In the midst of the Fairfield University Student Association’s election season, presidential candidates have begun campaigning for the positions of FUSA Student Body President and Vice President. These candidates had one final chance to publicize their campaigns to the student body at the FUSA Presidential Debate on Wednesday, Feb. 17.

Current FUSA President Anif McDonald ‘16 moderated the event and began by introducing the presidential candidates. Sophomore Senator Joe Harding ran with Anmol Tabassum ‘18, Chair of Senate Zoë Ferranti ‘17 ran with Chair of Programming Brie Tancredi ‘17, Sophomore Class President Zavon Billups ran with Senator Paulina Baclawska ‘19 and Senator Dimitri Skuret ‘17 ran with Freshman Class President Katie Santo. Junior Andrew Leone also ran with Matt Hill ‘17, but both were unable to attend the debate because of a prior University commitment.

Each candidate then had the opportunity to deliver an opening address. The candidates took this time to briefly introduce their campaign to the audience, as well as their qualifications for the position.

McDonald then proceeded to ask each of the candidates’ questions regarding their potential role as president. The questions varied from why each candidate would like to be FUSA President to what their vision is for the student body, and how they will stay in contact with the student population.

In answering these questions, the candidates focused on how they would each like to increase FUSA’s transparency with the student body, as FUSA’s main objective is to represent the student population.  

Ferranti addressed this early on in the debate, saying that “you all have beautiful voices, and I’m sure you all have a lot to say coming from all your different backgrounds,” adding that as president, she would have the ability to listen to student feedback and put it into action.

In terms of a method for collecting student feedback, Ferranti mentioned that she would send out brief surveys to the student body to get their opinion on various topics regarding campus life.

Harding also spoke of increasing transparency with the student body, saying that one solution to this would be to increase the frequency of FUSA’s open forums. He added that as president, he would hold these forums once a month, rather than once a semester as they are currently held.

For Billups, expanding FUSA’s communication with the student body is something he has already begun to work on as Sophomore Class President. “I would absolutely say that the first way to communicate with the student body is through social media,” he said, referencing how he regularly posts motivational videos and posts in each class’s Facebook groups, especially during finals week.

Billups added that he wants to see if FUSA can start holding fireside chats, “which is something that FDR enacted that was very good at helping to foster a more united state.” Billups added that these chats would take place bi-weekly, and would serve as an opportunity for students to sit down with the president and talk about what’s going on around the world, as well as here on campus.

According to Skuret, while holding open forums and fireside chats are good ways to engage with the student body, sometimes having one-on-one conversations with students is even more effective. He added that McDonald is a good example of this, as throughout his presidency he would address students personally to hear about their concerns and complaints. Skuret hopes to embody these same qualities as president.

Junior Luis Loore was glad that the candidates addressed an issue at the debate that is in need of correction. “I think it’s great that the need for stronger communication was acknowledged at the debate. Hopefully this will result in students being better informed about what’s going on in our community,” he said.

Sophomore Nick Debiase agreed that increasing transparency should be the future FUSA President’s main objective, adding that “a stronger connection [with FUSA] would allow students themselves to facilitate change, and we could more directly communicate our needs to FUSA.”  

At the end of the debate, each of the candidates were allowed to give closing statements, as an opportunity to sum up their campaign and leave the audience with a lasting impression of them.

For McDonald, the debate was successful in further informing the student body of the goals and ideologies of their presidential candidates. He also added that the debate made him realize how strong each of the candidates are. “After this debate, I am sure that whoever gets elected will do a really great job and FUSA will be in good hands for the future,” McDonald said.

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