Although most meetings that occur within the first two weeks of the semester are often filled with ‘welcome back’ and setting the goals of the organization for the remainder of the school year, this was not the case at the 56th Fairfield University Students Association Senate Session where a new Associate Justice was confirmed.
Senior Nolan Wolfe was confirmed at 7:03 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 22 at the first FUSA Senate meeting of the semester in the lower level of the John A. Barone Campus Center. The results were composed of 14 in favor and 6 abstentions.
The Senate held a hearing during the meeting in which Senator Vincent Gadioma ‘22, head of the Appointment Committee, presented the findings of the committee from their interview with Wolfe.
“As Associate Justice, Nolan hopes to make decisions on cases by taking into account a combination of constitutional text interpretations as well as evidence and circumstances presented that pertain to a particular case,” said Gadioma. “He recognized the importance of separating feelings from his practice,” he continued.
Gadioma reported that the Appointment Committee had 2 votes to “highly recommend” Wolfe for the position, as well as two votes to “recommend with reservation.”
Gadioma acknowledged the reservations in saying, “some senators have expressed a lack of confidence in his ability to vote while remaining impartial and are concerned with the nominee’s confirmation only one semester before his graduation, when the seat will need to be refilled.”
Wolfe was also able to speak on his own behalf at the hearing and make his case for why he would be a good fit as Associate Justice. He spoke of his experience as a Resident Assistant over the past two and a half years. Through that work he explained that he has developed skills in conflict resolution and that he has had the opportunity to hear from many students about what they want and need.
Wolfe responded to the concerns in regards to him being a senior by re-emphasizing that this grade status comes with a lot of experience on this campus.
In a post-interview he commented, “I know that the spot is only going to be filled for a semester, but I hope that in that semester I can do something positive.”
Gadioma had a similar view of the short-lived nature of Wolfe’s position.
“I do share those concerns, but I think that everyone has a right to make an impact on FUSA in whatever capacity they can. I’m glad to have him,” he said.
Senator Nwachukwu Ibekwe ‘22 sat on the Appointment Committee and voted in favor of Wolfe’s confirmation as well. He thought that Wolfe’s overall qualifications outweighed the issue of him being a second-semester senior.
“He has skills and experience in conflict resolution, so that’s one of the strong points about him,” Ibekwe said. “I think he is really qualified for the job,” he added.
While no senator voted in opposition to Wolfe’s confirmation, the concerns that were raised pushed many senators to abstain from voting.
“I typically don’t abstain on anything; however, it was difficult for me to make a determination. I think it’s problematic that he is graduating by the end of the semester. He seems like an overworked individual to begin with,” said Speaker Tyler Heffern ‘22, who also sat on the Appointment Committee.
Senator Alexia O’Brien ‘21 also shared her reservations: “A lot of senators expressed their concerns about this individual being elected for only one semester to perform his duties.”
Senator Jack Stalzer ‘22 abstained from voting and explained in more technical terms why this concern was shared by many senators.
“It takes a lot of time to get to know the court and all the inner workings. That training takes valuable time, so who knows how long he is going to have to be productive,” Stalzer said.
Stalzer had motioned for a secret ballot during the hearing, which would allow each of the senators to cast their vote for or against Wolfe’s confirmation anonymously. The motion did not pass.
“I am kind of disappointed that we weren’t able to have a secret ballot because I think that would be a very good idea, especially at such a small school where everybody knows everybody,” Stalzer said in a post-interview. “I know numerous times that people have had personal connections with a nominee and they feel like they can’t vote ‘nay’ even if their conscious says they should because they feel like there will be social repercussions.”
Stalzer added, “I think that played a major factor today, and I think we would have had a lot more ‘nays’ had there been a secret ballot.”
He said that he still believes in the benefits of a secret ballot, and thinks that it would be the best means to obtain honest votes in FUSA’s future.
The meeting came to an end on Wednesday night with the senators giving off a hopeful and excited energy, ready to get to work this semester.
New Associate Justice Wolfe is eager to be a part of that work now.
“I think that FUSA is really important on campus. The impact that FUSA has is often unseen, but very felt. So, I just want to be a part of that and contribute however I can.”