On Tuesday, April 15, about 35 Fairfield students – most who had ties to either the Department of Student Programs & Leadership Development or Fairfield University’s Student Association – participated in FUSA’s presidential forum.

The open forum was the first of its kind held between the student body and SPLD concerning their code of ethics, which was brought into question by former New Student Leaders earlier this semester.

Among the notables in attendance were Kamala Kiem, assistant dean of students and director of SPLD, Alex Long ‘14 and Alex Cucchi ‘15, FUSA president and vice president respectively and Karen Donoghue, dean of students – who did not participate in the forum.

“It’s been two or three years that this conversation has consistently percolated during the spring semester, and it’s important dialogue and I don’t want to shut that down in any way,” said Kiem.

Many left feeling the dialogue was a good starting point, but just the first step of a much larger process.

“I think the important part is both sides walking away and considering the points that were made and coming back,” said Kelly Miraglia ‘15, a current FUSA member. “I think that’s the most important part,” she added, “coming back and continuing the dialogue … coming back with solutions.”

Topics discussed throughout the hour-and-a-half-long dialogue – that at times seemed to be a “congressional trial,” as one student pointed out – ranged from contracts, the creation of the NSL position, the stress on student leaders to Senior Week responsibilities, portrayal of the “Fairfield experience” and retention rates for NSL.

While the forum was a productive first step, it was dominated by circumstantial questions concerning alcohol and SPLD’s disciplinary processes, according to Long.

However, SPLD and students were able to work together to put some rumors surrounding the department to rest.

Concerning retention, Nicole Heller ‘13 of SPLD, outlined the final numbers of their selection process. For the 2014-15 academic year, about 10 NSLs (including chairs) are returning, while the rest of the team is composed of about 82 percent rising sophomores, according to Heller.

She also noted study abroad, internships and the general rise in involvement for upperclassmen all contribute to these retention numbers.

Furthermore, the nine SPLD representatives agreed that the contract is intended for their department and that they are “not trying to implement it in more clubs on campus.”

One student asked SPLD if they believed their code of conduct was deterring “potentially great” student leaders from applying to their position.

“I think we’ve always been selective in our process, even when I was a freshman,” said Eric Lynch ‘14, co-chair of New Student Programs.

“It’s a choice to become an NSL … we’re not going to force anyone into it,” said Heller earlier in the conversation.

Students concluded with suggestions of more transparency from SPLD and continued dialogue between the two parties.
Kiem concluded, “At the end of the day we need to have a lot more education on why we set that particular standard … engaging in further dialogue … and working to be even more transparent.”

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