A Fairfield University Student Association Senate meeting was called at 6:32 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16 by Speaker Tyler Heffern ‘22. The meeting focused on a vote on the confirmation of Associate Justice candidate Jakob Matala ‘22, into FUSA Court as well as other pressing issues among the Senate’s various committees.


Following a discussion of updates from the Senate’s smaller committees, Matala’s confirmation began with a recommendation from Senator Vincent Gadioma ‘22. Gadioma “highly recommended” Matala for his leadership skills, honesty and adherence to FUSA law. Matala was then asked by Heffern to speak briefly about his experience enforcing rules and regulations, as well as making decisions and judgement calls. After explaining his credentials as a current resident assistant in Jogues Hall, the former Vice President of Gonzaga Hall’s Residential Housing Association and an experienced gymnastics coach, Matala advocated for a more transparent and coherent election process for future potential candidates and increasing accessibility for voting in FUSA elections. 


After his speech, Senator Bradd Cyr ‘20 proposed voting with a “secret ballot,” citing past elections and the social ramifications caused by a transparent, public vote. Speaker Heffern then opened the floor for debate over the proposed “secret ballot,” sparking a 15 minute long debate between the Senators. Senator Cyr claimed that a transparent, open vote would be akin to “low-level corruption,” as a result of the Senate’s supposed inability to separate their personal feelings about the candidate from their individual votes.


The senator went on to say that, in past elections, senators may have felt pressured to vote for a candidate during a public vote so as to not hurt his or her feelings and to prevent other senators from reacting badly. He asked the senate if they remembered what had happened last year in a similar situation without giving specifics on the incident, and nods and words of agreement passed through the tables. Senator John Stalzer ‘22 seconded Senator Cyr’s proposal, calling the proposed vote a “transparent secret ballot.”


Senator Cyr did not respond to requests to comment on his proposal for a “secret ballot.”


Throughout this debate, President Claire Monahan paced the floor and openly called for a transparent vote. According to President Monahan, FUSA prides itself on transparency and honesty to the student body. 


The Senate proceeded to vote on Speaker Heffern’s proposed motion to end the debate over the ballot, with a vote of 15 to 1 in favor of ending the debate. Speaker Heffern then called for a vote for the “secret ballot,” the senators voting 8 to 6 in favor of the ballot with 2 abstentions. However, this ballot won’t be standard procedure for all following votes within FUSA. “This was a one-time motion and its approval does not mean that future nominees will be voted on in this way,” said Speaker Heffern. 


The senators proceeded to vote on Matala’s confirmation. Matala received 14 votes for confirmation, 2 votes for denial, and 2 abstentions. Matala was confirmed as an Associate Justice following the vote.


“I hope with my confirmation to FUSA Court and my position as Associate Justice, I can improve FUSA elections’ voter turnout, assist with the understanding and importance of FUSA elections and help create a more transparent student government for the Fairfield University community,” Matala said.


According to Speaker Heffern, “The Senate Special Committee on Appointments found him to be qualified and highly recommended his confirmation by the entire Senate. After a short round of questioning, the Senate voted to confirm him by an overwhelming majority. We are excited to see what the new Associate Justice accomplishes with the Court.”


Matala previously applied for the position of Associate Justice three separate times in the past year and is excited to be confirmed.


The rest of the meeting focused on the various other committees in the Senate and their current projects, including a proposal by Senator Stalzer to survey the student body about their satisfaction with Fairfield’s current meal plan, placing an emphasis on the removal of meal swipes at The Stag. President Monahan also discussed meal swipes with Fairfield’s Board of Trustees, focusing on gathering swipe information and the possibility of redistributing unused student meal swipes each week to prevent food insecurity among students.


Speaker Heffern also opened the floor for feedback from the gallery. A few students came up to address their concerns, including Colin Townsend ‘21 who asked why his band won’t be featured at the upcoming Red Sea Madness concert. Heffern also announced that Senator Ryan Gazzo ‘20 resigned from the Senate as of 2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, and an immediate special election will be held within 30 days of his resignation.

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