Candidates for the 2016-2017 Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) Executive Committee debated this past Tuesday ahead of this weekend’s elections. Many of the candidates focused their remarks on BSG’s increased visibility and the lack of clarity within its procedures and bylaws.

The two candidates for BSG President, Harriet Fisher ’17 and Justin Pearson ’17, responded to questions about current issues on campus where BSG has had an impact, such as the impeachment proceedings in response to the “tequila” party.

Pearson argued that due to the mood on campus, BSG had rushed into the process of impeachment without ensuring that the rules were “just or fair.” He saw the fact that the articles were revoked and a firm procedure established as a “turn in the right direction.” Fisher said that slowing down the impeachment process allowed BSG to see that there was more dissent than initially presumed amongst assembly members and she pledged to promote an environment where members did not feel pressure to keep dissent quiet.

Addressing concerns about increased political correctness on campus, Fisher said that BSG should “bring on the conversations” about controversial issues, while still “acknowledging that hurt is felt, and that we need to understand the history and factors as to why something has been felt deeply by members of our campus.”

Pearson said that conversations should move away from “political correctness” as a term and instead focus on empathy, and that students on both sides of controversial issues should resist generalizations that prevent meaningful understanding or agreement. He argued that BSG must remain objective in order to reflect all opinions rather than just the “loudest voices in the room.”

Meet the Candidates for BSG President

In the debate for Vice President for Student Government Affairs, Reed Fernandez ’17 talked about retaining the prominent role that BSG has had in conversations about race and ensuring that the community engages in vibrant political dialogue going into next fall’s national election. Jacob Russell ’17 said that he thought BSG was an “underutilized resource” and offered a picture of an independent BSG that could apply pressure to Bowdoin’s administration in order to address student concerns about security and race on campus.

Given that their position would involve oversight of BSG’s rules and bylaws, the candidates were asked how they would deal with situations where BSG’s own procedures were unclear, such as BSG’s appointment of Emily Serwer ’16 as VP for Student Organizations without an election after the resignation of the previous chair over the summer.

Fernandez argued that any conversations about constitutional gray areas should be a “fair experience” and open to discussion within the entire Assembly or student body if necessary. Russell argued that while it was the BSG President’s right to rule unilaterally in such gray areas, it was important to have subsequent ratification of those decisions by the BSG Assembly as a whole.

The debate between Jodi Kraushar ’17, Maurice Asare ’19 and Benjamin Painter ’19 for the post of Vice President for Student Affairs revolved around increasing dialogue within the student body.

Kraushar highlighted creating partnerships with organizations like the Center for Multicultural Life and the Women’s Resource Center, while Asare argued that BSG should help promote a broader diversity of political views on campus. Painter pointed to his experience helping plan events like No-Hate November on BSG’s Student Affairs committee as an At-Large representative.

Jack Arnholz ’19 mounted the stage alone in the debate for Vice President for Academic Affairs, while the current Vice President for Student Government Affairs Michelle Kruk ’16 read a statement for Evelyn Sanchez Gonzalez ’17 who is currently abroad.

When asked how he might be more successful than predecessors in pushing back the Credit/D/Fail deadline and extending Thanksgiving Break, Arnholz argued that the faculty’s recent decision to move the start of the fall semester up a day offered a chance to extend the break while maintaining current class time. More controversially, Arnholz argued that Chegg, the College’s newly introduced online textbook service, “needs to go.”

Sanchez Gonzalez’s statement argued for a more “practical and culturally relevant” curriculum at the College, highlighting “blind spots” in the course catalogue such as a lack of Mexican-American, Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern Studies classes, along with a lack of accounting and finance courses. 

In the debate for Vice President for Student Organizations and chair of the Student Organization Oversight Committee (SOOC), Kelsey Scarlett ’17 and Arindam Jurakhan ’17 discussed ways to improve support for clubs. 

Scarlett argued that the SOOC should increase communication with clubs and follow up with newly chartered clubs to ensure success. Jurakhan pledged to improve year-end leadership transitions and fix the error-prone Student Organization Management System (SOMS), Bowdoin’s online email list manager.

Carlie Rutan ’19, running for Vice President for Facilities and Sustainability, highlighted her sustainability credentials as an Eco-Rep running a paperless campaign, while also arguing that her top facilities priority was to address security concerns about off-campus housing raised by the sexual assault that occurred in November at the isolated Mayflower Apartments. She hopes to institutionalize the informal “Safe Walk” Facebook group and expand Safe Ride access to more off-campus houses. Khelsea Gordon ’19, running for the same position, was unable to attend the debate. Both currently serve on the BSG Assembly. 

Irfan Alam ’18 read his candidacy statement for the title of Vice President for the Treasury in person, while Kruk read for the absent David Berlin ’19. Both currently serve as Representatives At-Large on the Student Activities Funding Committee.

Alam argued that his role as a treasurer of multiple student clubs allowed him to understand how to better structure the funding process from the perspective of student groups.

Berlin argued that the committee has “more power than people realize,” and pledged to “fund events that represent the rich diversity of the Bowdoin community.”

When asked about how he would handle clubs that exceed their budget, like the Outing Club this year, Alam stated that SAFC’s first priority should be to ensure that clubs that don’t receive an operating budget can maintain their programming. 

Elections will take place from 8 a.m. Friday morning to 8 p.m. Sunday evening. See page 14 for the candidate’s full statements.

Candidacy satements for the BSG election