By Christina Shaman ’16 and Ryan Powers ’19
As students lined the upper balcony of Farinon Tuesday for the Lafayette Activities Forum’s stuff-a-plush event, student government representatives gathered in the lower Farinon atrium for the presidential debate.
L’Eunice Faust ’17 and Aliénor d’Arenberg ’18 fielded questions from current representatives after vice presidential candidates Alexander Battisti ’18, Othman Guennoun ’17, Bilal Akbar ’18 and Luis Espinal ’17 gave statements.
d’Arenberg, who has two years of experience in student government, emphasized the pragmatism behind her campaign, while Faust emphasized that her time outside of student government has given her a fuller perspective of the culture of Lafayette.
d’Arenberg’s platform includes introducing a loan-based program for establishing new clubs, especially with up-and-coming sports clubs struggling to gain following and traction. She hopes to create more equality in club funding by making the system more efficient.
d’Arenberg also plans to expand cultural activities to include all students on campus, and to capitalize on Greek life’s philanthropy requirement by encouraging fraternities and sororities to sponsor events for incoming first-year students through the Connected Communities initiative.
“As much as this is a wonderful school that I love very much, it does have room for improvement, particularly in how efficiently it’s run,” d’Arenberg said.
Faust said that her little time in student government meant more time to learn about Lafayette through other organizations.
“I’ve been able to be a part of the Lafayette community a lot longer than anyone else on student government,” Faust said. “You get to see more of the behind the scenes.”
Faust’s platform includes a focus on the growing environmental initiatives on campus. She also plans to strengthen the ATTIC tutor program by petitioning for student instructors for humanities courses. She hopes to involve upperclassmen in the Connected Communities initiative, and start a program where the student government president has lunch talks with campus club presidents.
Faust also plans to create a database for alumni based on student organizations.
“For example, if I [was a part of] Brandywine Commons, there would be a database for that,” Faust said. “That way you might be able to have more connections with people and see where they took their Lafayette career.”
The candidates had differing opinions on whether or not student government is a good representative of the whole student body.
“Student government has the potential to represent everyone at this school,” d’Arenberg said.
d’Arenberg encouraged debate between members of student government to prevent the blending of ideas among the organization.
On the other hand, Faust disagreed that student government has done an adequate job speaking on behalf of students, but said the future looks promising.
“Let’s just be honest, there’s no way we can be an effective advocate for all students,” Faust said. “We can’t be an advocate for everyone, but we can certainly try.”
The candidates were also asked questions regarding racial tensions on university campuses nationwide, like University of Missouri, Yale University and Ithaca University.
Faust said that there are similar problems here on campus, though she explained that people need to be receptive to conflicting ideas in order to promote change.
“This happens for students of different religious organizations, this happens to students for different races and ethnic groups,” Faust said. “We need to hear [all] voices to hear where they’re coming from.”
d’Arenberg said the key to understanding and preventing similar protests is open communication.
“It’s important for us to ask the question ‘why?’ in order to stop it from happening again,” she said.
Sony Mathew ’17, the president Lafayette College’s Asian Cultural Association, was present for the debate and asked a question to the presidential candidates.
“I want to make sure that the person who gets to be the next president or the next VP is capable and willing to work with [club] presidents like me and other organizations as well to come up with reasonable and effective plans,” Mathew said.
The only vice presidential candidate that was tied to a particular presidential candidate was Guennoun, who ran on a platform with and was backed by d’Arenberg. All of the other candidates ran separate from a presidential backing.
Battisti ran on a platform of transparency and accessibility, Guennoun emphasized his objectivity and experience as selling points to his candidacy and Espinal said that he wants more voices heard on campus.
Akbar was not present at the debate, but his speech, which was read by current student government president Aaron Little ‘16, included establishing gender neutral bathrooms on campus, as well as initiatives for LGBTQ visibility and sustainability on campus.