Fairfield University’s Student Association elected a new president on Feb. 27. In a turn of events Andrew Meija ‘26 and his running mate, Bryan Santos ‘26 won the presidency through write-in votes.

Prior to this announcement FUSA hosted a debate on Thursday, Feb. 22 in the lower level of the Barone Campus Center. Although the audience presence was fairly low, most members had many questions for the candidate. 

Throughout the process, there was only one candidate officially running for president: Giovanni Young ‘25 and his Vice-President Connor Hernon ‘25. Due to this circumstance, the debate was very one-sided, where Young answered the majority of the questions and Hernon contributed at points. While Hernon is currently in Australia, he was present on Zoom and added to the discussion. 

The debate was divided into sections. Young began with an opening statement that detailed why he was running for president.

Young said, “We all came here for a specific reason: one-on-one engagement with professors, a tight community of peers and strong academics.” 

However, with the growing number of applicants and students, many are worried that the school environment is changing, making Fairfield an institution that they might not have applied to if they were in the current applicant pool. Young reassured that he is trying to preserve the nature of the university in his opening statement.  

When he was asked about over-acceptance and a severe lack of housing, he explained that “the University is aware of the problem” and they are trying to fix it through current construction projects, but they still should be doing more. 

Regarding concerns about academics, Young described that the Dolan School of Business currently has programs that allow easy career exploration that he hopes to bring to the College of Arts and Sciences and the Engineering School. These would help build upon the current career offerings each school has.

The FUSA committee then moved on to the next portion of the debate, where members of FUSA asked about Young and Hernon’s campaign platform. Junior Devone Martin asked why Young wants to be FUSA President and what makes him a unique candidate fit for the role. Young stated that he is part of every aspect of student life and can tell specifically where “the student body is hurting”. 

The committee continued to ask questions regarding his platform, where he revealed that he wanted to reduce the overall cost of textbooks for students to $250. Currently, textbooks can cost up to $1,000 each semester. For many, this is a heavy financial burden that Young and Hernon wanted to alleviate. 

Young and Hernon were hopeful to create many new, progressive programs, including late-night food trucks from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. throughout the week. This would provide students with late-night classes a dining option. Currently, many students are forced to order food after their late-night classes. 

Students agree with Young’s plan for dining options on campus and Sophomore Gabriella Fideleo stated, “This would’ve been really nice to have last year and this year.” 

The current budget for FUSA is $400,000. They believe they can utilize this better by cutting smaller programs that have historically low attendance rates. When asked about how he would respond to students who excitedly attend these smaller events, Young said, “we can incorporate similar ideas into bigger programs that have high attendance so we’re not wasting any resources and we can allocate more money to larger events, like Pres Ball.” 

When asked about the rising ticket prices of events, like President’s Ball and Clam Jam Young said, “an expanding student population allows us to lower prices for events, like Pres Ball and Clam Jam” and cutting smaller programs allows for “a reallocation of the budget that better benefits the whole of the student body.” 

This rising population takes away from the small school atmosphere that is core to Fairfield’s identity. Young previously stated that he hoped to curb the rising student population to preserve the culture of the school. This either contradicts his plans for slashing ticket prices to benefit students or his goal of preserving the ambiance and character of the school. One has to be chosen over the other or Young and Hernon would have needed to reevaluate their stance to create plans that preserve the small-school vibe and lower ticket prices to be more affordable for students. 

The debate did not only consist of Young and Hernon’s ideas for future programs but also focused on current controversial issues, like the recent incidents of hate speech occurring on platforms like Fizz. 

Young said, “the most important thing that we can do is signify that every person is welcome on Fairfield’s campus.”

Similarly, Young and Hernon were asked about how they plan to bridge the gap between Bellarmine and North Benson students since there has been tension among both groups. He said that he hopes to get Bellarmine students acclimated to life on North Benson’s campus using a program similar to First Year Experience but revised to fit the needs of Bellarmine students who already have college experience. 

Most importantly, Young was asked how he plans to uphold the integrity of a democratic system being the only candidate officially on the ballot. 

He responded, “We need to prove that we’re putting in the legwork and that we are worthy of the office even more.”

Young also believes that his experience losing the election last year has made him even more “committed to the student body” and his experience will allow him to better understand and implement programs that better the student population.

Junior Maddie Cook said that she is “certain Gio and Connor will live up to all of their promises they talked about in the debate” and she has “a lot of faith in them,” so she is not worried about them being the only option on the ballot. 

While Young and Hernon are the only official candidates on the ballot and were the only ones present in the debate, they were no longer the only candidates running. Andrew Meija ‘26 and Bryan Santos ‘26 became candidates for FUSA through word of mouth. However, they were not listed on the ballot and had to be written in by students who wished to vote for them.

CorrectionsA correction was made on Feb. 28, 2024

A prior version of this article stated that Andrew Meija ’26 and Bryan Santos ’26 declared their run for the presidency on Feb. 26, however, they never officially declared a run for the presidency.

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Junior | Head News Editor | Political Science Major | International Business, Spanish Minors | Boston, MA

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