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BSG presidential candidates debate student engagement, transparency

April 21, 2023

ROCK THE VOTE: BSG presidential nominees debate about their platforms and goals for next year if elected president. They primarily focused on increasing BSG visibility and accountability within the student body.

This past Wednesday, Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) presidential candidates Francisco Perez ’24, Jacob Horigan ’24 and Paul Wang ’24 took part in a debate ahead of the upcoming BSG executive elections, open today, April 21, through Sunday, April 23. The candidates discussed what their goals would be if elected and how they plan to make BSG more accessible to the student body.

Each candidate was given two minutes to make their opening remarks, which were followed by questions delivered by moderators Emma Kilbride ’25 and Janet Briggs ’25 of the Bowdoin Orient.

Perez, the current BSG vice-president, believes his involvement with other organizations on campus will increase student engagement and help BSG better serve the student body and their needs.

“I want to focus on … trying to work across student organizations and Bowdoin departments on campus to increase student engagement and maximize funding,” Perez said. “For example, working with the McKeen Center, working with affinity groups to amplify their missions [and] … supporting and advocating for first-generation, low-income, undocumented students of color on campus. Once we start learning about the issues that are surrounding this particular student demographic, we start realizing so many flaws within the Bowdoin community.”

Horigan wants to focus on Bowdoin’s involvement with Brunswick youth, specifically suggesting that the softball and baseball teams could play wiffle ball on the quad with local kids. He also highlighted his goal to establish better systems for disposing of waste to make dining hall staff’s jobs easier.

“The most important thing I’ll be advocating for tonight is instituting waste composting [for]students when they put their trays away. We can compost ourselves, and we can throw trash away into trash bins so we can make the dining hall staff’s lives a lot easier,” Horigan said.

Wang credits his dining job at Moulton Union and other activities across campus for providing opportunities to connect with a variety of members of the Bowdoin community, something he believes can enhance his presidency and get the student body more involved with BSG.

“I think that [working at Moulton] embodies a similar role to the BSG in unexpected ways for me in that you’re a highly visible person working across staff, students and faculty divides and being [in] a very welcoming and open space on campus. I think that’s what my real goal for BSG is,” Wang said. “In the past election, only seven percent of students voted, which I think is really unfortunate, given how much potential and power the BSG can and should have. If we look at other government positions at different NESCAC peer institutions like Tufts or Williams, they all play a really active role.”

After their opening statements, candidates discussed their plans to make BSG a more transparent and open organization. Perez wants BSG to have more active involvement with other student organizations so that they may better understand certain issues on campus.

“We can send emails, we can update our Instagram, we can update the website, but … how are we actually going to connect to the student body? Some of the things that I’ve tried to do this year is go to the Bowdoin Labor Alliance meetings and really become aware of issues that they’re trying to advocate for [on behalf of] students. BSG cannot speak on issues if we’re not inserting ourselves in these spaces,” Perez said. “That’s how I tend to build trust: by engaging myself in those communities and going to different club meetings … really learning about the issues that students care about.”

Wang countered by asserting that actions like updating the website and the bulletin board in Smith Union should not be overlooked as ways of connecting with students; however, he also explained that these actions have to be accompanied by a cultural shift in how the student body views BSG.

“The BSG should take a more active role. I think it’s largely a cultural and institutional shift, where the whole organization of the BSG has to turn itself around to take itself more seriously and be more active and participatory,” Wang said.

Horigan explained that he wants to utilize one-on-one interactions to strengthen BSG’s presence on campus. He is especially excited to do this as he assists in deciding who is going to be on BSG committees next year.

“I’m really excited to do interviews with people and say, ‘These are the expectations we have for you.’ I just want to see someone’s face and see what they are saying that they’re interested in,” Horigan said.

At the end of the debate, Wang shared his concern about how Horigan and Perez, despite  currently being on the executive board, have not instilled many of the plans and changes they hope to make for BSG. Perez believes his experience as President of the Latin American Student Organization (LASO) this year took much of his time over his role as BSG Vice President; however, he plans to step back from his LASO role to be more active in BSG if he is elected next year.

Chair of Diversity and Inclusion candidate, Sachin Maharaj ’24, made a statement but did not engage in a debate as his opponent was not present.

“I think [there’s] such an important role that BSG can provide in facilitating a sense of belonging here at Bowdoin. I think for me personally, it took a while for me to feel like I belong here, and I think there are so many different factors that go into belonging and inclusion. Those need to be addressed, and I think BSG is the perfect vehicle to do tha,” Maharaj said.

Chair of Student Affairs candidate Edmundo Ortiz Alvarez ’23 also made a statement, as he is running unopposed.

“If you haven’t read Paul Wang’s op-ed from last week, then you should, given that [it] inspired me to run for office, and I’m gonna do my best to represent what that op-ed represents,” Ortiz Alvarez said.

Janet Briggs and Emma Kilbride are members of the Bowdoin Orient.


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