As the Spring 2021 semester progresses, the most anticipated event in the Fairfield University Student Association draws ever closer. New candidates for FUSA President and Vice President declared their candidacy before Feb. 9 and now they’re ready to begin their campaigns.
Although their positive impact has been felt throughout campus, current President Vincent Gadioma ‘22 and VP Tobenna Ugwu ‘22 aren’t planning to run again this semester.
“Vinny and I will not be running for another term,” said Ugwu. “We have enjoyed working with the student body this past year. We hope to spend our senior year focusing on studying for the MCATs and applying to medical schools.”
Three new pairs of candidates have petitioned to be on the ballot for FUSA President and Vice President, each running on a different platform with varying ideals and beliefs.
Tyler Heffern ‘22 and Cailyn Fiori ‘22 are hopeful to be elected president and vice president, respectively. Their platform runs on sustainability and racial justice, among other issues, and the pair plans on achieving all of their goals realistically during the 2021-2022 academic year.
Heffern’s dedication to sustainability is clear. He has worked with the FUSA Sustainability Committee during his time as a senator and believes that Fairfield could improve its sustainability policies.
Heffern and Fiori plan to work with Leaders for Environmental Action at Fairfield (LEAF) to create a stable and doable plan to improve sustainability on campus.
Heffern has been a FUSA senator since his first year at Fairfield and is one of five senators from the Class of 2022. Only two of these senators have stayed on for all three years of their college careers thus far. He served as the Senate Speaker as a sophomore and has been a member of multiple influential committees within the association, including the Campus Sustainability Committee and the FUSA COVID Task Force, among others. Heffern was also responsible for writing the resolution to begin the FUSA Constitutional Convention.
As president and vice president, Heffern and Fiori also want to focus on promoting racial justice at Fairfield. Heffern suggested that more training for racial justice and sensitivity could be implemented, and it may help students and staff to get a better understanding of the complex issue. He also believes that Fairfield should integrate cultural history into the Magis Core as a way for students to explore a larger range of world cultures as well as those within the United States to further promote unity and understanding, especially focusing on people of color and people in the LGBTQ+ community.
“We can’t forget and ignore what makes the student body diverse,” said Fiori, who also mentioned that she plans to improve visibility and inclusion for students who identify with religions other than Catholicism. “They should have a space and people to go to for support. I feel like it’s important to make sure every student who comes onto this campus feels like they can be here and feel loved.”
Heffern also noted that there are several groups on campus that are all fighting towards racial justice and would benefit from a more unified effort.
“There’s these different groups that are trying to tackle the same issue in their own way and are isolated from each other, which doesn’t work,” he said. “The faculty are doing their own thing. You have the student body who’s trying to advocate for some things and even within the student body, you have FUSA Diversity and Inclusion, the Black Student Union and Fairfield United Groups doing it their own way.”
Both Heffern and Fiori believe that the best way to promote racial justice and equality at Fairfield is to work together with all of these groups to create one united voice to represent all members of the campus community.
The candidates’ commitment to social and environmental justice is clear. Along with their efforts to make Fairfield a more inclusive community for all, Fiori wants to begin a safe return to campus events, specifically large-scale in-person Fairfield traditions like Red Sea Madness and the President’s Ball.
“We all know that some things like Red Sea Madness and Pres Ball are at the root of what makes Fairfield, Fairfield,” Fiori said. “It’s important to so many students, and even this year, we’re trying to figure out a way to pay tribute to those events so that every student can say ‘I went to Pres Ball all four years.’”
Fiori has worked on the Programming Board in FUSA for the past three years at Fairfield and has been the host of and the brains behind many events on campus. She cited the annual Ugly Christmas Sweater Event as one of her most successful events. She is confident that on-campus traditional events will be able to return by Spring 2022, provided that COVID-19 is no longer as serious of a threat.
“It’s such a fluid situation,” she said. “But it seems that we might be able to be in a place that’s better than right now.”
Sophomores Noah Richardson and Manjot Singh also plan to run for FUSA President and VP against Heffern and Fiori, providing some stiff competition for their elders. The two believe that FUSA needs new leadership that can handle the pandemic and get Fairfield through such a strange time.
“People can’t even see their friends, there’s masks everywhere,” said Richardson. “By next September or October things will probably be in a much better place than they are today, but the issue is that without good student leadership, without people who really know what they’re doing, we may be still sitting with tons of restrictions and not having a clear path of how we’re going to do events like Red Sea Madness or Pres Ball. Without student leaders who can negotiate with the administration, there’s no way that they’d be able to pull those things off.”
As a former FUSA Senator, Richardson believes that he’s the perfect candidate for FUSA President thanks to his experience and leadership skills, and he extended these traits to Singh as well.
“We have the ambition, we have the drive and we have a platform that includes ideas which would be some of the biggest things FUSA has ever done,” he said. “I really genuinely believe that Manjot and I can be the best FUSA President and Vice President that this organization has seen in a very long time.”
Singh, the vice chair of the Student Diversity Council and the associate director of Diversity and Inclusion in FUSA, decided to run for vice president along with Richardson.
“Entering the Fairfield environment, I felt like I was underrepresented just looking around campus,” she said. “I didn’t feel particularly welcome just because [Fairfield] is a primarily white institution. I realized that most of the commuters are of more diverse populations, and when I got to my classes, that was just not the case. I noticed a lot of diverse voices in leadership positions on campus, but commuters felt like their voices weren’t being heard.”
As a result, Singh plans to launch projects to aid in commuter visibility. One of her first initiatives was to petition the administration to reduce parking pass pricing for commuter students. She also wants to see the commuter lounge remodeled since the large number of commuter students is growing out of the current lounge space.
“The commuter population is growing, so we have to come up with plans to make sure the commuters can fit within that space,” she said.
However, Singh acknowledged that the administration has to talk directly with commuters before making any decisions.
“Before we do that, we have to have conversations with commuters and commuter-peer assistants because they know what they’re really in need of,” she said.
Along with Singh’s ideas for the expansion of the commuter lounge in the lower level of the John A. Barone Campus Center, Richardson also has a number of ambitious plans for the University upon his election. Among them is his plan for Fairfield to build a new chain restaurant somewhere on campus.
“There’s a huge dining problem that students constantly complain about,” he said. Richardson also stated that he had talked with “top administrators” who had agreed that a chain restaurant at Fairfield would be a good idea.
“With the platform that I would have, we could potentially look at bringing in a huge franchise restaurant that would make the University a lot of money,” he said. “I believe that it’s possible that it could be done by next summer.”
Although concerns have arisen in his discussions with fellow students and staff about the high price point that would come along with a restaurant franchise, he believes that it’s still a realistic venture for the University.
“It would not be cheap, probably anywhere from the quote of $500,000 to $2 million,” he said, “But we’re spending $40 million on a new convocation center and $45 million on the Dolan School of Business. There’s a lot of students who would much rather have $1 million spent on a new, on-campus restaurant.”
Richardson has an idea for a restaurant in mind, and he said he’d heard feedback about it from other students.
“The one that everyone’s eyes light up with is Chick-fil-A,” he said.
Richardson acknowledged the anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment and evangelical Christian leanings of Chick-fil-A and how it may deter students, but he believed that students would love it nonetheless.
“I don’t support those viewpoints by any stretch of the imagination,” he said, “but I think that since it’s a Catholic institution, we could get away with it a bit.”
There’s no telling how the student body will respond to a tentative Chick-fil-A on campus, and for now it’s only an idea, but it’s one that Richardson plans to pursue whole heartedly throughout his and Singh’s prospective term.
Cristian Navarro-Martinez and Martin Corarro declared their candidacy for FUSA President and Vice President and launched their official campaign on Feb. 9 and Instagram account on Feb. 11. The Mirror reached out to the duo for an interview and more information about their platform, but they did not respond to the requests.
The FUSA Presidential Debate is set for Feb. 18 at 7 pm over Zoom. The link to the meeting can be found on Life@Fairfield. Voting opens on Feb. 21 at noon and will close on Feb. 23 at 5 pm.
Editor’s Note: This article was edited on Wednesday, February 17, 2021 to more accurately reflect those quoted.