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The Observer endorses Johnson-Prokup

| Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Observer Editorial Board interviewed the candidates for Saint Mary’s student body president and vice president, juniors McKenzie Johnson and Barbi Prokup and juniors Emma McCarthy and Mary Joy Dingler, on Tuesday evening. The candidates summarized their goals for the upcoming year and explained their experiences with the College’s Student Government Association (SGA). After reviewing the candidates’ plans, goals and qualifications, we endorse Johnson and Prokup for student body president and vice president.

Johnson-Prokup proposed revamping the new Big Belle, Little Belle Program and providing the first-year and junior duos with more structured events that promote mentorship and sisterhood. They also introduced the idea of a transfer program in which current Saint Mary’s students could sign up to be a “Sister Belle” to a transfer student and help her feel welcome as she adjusts to life at Saint Mary’s.

To boost attendance at sporting events and foster a supportive community, Johnson-Prokup suggested creating a position for a student-athlete liaison. This liasion would help to promote sporting events through email newsletters and raise awareness about the athletic programs. In light of the renovation of the athletic fields and Angela Athletic Facility, Johnson-Prokup said they want all students to use these new facilities and support their fellow Belles.

Both candidates recognized the amount of emails students receive and suggested consolidating campus events into one email. Johnson-Prokup suggested a monthly newsletter, while McCarthy-Dingler suggested a weekly email. The idea is a good one, but we also feel that a weekly email will be a difficult logistical undertaking, while monthly emails would be too infrequent.

The tickets both also said they want to strengthen the relationship between students and Security through better communication and forums. Johnson-Prokup, if elected, said they plan to implement a forum on the mySaintMarys portal that would allow students to send suggestions to Security and receive responses. McCarthy-Dingler introduced the idea of a student liaison who would work with the security department to voice concerns.

Each ticket expressed a need for safe spaces on campus, but Johnson-Prokup had more concrete plans for implementing this idea. They said they plan to work with the Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO) to create a support group led by Connie Adams, director of BAVO, for students who have experienced violence and added they want it to be open to anyone who needs a place to talk to peers or professionals about any problems. This idea falters, though, at the ticket’s plan to allow dorm rooms to serve as student-led safe places for other students to seek support about various problems. We feel this could become problematic if students overlook professional help and rely solely on peers for issues regarding their health and personal well-being.

We also believe Johnson and Prokup should reconsider their anti-bullying campaign. They said they plan to address current issues through awareness and prevention programming. While this is well-intentioned, their plans do not address the severity of the hate speech that has taken place on campus and instead diminish these occurrences to mere bullying. We agree with them that campus leaders should take a stand, but we don’t believe an anti-bullying campaign alone is the most effective route for addressing instances of harassment.

McCarthy-Dingler suggested one “paperless” day per semester to promote sustainability and cut down on printing costs and waste. While ideas of creating a more sustainable campus are important, we feel this idea is not realistic. We agree the College should explore recycling options and campus sustainability, but one “paperless” day does not seem practical because professors would need to alter due dates and allow computers in all classes.

Both tickets have good ideas, potential to lead the student body and an interest in collaborating heavily with College President-Elect Jan Cervelli, but Johnson and Prokup have best expressed tangible goals and the confidence to introduce new positions and programs in SGA that will impact the campus community.

We believe Johnson’s experience as president of the Residence Hall Association and Prokup’s role as an outsider to student government will benefit the student body with fresh, realistic ideas to improve all students’ Saint Mary’s experience.

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