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Observer Editorial: The Observer endorses Paradiso-O’Connor

| Wednesday, February 19, 2020

On Monday, two tickets officially entered the race for Saint Mary’s Student Government Association (SGA) president and vice president: juniors Giavanna Paradiso and Kelsey O’Connor, and juniors Deirdre Drinkall and Brianna Kinyanjui. Posters promoting Paradiso-O’Connor and Drinkall-Kinyanjui appeared in bathroom stalls and on bulletin boards, outlining platforms and mission statements.

The Observer Editorial Board interviewed both tickets Tuesday night. After considering both platforms, the board unanimously extends its endorsement to the Paradiso-O’Connor ticket.

Paradiso and O’Connor’s platform addresses the entire expanse of student life, encompassing areas such as dining, residence halls, safety, community and retention. The two are ambitious but pragmatic in their planning and said they tried not to make promises they cannot keep.

The ticket views the inauguration of recently revealed president-elect Katie Conboy as an opportunity for growth and improvement — unlike the opposing ticket, which feared large changes to the status quo.

The Paradiso-O’Connor platform proposes the reinvigoration of the on-campus social scene, increased exterior lighting throughout the property, residence hall improvements and club empowerment through expanded funding. It also includes the installation of a Blinkie tracker — a promise that has been made and broken by previous SGA executive boards.

In terms of experience, both Paradiso and O’Connor have filled various leadership roles around campus, serving as co-chairs on the SGA Community Committee this past year. Paradiso is also a varsity member of the Saint Mary’s basketball team, chair of the SGA Food Committee and vice chair of the Alumnae Relations Committee. O’Connor is currently the editor-in-chief of the Blue Mantle yearbook and serves on the Academic Standards Committee.

As Community Committee co-chairs, Paradiso and O’Connor have demonstrated they can set a goal and meet it, having organized a reimagined and hugely successful pre-Domerfest event and succeeded in initiating the reopening of Clarissa Dalloway’s Coffeehouse as a student space.

However, what the Paradiso-O’Connor ticket offers in breadth, it lacks in depth. Although their ideas span across the spectrum of student life, they largely remain just that — ideas. When asked how they would specifically implement some of their platform items, the ticket struggled to give a detailed trajectory. Paradiso and O’Connor will need further planning and organizing to put some of their proposals into motion and ensure they are effective.

The Drinkall-Kinyanjui platform focuses on three areas of student life: mental health, inclusivity and Catholic identity.

To improve access to mental health resources, the ticket proposed a student-counselor internship program that would potentially provide an alternative to those seeking counseling from the three professionals on staff at the Health and Counseling Center. However, we have serious reservations about the ethical basis of this program, as most students are not equipped or qualified to fill this position.

Though Drinkall-Kinyanjui provided some strong ideas for promoting inclusion, such as the addition of a new SGA leadership position for international student representation and informational services for first generation students, the heightened attention paid to preserving Catholic identity on campus did not feel inclusive.

Saint Mary’s is a Catholic institution, and the College’s Campus Ministry could benefit from concentrated improvements. However, in 2019, 69.7% of the student body who contributed to the annual report identified with a Roman-Catholic affiliation. So while the Catholic identity pillar of the Drinkall-Kinyanjui is definitively strong, it does not support the entire student body. Inter-faith dialogue needs to take place within the College community, not just in campus resource rooms.

Whereas the Paradiso-O’Connor ticket is geared towards change, Drinkall and Kinyanjui seem content to walk the familiar path and preserve the status quo. Although Saint Mary’s is steeped in valued history and tradition, keeping the College fossilized in amber will only serve as a disservice to its students. The world is changing, and Saint Mary’s should be, too.

Both tickets showed a strong desire to make SGA and its operations more transparent to students and promised heightened visibility, both physically at events on campus and online through social media. They emphasized communication between the students and the SGA executive board and committees — through office hours and town halls — as well as between SGA and the administration.

When asked how they would respond to controversy within the student body following an administrative decision, Paradiso-O’Connor was stronger in their commitment to putting students first.

As representatives of the entire student body, the SGA president and vice president must address all student issues and interests. In addition, these leaders must work alongside the College administration, but also be willing to fight for students and voice their concerns. If they can concentrate their proposed widespread efforts to enhance the Saint Mary’s experience and articulate a thoughtful, intentional plan for each, the Observer Editorial Board believes Paradiso and O’Connor will best serve all of the student body.

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