On Thursday, Feb. 24, the Lower Level of the John A. Barone Campus Center hosted the annual Fairfield University Student Association Presidential Debate. On one ticket was presidential candidate Jordan Gale ‘23 and vice presidential candidate Aliyah Seenauth ‘24, and on the other ticket was presidential candidate Will Bradshaw ‘23 and vice presidential candidate Angie Dortenzio ‘23.

The debate was moderated by FUSA Associate Justices Noah DeFeo ‘22 and Caroline Cody ’25.

To begin, tickets would each have two minutes to deliver opening statements. Then, the candidates would face questions, mostly directed towards both tickets, and were given 90 seconds to respond. At the end, each ticket would be granted a final minute where they could convey closing remarks.

The Gale-Seenauth ticket won the coin toss, and spoke first. 

Jordan Gale is studying accounting and finance. His most recent role at Fairfield University has been working with the Office of Student Engagement as a Developmental Intern. 

In the running alongside Gale for vice president is Aliyah Seenauth, a behavioral science major. Seenauth is currently Associate Director of Diversity and Inclusion for FUSA.

Bradshaw is an economics major. Upon introduction, he detailed his definition of a leader, defining leaders as problem solvers.

Bradshaw is running with Angie Dortenzio. Dortenzio is a psychology major. She is currently the Social Media Marketing intern for Fairfield University and has prior experience with FUSA on the Programming Board for the class of 2023.

Both parties have established a social media presence on their campaign trail. 

Gale and Seenauth’s Instagram account, @jordan.aliyah.2022, advertises ambitions like boosting school spirit, bettering the advising process, supporting underrepresented students and making FUSA for and by the students.

Similarly, Bradshaw and Dortenzio’s Instagram account @willandangie2022 lists their campaign objectives. Theirs include emphasizing student outreach, campus safety and adding a “fresh view to FUSA”.

The night’s first question asked the candidates how they would describe FUSA to an incoming first year student. 

Bradshaw and Dortenzio had the microphone first. Bradshaw described FUSA essentially as the student voice. 

“What Angie and I stress in this is being approachable. We’ve talked extensively about how we have a passion for truly just sitting down and talking to students,” Bradshaw said, “That’s where we can make change.”

In a similar sentiment, Gale also stated how important it is to his ticket to engage in outreach with students, citing their familiarity with outreach due to their respective involvement on campus. 

“We strongly believe that FUSA is an intermediary and a great resource for all students to take advantage of,” said Gale.

When asked what are the biggest problems faced by Fairfield students, overarching themes continued to be seen in the responses of the two tickets with respect to a need for a greater emphasis on mental health in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Students need mental health resources on campus,” said Gale, drawing from his observations as a New Student Leader, working firsthand with first-year students.

On the other side of the stage, Dortenzio also highlighted on-campus resources. She emphasized “bringing awareness to the resources that we do offer on campus, but in addition looking to see where those can be improved.” 

Throughout FUSA and the University, sustainability efforts have been at the forefront of many discussions. Candidates were asked of their plans that they had to advance efforts towards sustainability. 

Gale praised the current FUSA administration on their strides towards this cause, and suggested ideas towards creating a more sustainable campus community, such as promoting the use of reusable water bottles, recycling appropriately and “trying to reduce our carbon footprint by encouraging students to use their vehicles less.”

Bradshaw chimed in, addressing the “systemic problem within the Town of Fairfield” in terms of recycling. He acknowledges that this is difficult to attack from a town level, but mentions that there are specific solutions that he and Dortenzio have thought of, including potentially using FUSA’s budget to decrease single-use plastics at Dunkin’ by providing students with reusable cups.

When the issue of transparency was brought to light, both tickets were passionate about ensuring transparency between FUSA and the student body.

“We want to establish a large sense of clarity within FUSA,” said Dortenzio in response, citing FUSA’s official Instagram page as a valuable tool in doing so. She mentioned that with her background in marketing, she believes social media “is a great resource for that”.

Gale and Seenauth proposed that the answer lies within the foundation of FUSA. Gale begins, “It starts by revolutionizing the executive board and we want to do that by creating more positions, with varying levels of commitment for students to get involved,” indicating that this would draw students to want to get involved, rather than relying solely on the “few people cycling this information to the student body.” 

DeSantis then delivered a question, acknowledging that FUSA has an annual budget of $400,000. She asked the candidates how they will allocate these funds in a way that is most advantageous to the student body.

Bradshaw discussed that his and Dortenzio’s proposed procedure is two-fold. First, they aim to bring back events that were put on hiatus due to the pandemic, such as Red Sea Madness and Siblings Weekend, and restore events like the President’s Ball to its full capacity.

Additionally, Bradshaw and Dortenzio proclaimed that a portion of the budget should be better allocated towards diversity and inclusion efforts. 

“As the University grows, so will diversity and to make a true social change, the budget has to reflect the weight of this social change that needs to happen,” said Bradshaw.

Gale proposed reaching out to other members of FUSA to ask questions regarding what club leaders need, what COSO needs and what the senators think they need for their committees.

“All [of] these questions need to be answered if we want to make sure that we are getting our organizations within FUSA, our committees and our boardmemers, the appropriate resources to be successful in their engagements,” said Gale.

In addition, the Gale-Seenauth ticket mentioned their desire to apportion some funds to events that will boost student attendance at sporting events, particularly women’s sporting events who “don’t get the attention they deserve”.

The next question was directed at the vice presidential candidates, as they both have experience on FUSA, unlike their running mates. They were asked, in part, how their experience has prepared them for the role of FUSA Vice President.

“I think that my experience has allowed me to gain skill, not only skill, but learning how to work on a team,” said Seenauth. “I take pride in teamwork and working with my director and the rest of my board.”

“My time on programming has shown me the ins and outs of what we’ve done and what goes into all of the main events as well,” said Dortenzio. “I just want to reiterate that it’s not easy for everyone, but I want to make sure that all of our members on FUSA feel included…”

When tasked with how the candidates would proceed, should a FUSA officer wasn’t fulfilling their duties properly, Bradshaw stated that he learned that “You praise in public and you reprimand in private,” from his work outside of Fairfield University. He continued, suggesting that one-on-one conversations could potentially open up the opportunity to work with them, and help them become better student leaders.

Gale noted that he would consult leaders personally to try to understand why they were falling short on their duties, and perhaps offer help and resources if needed.

“Aliyah and I both think it’s super important to get on that level- that personal level- with our student leaders first,” said Gale.

An audience question was swapped out for a question curated by the moderators, and  made reference to diversity issues present at Fairfield University. It read, “What would you do to make underrepresented students, especially persons of color, feel represented at a Predominantly White Institution such as Fairfield? How has your experience prepared you to address this issue?”

Dortenzio spoke first, acknowledging that she and her running mate will never know what it feels like to be a member of an underrepresented group on campus. However, she stated, “We want to work with these individuals specifically to make sure that we are having those open dialogue- those specific conversations in order to make the progress that we need on this campus.”

“As a proud woman of color myself, I think that coming to Fairfield was a very difficult transition for me, and that is why my passion stems into being a leader here and trying to speak up for my community,” said Seenauth. One solution she had to address these diversity issues is to make people more aware of spaces such as the commuter lounge and the Office of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs.

To wrap up the debate, closing statements were delivered.

Bradshaw spoke on behalf of himself and Dortenzio, saying,  “Our goal, if elected as your President and Vice President of FUSA, is to bring a fresh view, and enhance these experiences that you already have on campus, and bring them to [a] bigger and a greater light,” said Bradshaw. He promised to do this with Dortenzio by acting as a “middle-ground” in communication between students, faculty and administrators. 

Gale took the lead, saying “We really want to continue our leadership at Fairfield to represent the student body and make sure that all students understand their role in the bigger picture of making Fairifled the best it can be for all students in attendance.” 

To vote, students can visit FUSA’s page on Life@Fairfield and click “FUSA Presidential Election”. Ballots are now open and will close on Tuesday, March 2 at 5:00 p.m.

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