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.