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Presidential campaigns heat up with debate

Katie Kohler | Friday, January 19, 2007

The three tickets for Saint Mary’s student body president tried to win over voters Thursday evening in their first campaign debate, fielding questions ranging from campaign promises to diversity.

Interaction between the candidates remained amicable as they responded to inquiries from both moderator Christin Molnar and the nearly 50 students present for the debate at Noble Family Dining Hall.

The first ticket to speak, junior presidential candidate Colleen Ferreira and her running mate, sophomore Jenny Antonelli, highlighted their leadership roles on campus.

Ferriera, who served as president of her sophomore class, wants to reposition herself at the helm of the student body.

“Being [sophomore class] president was so gratifying,” she said. “I am really looking forward to the opportunity to lead the whole student body in the future.”

The Kimberly Hodges-Kelly Payne ticket also spotlighted prior directive roles. Hodges, who boasts leadership roles in a variety of student government and diversity groups and activities, recognized that being student body president is a multi-tasking role.

“I have always been involved and made an effort to be a leader in different groups,” she said. “I plan to continue to be involved in these groups once elected.”

Juniors Annie Davis and Courtney Kennedy also have experience leading students in student government and also in clubs – Davis is vice-president of the Notre Dame Figure Skating Club.

“Everyone is a leader. In order to best represent a women’s college, we all need to have the opportunity to take leadership roles,” Davis said.

When asked about their accessibility once elected, Ferriera emphasized her availability to students.

“I am a student too,” she said. “I am not here to be a power over you, but to represent you.”

While Ferriera and Antonelli’s campaign centers around costly improvements on campus, they also stressed how well they’ll represent their constituents.

“We want what you want. That is the most important thing,” Antonelli said.

Seniors having the opportunity to vote this year, according to Ferriera, will greatly affect the future of the College.

“Why not bring immediate change?” she asked. “Our mission and tradition is strong, but we are not working for twenty years from now. We are working for now and the seniors can help put the school in good hands.”

Ferriera and Antonelli spoke confidently about their lofty budgetary increases, including campus-wide wireless Internet and maintaining printer clusters in the dorms.

“Many girls have asked me about going wireless,” Ferriera said. “It is a feasible idea and we have a great administration willing to work with us on these ideas.”

Hodges and Payne centered on the student voice during the debate. Pontificating students to the administration and student government is a major part of their platform.

“We want to host open forums so that students will always have a voice,” Hodges said. “Many students are uninformed about so many things on campus and we want that to change.”

Hodges and Payne also see the need for change.

“To lead is to change,” Hodges said. “We must take initiative to implement changes to make Saint Mary’s better for students during their time here.”

Reflecting on her leadership experience, Hodges recognized that she would not have been as informed had she not been a leader.

“We want to make you happy. We know what you need and we are not working for us,” Payne said. “We are working for you.”

The ticket also describes diversity as a “second nature.”

“Diversity is so important to us,” Hodges said. “I have always learned not to complain, but to try and make a change.”

Hodges, who was one of three African-Americans in her freshman class of approximately 400, has been working to increase diversity at Saint Mary’s. She is the vice president of the Student Diversity Board and founded the Diverse Student Leadership Conference.

“It is not just about recruitment, but retention,” she said. “We want diversity in all things, like race, religion, background and so on.”

The final ticket, juniors Annie Davis and Courtney Kennedy emphasized communication.

“Now, the student government relies on e-mail as the most efficient way to connect to students; but there are other ways,” Davis said.

These ways included a suggestion box and “Letters to the President” in the Bellzine.

Davis and Kennedy also welcomed the senior vote.

“It is a chance for [seniors] to leave a legacy behind,” Davis said. “It is definitely something good for the college.”

Davis, who works closely with admissions, termed their primary election goal the “Identity Initiative.”

“Right now, the Board of Trustees and administration is reworking how Saint Mary’s is portrayed. You are the identity and we want your input to show what the real SMC woman is,” Davis said.

Elections will be held Monday night on PRISM.