Coronavirus Impacts SAC Students Abroad

Just after 10 a.m. today (February 27, 2020), Saint Anselm College President, Joseph Favazza, issued a stark warning to the campus community regarding the spreading threat of the Coronavirus. In an email to students, staff, and faculty, President Favazza said that due to the growing number of Coronavirus cases in northern Italy the decision had been made “to suspend our study-abroad program in Orvieto for this semester, cancel a planned class trip to Rome that was scheduled to depart on Friday, and strongly recommend the return of our three students who are studying this semester in Florence.”

Favazza said that the decision was not an easy one, but explained that “nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our students and faculty.” He also included that the decision had been made in cooperation between his office and multiple other offices across campus, including Health Services, Study Abroad, Finance, Academic Affairs, and Student Affairs. 

To any individual wondering: “how will students complete their classes and receive credit for their work?” the Dean’s Office is in the midst of developing a plan to ensure that students affected by this decision will still be able to complete their courses and receive credit. President Favazza stated that students currently studying in Orvieto will return to campus on March 16, and students studying in Florence will be able to complete their coursework online. 

As was highlighted in the email, Saint Anselm College has international programs throughout the world, but other than the three specifically mentioned locations in Orvieto, Florence, and Rome, no other trips would be impeded. He also mentioned the New Hampshire Department of Public Health is not concerned that students returning from these programs may have been exposed to the virus, and thus they will not go through any isolation procedures. This decision was entirely preventative and made with the well-being of students in mind.

We will continue to provide updates to this article as they become available.

Flandreau and Chrisom Victorious in Student Body Elections as Hughes-Ethier Administration Comes to a Close

Voting in the election for 2020 Student Body President and Vice President concluded Tuesday with no candidate securing the majority required to win outright. At 9:53 p.m. on Tuesday, SGA Secretary of Internal Procedure, Spencer Dias, informed the student body of the inconclusive result via email. 

Article V. Section A. of the SGA constitution requires that a runoff election be held “between the two teams with the highest vote totals” in the event that no ticket garners a majority of the total votes cast. 

In the same email, Dias announced on behalf of SGA that this runoff election would result in either Rit Flandreau ‘22 and Kevin Chrisom ‘22, or  Joey Francis ‘21 and Julie Sullivan ‘21 being elected president and vice-president respectively. Finally, Dias wrote that the result would be announced: “by the end of Thursday night.” 

With no numbers provided, the only certain result of the first round of voting is that Gina Gagliardi ‘22 and Madison Hediger ‘22 received fewer total votes than the other two tickets.  

At Wednesday’s Senate meeting, the inconclusive election results overshadowed the last meeting of the Hughes-Ethier administration. Both remaining tickets were in attendance, with Julie Sullivan and Kevin Chrisom there in their official capacity, and Joey Francis and Rit Flandreau in public seating. 

The air cleared quickly, however, as student after student stood up to thank and congratulate President Hughes and Vice President Ethier. Academic Committee Chair Viger gave a moving speech, which concluded with roaring applause. Secretary Murphy, a senior, made an impassioned plea to continuing members. “I hope you don’t just think about your time here, but how you can impact future Anselmians as well,” she said. 

Later, the Senate passed a resolution calling for trash cans in Father Bernard Court without discussion and moved on to discuss ideas for outdoor seating in front of the Student Center. Other than VP Ethier’s announcement, however, that runoff election voting would be moved to the Student Center, discussion of the election was limited. 

When asked to comment on the state of the race at Wednesday’s Senate meeting, presidential candidate Francis said, “We feel optimistic, we feel good about tomorrow.” Vice-presidential candidate Chrisom and presidential candidate Flandreau expressed a similar sentiment, with Flandreau telling The Hilltopper: “It was a very exciting two weeks, very stressful, a couple of sleepless nights…but we’re really excited for what’s to come.” 

At 7:33 p.m. on Thursday night, the Student Government Association’s official email account declared Flandreau and Chrisom victorious in a message to the student body. Upon winning the election, Flandreau told the Hilltopper, “We are here for the students. We have some big shoes to fill, but we are very confident that we can maintain and keep going with this organization. It was a long two weeks, but completely worth it.” Chrisom added, “We’d also like to thank both the Francis and Gagliardi campaigns for running a clean and competitive race, and wish them all the best going forward.”

Hilltopper, Crier Partner to Host Student Body Candidate Forum

Pictured from left to right: Gina Gagliardi ‘22, Madison Hediger ‘22, Joey Francis ‘21, Julie Sullivan ‘21, Rit Flandreau ‘22, Kevin Chrisom ‘22

On Sunday, candidates for Student Body President and Vice President gathered in the Jean Center Auditorium for the first-ever Student Body Candidate Forum, presented by the Saint Anselm Crier and The Hilltopper. The candidates participated in an hour of spirited, if sometimes redundant, discussion about diversity, leadership, and campus issues. 

The three tickets were each seated at their respective tables in the Melucci theater, with the Crier’s Alex Dooley, and the Hilltopper’s Jackson Peck moderating. The event was well attended, with an audience of thirty to forty spectators, comprised of current SGA members, candidate’s supporters, undecided voters, and Dean of Students Alicia Finn. Questions were directed to either presidential or vice-presidential candidates, with certain questions being directed at specific candidates. The forum was broken up into five main segments: diversity and inclusion, campus activities, campus issues, leadership, and audience Q&A. Two segments were strictly devoted to vice-presidential questions.

The forum began with questions for individual candidates regarding diversity and inclusion at Saint Anselm College. Much like in speeches on Thursday, candidates struggled to provide specifics on how they would foster inclusivity, mostly speaking in generalities. Presidential candidate Gina Gagliardi ‘22, when asked how she would support the visibility of minority communities on campus, reiterated her point from Thursday regarding “an approach on mental health as a whole.” Presidential candidate Rit Flandreau ‘22 briefly mentioned SGA collaboration with the Intercultural Center’s Wayne Currie, stressing; “two organizations are better than one.” For her part, vice-presidential candidate Julie Sullivan stressed the importance of “accessibility for all Anselmians” to her and her running mate Joey Francis’ ‘21 campaign, saying, “we would start resolutions right away.”

The vice-presidential candidates, in particular, were asked what they believed made them best qualified to lead the Senate. Vice-presidential candidate Kevin Chrisom ‘22, emphasized his background as the only politics major on stage saying, “That knowledge is gonna be a huge boon,” adding, “I’m able to talk to all students here of any race, color, or creed.” Vice-presidential candidates Julie Sullivan ‘21 and Madison Hediger ‘22 both stressed their SGA experience and the importance of upholding the constitution. Hediger added that “we need someone…who can make sure that all voices are being heard in Senate, not just the loudest voices.”

Mr. Chrisom concluded the segment by beginning a major theme of the night. Namely, arguing that he and his running mate Rit Flandreau understood the importance of  “not promising things that we know cannot be accomplished.” Ms. Gagliardi agreed about the importance of being realistic but added that it was crucial to “dream of what can be accomplished” as well. 

Mr. Flandreau, in one of the few specific proposals of the night, suggested improving the printing system on campus. He called for printers in dorms, saying, “I’d like to do a trial run in a dorm, so possibly LLC.” He added that he believed this to be a “low cost, attainable goal.” 

The candidates were then asked perhaps the night’s most profound question: In your opinion, what is the biggest issue facing Saint Anselm College? “You gave me a hard one,” said Ms. Gagliardi, who paused to consider the question. “I think if we had more parking, closer parking, that would be fabulous,” she said. “Again I don’t know what the role of SGA is as far as actually creating a parking lot, but I know that this building we’re all sitting in,” referring to the student center, “is actually an SGA resolution, so I’m not gonna say that it’s out of the picture, I would say it would be a long term goal.” 

Later, during audience Q&A, Sean Bentley ‘22 seized on Ms. Gagliardi’s frequent doubts about SGA’s purview. “You’ve mentioned multiple times you’re not sure what SGA’s role is on specific issues such as parking, so how can you run for president if you don’t know about SGA’s role in these issues?” Ms. Gagliardi agreed that she and all of the candidates would have a lot to learn, but clarified that she was referring to being realistic and taking things step by step. 

Ms. Gagliardi’s running mate Ms. Hediger, added that the second biggest issue is food. “We have all been in Dave at twelve-thirty, and it is a long wait,” she said. Hediger stressed that improving food options, variety, and health should be a long term SGA goal. 

Mr. Francis, on the other hand, argued: “the biggest problem facing Saint Anselm College today is the physical accessibility to all areas of campus for people of all abilities.” He went on to describe the experience of witnessing a relative of a student struggle to enter a building with no ramp. Ms. Sullivan echoed her running mate, adding that as leader of the Senate, she would change the language used in relevant Senate resolutions to “accessibility for all Anselmians.” 

The candidates for vice president were then pressed for similar detail when they were asked which resolutions they would like to see the Senate pass under their leadership. Ms. Hediger called for getting rid of straws in Davison Hall saying, “I don’t understand why we’ve gotten rid of straws in C-shop but not in Dave.” Ms. Sullivan highlighted plans for an accessible ramp connecting Saint Benedict Court to the rest of the campus and continued support for the “Respect the Nest” campaign. Mr. Chrisom suggested a renewed focus on recycling as a centerpiece of a Flandreau-Chrisom administration. 

When the presidential candidates were asked what differentiates them from their opponents, each ticket explained what they believed made them the best choice. Mr. Flandreau stressed his running mate’s experience as an active member of SGA and his own experience as an outsider. Mr. Francis explained that both he, and his running mate Ms. Sullivan were both “very bubbly” individuals and that he was “not above walking up to strangers in Dave and striking up a conversation.” Ms. Gagliardi explained that she would strive towards “an open door policy” and added that as a nursing major, she’ll take the time to listen. “I will care about you, I will care what you have to say,” she said. 

In his speech on Thursday, Mr. Francis claimed that the best approach to passing Senate resolutions was “slow and steady.” However, the Senate passed just three resolutions in the previous academic year. When asked to clarify if he still believed slow and steady was the best approach in light of this slow progress, Mr. Francis doubled down. “I think that as opposed to rushing through resolutions that might not be up to par, I’d rather see resolutions that are 100% going to benefit all Anselmians,” he said. 

The night ended with an unexpected display of unity between all three tickets. The candidates were asked about the ongoing legal dispute between the monastic community and the Board of Trustees, and whether they thought that the college’s Catholic identity was under threat, or that certain changes needed to be made. While it is possible that candidates were uninformed about the details of the legal proceedings, each of them nonetheless maintained an explicitly neutral position in the conflict. “I know that the SGA Executive Board has taken a neutral position, which I think is probably the best idea,” said Mr. Flandreau. “The important thing to keep in mind at the end of the day,” said Mr. Francis, “is that both the Board and the Monks do have our best interest at heart.” 

Throughout the forum, candidates largely kept true to the platforms they outlined in their speeches on Thursday, even when challenged. That said, there was often universal difficulty in describing specific policy proposals, particularly when it came to issues of diversity and inclusivity on campus. Nonetheless, each ticket outlined a unique case for their candidacy and held strong under both moderator and student questioning. 

Saint Anselm College Students are encouraged to vote Monday 2/17 or Tuesday 2/18, either at Davison Hall or the Coffee Shop. A valid student ID is required to vote. 

College President and Abbot Discuss Tensions

Near the end of last year, Abbot Mark Cooper, Chancellor of Saint Anselm College filed a declaratory judgement suit against the Saint Anselm College Board of Trustees. What this suit meant, what its consequences were, and what started the dispute in the first place, were all questions that were left largely unanswered to the student body. The news threw the whole of campus into confusion just before their month-long winter break, without an opportunity to respond, react, or inquire upon this news. Students resorted to discussing the bombshell over break through instagram, where one particular meme page had the students going “nutty”. 

Despite this entertaining vector of communication, the student body remained in the dark on the topic. Statements released from President Favazza and the Board of Trustees, and Abbot Mark Cooper have provided some clarification, but much was left to be learned. How did we get here? Why did Abbot Mark do this now? What caused the suit? Down what path does this lead us, the Saint Anselm College community? We had the opportunity to answer these questions by sitting down with representatives from both camps: Abbot Cooper and President Favazza.

Earlier in 2019, according to Abbot Mark, the Board of Trustees and the Members (the monks in solemn vows, seven of whom are also voting members on the Board) began the discussion of “sufficient independence” with regard to amending power for the bylaws of the college. Sufficient independence is one thing the school’s accreditation process relies upon, and the BOT believes that they do not have sufficient independence, thereby endangering the College’s accreditation. This discussion was a continuation of the 2009 accreditation process that officially separated the monastery from the college, creating two separate entities. During this process, the New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE) accredited the school, but said that more work was left to be done in the future with regards to this benchmark of “sufficient independence”. President Favazza, however, did say definitively that “The college will be accredited”, as well as that “sufficient independence is not total independence” from the Members.

Abbot Cooper anticipated a potential difference of opinion between the jurisdiction of the BOT and the Members, and proposed earlier in 2019 that the Board and the Members create a “file” where all issues of jurisdiction and amending power be filed. At the end of eighteen months, Cooper suggested, the file would be reopened and depending on the amount of issues inside of it, the issue could be revisited or not. Such a proposal was rejected at that time by Board leadership.

From the summer of  2019, to the BOT meeting in October of 2019, the two parties had two different understandings of how amendments should be made in the Saint Anselm College bylaws. At the October 2019 meeting of the Board of Trustees, “They (the board) brought a lawyer to the meeting, who said ‘here’s the way we read Law 292:6’ in New Hampshire Law, we have the power to amend, and by the way, here’s some amendments” according to Abbot Cooper. He continued, “One of their amendments was to extend their own terms. Some of the people who are most interested in this are those who are rolling off (meeting the end of their term) on June 30th, so they said we will extend our terms up to another few years”

New Hampshire Law 292:6 is focused on the governance of voluntary member non-profit institutions and specifically on which body has the authority to amend the bylaws of such institutions, according to the office of President Favazza in his letter to alumni in response to the petition for declaratory judgement.

In order to veto the amendments at this October meeting of the Board of Trustees, according to the Board’s interpretation of 292:6, the Members had to amass a ⅔ vote to veto the amendments. There was a lack of clarity as to how the ⅔ of the Members would be counted as well. There are twenty-three Members, however, only 18 can make meetings. Three Members are in our California monastery, one is in a nursing home and cannot make it to meetings, and one is in Boston doing work for the Archdiocese. The veto passed 17-1, passing any threshold the board could have.

When asked, Abbot Cooper indicated that this interaction with the BOT was the flashpoint for his much-criticized decision to file his petition for declaratory judgement, and go public with the dispute.

That brings us to November 27th, when Abbot Cooper filed his Petition for Declaratory Judgement to the Hillsborough-Northern District court, asking the presiding judge to make a judgement on the interpretation of NH 292:6: the lawsuit in question. That’s the backstory: what does this mean for the college now?

Both Abbot Cooper and President Favazza were optimistic in the belief that this court battle would not in any way affect life for students on the hilltop. Favazza’s statement to alumni, released shortly after Abbot Cooper filed the lawsuit on November 27, emphasized this point: “What does this mean for students? I want to be clear: it continues to be business as usual here on campus. Students continue to learn, faculty to teach and research, and staff to continue with their roles of coaching, mentoring, and supporting the mission of the College. We continue to do all the things that make Saint Anselm College strong, vibrant, and transformative.”

Abbot Cooper was similarly positive on how this would affect students, saying, “I certainly think the school is strong enough to handle this, I don’t think it’s that serious or even that exciting a lawsuit/petition”. He later continued, “It doesn’t affect our curriculum, it doesn’t affect the student experience, the college will go on”.

The petition that was filed, often called a lawsuit (which is technically correct), is a petition for declaratory judgement, which asks the court of New Hampshire to make a ruling on 292:6, and affirm the interpretations of that law by either the Members (the Monks in solemn vows), or the Board of Trustees. This need was emphasized by Abbot Cooper: “We can’t have two sets of bylaws, we can’t have two groups thinking they have the ultimate power to amend”.

Both President Favazza and Abbot Cooper were careful to characterize the decision to file the petition as one that was forward-looking. “Why I am interested in this is not for today, but for the future…I trust the trustees we have right now with our catholic identity…I am interested in the amending power for the monks, not for today, but for some day in the future where they need it”, explained Abbot Cooper.

One of the biggest unanswered questions that remains is: What happens when all of this is done? Because the suit will leave a definite “winner” and “loser”, what are the worries that there will be a period of bad relations between the BOT and the Monastery?

Both Abbot Cooper and President Favazza expressed optimism with regards to these worries. President Favazza characterized the conflict as a “family squabble”, indicating that the two sides have very different interpretations of NH 292:6, but they share the common goals for the college and their mutual love for the college would prevail in mending any bad feelings between the two parties. Favazza shared his unique position, being a new President to the college: “I’m new, right, been here six months…but I have gone to board meetings, and I have witnessed that discussions are very…direct, but at the end of meetings, even after very direct conversations about this…92% of the board are alums, they love this place, they love the monks, and so even after a hard conversation, you see people hugging, saying ‘see you, Father’…There’s this really close commitment to the place that will prevail in the end”

Abbot Cooper also believes that the issue has been rife with myth and misunderstanding, saying “this isn’t a simple issue, it cannot be solved nor outlined easily with one sentence. It isn’t a Catholic issue, these are Members of the college working on behalf of the college, not on behalf of the monastery”.

Abbot Cooper’s disagreement with the Board over the interpretation of this one New Hampshire law has shined a not-so-flattering light on the college, especially considering the media coverage of the issue in the weeks following the suit. However, it is clear that this issue is, to quote both sides, “Not life-threatening (to the college)”. 

Saint Anselm can and will continue to be a beacon for fraternity, public service, and intrinsic altruism that makes this campus so special. A disagreement between two sides of the ivory tower cannot bring that down. The students, the lifeblood of Saint Anselm College, have and will continue to demonstrate exemplary academic ability, selfless community dedication, and an Anselmian love of neighbor that has persisted since 1889, and will persist for years to come. Perhaps, after these events, it is time the college injected some of that lifeblood into the Board of Trustees, and represent the student body that makes this college so special. Perhaps then the college could avoid another internal fiasco like the one in which we currently find ourselves.

Senate Announces Election Timeline, Discusses Trash On Campus

The fourteenth meeting of the 2019-2020 Senate began with the swearing-in of Spencer Dias as the Secretary of Internal Procedures. After a brief consideration of his nomination, Mr. Dias was welcomed back into the Senate Room of the student center and met with rapturous applause from members. 

With the meeting called to order, classes began their reports; which mostly concerned the fundraisers being led by each class. In particular, Freshman Senator Merrick Bilodeau reported a successful “Super Bowl Squares” fundraiser. However, with presidential primary events bearing down on campus this week, the most common refrain during both class and committee reporting periods was, “nothing to report”. 

With Student Body Presidential and Vice Presidential elections around the corner, Vice President Jake Ethier announced that candidate speeches in the 2020 elections will be given next Thursday, February 13th, at 6 p.m. in the Melucci auditorium. 

“It’s shaping up to be one of the biggest elections in St. Anselm History. Right now I think we’re looking at a potential three, four tickets,” said Ethier, who added that in recent elections, the greatest number of tickets had been three. 

SGA held two information nights on February 3rd and 4th concerning the election, which were both well attended. Students considering running for office must be full-time registered students, maintain a minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA and agree to and sign an “Elections Regulations Waiver”. Students must also collect thirty signatures per class in support of their candidacy. Signatures are due by noon on the 13th, with campaigning beginning after speeches that evening. The election itself will be held from February 17th to 18th, with polling places located in Davison Hall and the Coffee Shop. 

“The role entails a lot,” said VP Ethier. “You work with students, staff, faculty, administration. You really get a behind the scenes look at the college and get to affect it in a lot of different ways, to really try and affect change.” 

Later, a resolution was introduced seeking to install a trash can in Saint Benedict court. This prompted a lengthy debate about how trash is handled on campus. Vice President Farid Mawanda went so far as to point out that in recent months, trash and recycling leaving campus haven’t even been sorted. Some Senators suggested pushing for the addition of trash cans in Father Bernard Court as well. Ultimately, however, discussion of this resolution was tabled. 

By far the most discussed subject, however, was the idea of forming a pep band on campus. Various issues surrounding the formation of such a group were considered, including space, equipment, funding, and oversight. 

“It’s a great idea,” said Internal Procedures Secretary Dias. “Especially as another feature for the music/theater on campus,” which, “might be lacking as opposed to athletics.” 

Like the resolution in support of a new trash can in Saint Benedict Court, the pep band idea is in its earliest stages. Referencing how the Senate initially got the ball rolling on renovations to the Student Center, Academic Committee Chair Tyler Viger suggested that the idea would likely need to be resolved by current Freshmen over the next four years, and beyond. “It’s gonna be a long endeavor,” he lamented. 

The State of the Union: Trump’s Vision for the Nation

On the evening of February 4, 2020, President Donald J. Trump addressed the nation in his third State of the Union address since he ascended to the presidency in 2016. This address focused on many key factors that the President has actively been working towards since he was elected. He claimed that “The state of our union is stronger than ever before.” These are three major takeaways from the evening’s speech that should be taken into consideration in the upcoming weeks, months, and even year:

  1. President Trump Kept His Campaign Promises

Throughout his speech to the nation, Trump made many remarks about how he has been successful in completing many of the promises he vowed to work towards during his Presidency. He spoke of how the border wall he promised in 2016 is being erected, bragging that over 100 miles of new wall has been built and over 500 miles will soon be constructed. This border wall was a key platform piece of his campaign in 2016, and remains to be in 2020. He is reassuring the American people that he has kept his promise and will continue to do so if elected in 2020.

Trump also praised many border officials and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers during his speech. This section of the address received audible booing from many Democrats in attendance and an eruption of cheers from Republicans. President Trump offered condolences to Jony Jones, a man whose brother was attacked and killed by an illegal immigrant. He also praised Deputy Chief Raul Ortiz, a Border Patrol Officer whom the President claimed has been vital in protecting our Southern border from immigrants attempting to illegally cross into the country. The president wants the American people to know he has and always will keep his promises.

  1. Impeachment was Never Mentioned

In what was an unexpected contrast to the perceived social media buzz, Donald Trump did not acknowledge his own impeachment even in the midst of a likely vote the following day. Sitting in the audience were the seven House impeachment managers deliberately together to the President’s right. This may be because Donald Trump’s main goal of this address was to prove to the American public that he is worthy of another term in office. Republican colleagues in the audience even began a “four more years” chant as the President entered the House Chamber. 

  1. The 2020 Election will Boil Down to the Economy

The President opened his address by mounting what he claimed to be the “Great American Comeback”. As many have assumed, President Trump is very proud of where the United States’ economy lies. He noted that “The unemployment rate for African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and Asian-Americans has reached the lowest levels in history.” Donald Trump continues to tell the American people how successful he has been in helping the middle class as well. He claimed that the nation was in the midst of a “blue-collar boom,” and that wages were increasing. This is true, but the increase isn’t nearly as dramatic as he may have made it sound. Wages on average have risen faster than inflation; however, wage gains have fallen stagnant in recent months.    

Donald Trump adds $10 million to his presidential campaign

Trump also discussed how 7 million new jobs have been created under his presidency and how drastically that counters the “failed growth of the past administration.” The president is avoiding the truth but not explicitly lying. It’s true the rate of job creation and active working fell during Obama’s two terms in office, partly because the population was aging. It has since rebounded this year, but the economy created 11.6 million jobs during Obama’s two terms, and job creation under Trump has increased at a slightly slower rate than Obama’s administration. The President is likely trying to woo voters in the upcoming election.

State of the Union live updates: Trump attacks Democrats ...

One thing is for certain, Donald Trump and the Republicans are not necessarily looking to work with the Democrats in the future to get things done. At the beginning of the address, Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered a handshake to the President prior to his speech which he subtly ignored. Pelosi then ripped the copy of the address she had been given. Both sides seemed to belittle the other regarding how they handled this interaction. Party polarization is on the rise, and the State of the Union Address showcased just how poor the situation has become.