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BSG holds special election after Chair of Student Affairs resigns

September 13, 2019

Mindy Leder
AS CHAIR I WOULD Candidates for the chair of student affairs Ryan Britt ’22, River Fenton ’22 and Lucas Johnson ’22 field questions from students and Orient moderators in Jack Magee’s Pub and Grill on Tuesday. All candidates stressed student mental health as a key campaign issue.

Voting in the special election for Bowdoin Student Government’s (BSG) vacant chair of student affairs opened Wednesday morning and will remain open until 8 p.m. tonight.

The special election follows the resignation of the Chair of Student Affairs, Anibal Husted ’22 on May 13—four weeks after he was elected in an uncontested race.

Husted did not respond to the Orient’s request for comment.

Three candidates vying for the position shared their platforms at a debate on Tuesday hosted by BSG and moderated by Orient Editors-in-Chief Emily Cohen ’20 and Alyce McFadden ’20.

At the foreground of the debate were proposals to improve mental health services on campus.

River Fenton ’22 hopes to address mental health through the Peer Health program. He believes that some Peer Health mentors are not as committed as others.

“I rarely saw my Peer Health mentor, and I would like to see them take a more active role in students’ lives,” Fenton said in the debate.

Ryan Britt ’22 hopes to install mental health kiosks in public spaces to destigmatize conversations around mental illness on campus. He cited the success of such kiosks at other institutions such as Drexel University.

“Growing up, especially in high school, I had some mental health issues of my own. It was very hard to reach out,” he said. “I think something like [the kiosk], having it so present and central on our campus could make a big difference in decreasing the stigma.”

Lucas Johnson ’22 shared his goals of expanding funding for counseling services and encouraging the college to hire counselors of diverse races and sexualities.

“The first steps will be to increase the funding of the Counseling Services, to emphasize mental health on athletic teams [and] in classes, making sure that people are trained on Mental Health First Aid [and] making sure that we have our counselors on campus making sure that there are online resources for students to gain access to the time of crisis at 2 a.m., or 2 p.m.,” Johnson said.

In an email to the campus announcing the special election, BSG President Ural Mishra ’20 wrote that the student body would make a recommendation via popular vote to BSG. At the following BSG meeting on October 2, the assembly, consisting of the Executive Committee, class presidents and appointed positions, will vote to confirm the chair of student affairs. BSG has “committed to appoint whoever the student body chooses.”

Mishra explained that role of chair of student affairs is broad. The chair sits as a member of the Trustee Committee on Student Affairs and is responsible for crafting Bowdoin Student Government policy related to student life and planning specific programming to support Bowdoin Student Government initiatives. The chair can work towards whatever projects are of student interest.

One of Britt’s proposed projects is to establish more programming for first-generation, low income students, such as an event for students during Family Weekend.

“As a low income, first-gen student, I would like to have a Family Weekend event for low income, first gen students that don’t have families that come,” Britt said. “Last year, my family couldn’t come and it wasn’t great. I’d like to give students a space to stick together.”

Johnson outlined plans to build better relations between the Bowdoin and Brunswick community if elected.

“We really [need to] make a substantial effort for students and faculty and administrators to have a line of communication with the police department, and ensure that they know what our intentions are, what we want out of this relationship and also who we are as a community,” Johnson said.

Throughout the night, Fenton laid out ideas such as placing printers in all dorms and bridging the divide between athletes and non-athletes by organizing inclusive events at houses where athletes live.

“I think that one way that we can improve our relationship between the students and the government is by making small but effective change, change that you can see [and] change that is affecting your daily lives,” Fenton said.

The Executive Committee decided not to appoint an interim chair of student affairs over the summer, though the BSG constitution gives the Executive Committee discretion to do so.

“We didn’t want someone who’s supposed to be a student representative [to] not be chosen by the students,” Mishra said. “It made sense to us to hold the election instead and let students choose who their representative would be.”


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