luu ’12 was also running for CLR, and said that “I’m not so much for making changes but just making things more well-known and well-publicized… I’m willing to make Student Council more active with what they already do.”
Next were the candidates for secretary. Adam Bortner ’12 was unable to attend, but the other two candidates were present. Tiffany Lee ’12 said, “In the two months that I’ve been here I’ve been more focused on academics, but I realize that’s not what college is all about… I missed being part of student government after having been really involved during high school, and this would be a good chance for me to learn the inner workings of Swarthmore.”
Stephan Lefebrve ’11 said, “the reason why I want to run is that I was inspired to learn more by the outreach I’ve seen over the past year. I think StuCo has been doing a great job sitting in Sharples and reaching out.” He continued, “I think I’m very qualified for this position,” citing experience on SQU board and planning events with the IC. Furthermore, “I want to emphasize that this position is also the position that deals with Council finances and I have a lot of experience dealing with that as the treasurer of SQU, Halcyon, and the drag troupe I chartered this year… what I want to do is number one represent students and be a voice for their concerns… I want to be proactive in the issues I’m particularly interested in,” namely the campaign for financial justice and wind power for Swarthmore. “I want to see how we can make this economically feasible… I also think it would be fun to work in a supportive role… to have fun, take good notes and represent the students.”
Jacqueline Bailey-Ross ’12 is unopposed in her bid for Appointments Chair. Although she does not have Council experience, she cited experience on various committees at her high school and the Franklin Institute. “Council is the voice of students on campus and I want to be part of that… I’m also a good judge of character who’s used to interviews and will have good questions to ask… I want to get even more experience.”
Coming to Student Events Advisor, Rachel Bell ’10 was not in attendance because she is currently studying in Copenhagen, and Kimberly St. Julian ’12 said that while she has no experience on Council, “I have experienced student life here… I have noticed things such as ‘I don’t want to go get wasted, I don’t want to go to Paces, what do I do?’ and ‘What can I do on Thursday outside of Pub Nite?’” She continued, “I am a coordinator, I have a group of twenty friends and I tell them where to go and what to do… I can talk to all these groups and coordinate. Student council isn’t failing in any way but I think it needs to be more publicized and more transparent,” for example by starting a suggestion blog. She promised “transparency, a bubbly personality, and cool events,” asking students to “e-mail me, text message me, just talk to me! I have so much energy and I’m just ready to delve into Swarthmore.”
Current President Youngjun Heo ’09 asked the CLR candidates about specific new ideas. Scott went first, saying “I think that we do need to offer more diverse options throughout the week and in the evening… we need to offer more alternatives.” LaForgia talked about her part in the successful Halloween Party at Sharples, and said “maybe we could use it for other things that aren’t alcohol-related.” Fan said, “I agree with Omari and Ambar… there’s not a lot of alternatives besides Paces, DU, and Phi Psi… drinking events get all the publicity but there are movie events, you can play hockey… as CLR you can go out to those different groups and talk to groups individually to get more publicity.” Luu talked about “changing the meal plan at Sharples or making it more flexible… when I have class and then a lab, I run to Tarble but the bag lunches are all gone.” She said that in adding more activities, “I think an interesting thing would be to add more volunteer work… students could bond over a good purpose.” Ho said “currently I have no ideas but I would rather go towards people and see how they think.”
To an open question about events outside of Swarthmore, Erskine said that “One idea I had which we discussed but never did was making it easier for students to go into Philly… go to a Flyers game, a UPenn football game… one of the best breaks at Swat is getting out of Swarthmore, meeting real people—well, we’re all real people.” He also talked about the importance of more non-alcoholic events.
Fan agreed with the idea of offering tickets to various events, and also had the idea of talking to other area schools to trade off the opportunity to put on big events. LaForgia built on these answers by suggesting pooling the resources of departments, saying that many classes go to plays and other events in the area, and those events should be opened up. Finally Lefebvre stressed that he wanted to figure out how all these ideas could be financed, and suggested publicizing events that are on the UPenn calendar more. “Another specific event that I keep thinking about is those ships in the harbor in Philly… you can rent those, [and] I think that would be a great class trip just to go out for the day.”
Current Student Groups Advisor Chris Green ’09 also asked an open question, asking every candidate to identify the most important issue they saw Student Council tackling in the next year. Erskine started by saying that he wants Council to be “facilitating this dialogue between students and the financial aid office… it’s a complex issue because there’s a lot of charged feelings behind it [and] it’s important for stuco to moderate well and ensure good two-way communication… I can’t make any promises, but I want to facilitate that.”
St. Julian picked up on Erskine’s suggestion of “opening dialogue between committees and the student body… if we show them that the student body as whole is behind the effort I think we’ll start to get things done quicker… we need to collectivize the student body and truly be advocates.”
Bailey-Ross stressed transparency, as did LaForgia, who talked about “getting to know the backbone of Swarthmore” by “having meetings where students can meet the people who are providing them services” like Worth Health Center and Workbox.
Fan was concerned about getting better feedback from student about Dining Services, saying that “people talk about the food all the time… but people have a hard time verbalizing their problems and general complaints die out,” so he wants Student Council to be a better advocate. St. Julian jumped in to suggest that “we utilize the resources we have… start a poll on Facebook to open up a dialogue.”
Finally, all of the candidates were asked to name the one driving reason behind their bid for Council. St. Julian said “Excitement! It’s going to be fun.” Bailey-Ross said “Passion.” Lefebvre said, “I want to be in a position where I’m expected to make a difference.” Lee wanted “to be in a position to take action and to represent the rest of the population.”
Moving to the CLRs, Luu wanted “to connect more with the student body and help improve the quality of life” for example by making “Sharples more health-conscious.” Ho said that since “Swarthmore’s kind of anti-social and cliquey… I feel we need more events like the activities fair at the beginning where you meet new people.” Scott wanted “to become more involved and be in a position where I could voice people’s opinions.” LaForgia said that being on diverse groups like SAC, Enlace, and being a SAM, “I wanted to do something collective to bring them all together.” Fan said, “I realized that unless I really become involved on a deeper level there’s very little I can do… I care about this commuity and that’s who I want to represent.”
Finally, Erskine said, “I like the people I work with and I like the work StuCo does.”
Hopefully the candidates will give us all reason to agree. Read their platforms here and look for voting online and in Sharples.