This Thursday and Friday, students cast their votes for the next student government president. With only one candidate on the ballot, the choice was easy.
Flor Caceres ’22, the sole contender for the presidency, said that she would not have minded facing competition—but she is looking forward to getting started at the helm of student government next year anyways.
“Four years ago, if you asked me about student government, I probably wouldn’t have joined. But upon seeing my friends…they inspired me. And upon staying on campus, I realized there’s a lot of work to be done to reach out to students and making sure that their needs are being met,” she said.
According to Executive Secretary of Student Government Lia Charles ‘22, this is not the first time that only one candidate has run.
“There’s just some years where there’s a lot of interest in running for president, and other years where it’s just not really common,” she noted.
One of Caceres’ top priorities once she enters office is increasing the transparency of student government.
“Sometimes many people aren’t aware of what student government actually does or what it stands for, but I feel like with me entering this new position they’ll be more aware of the actual decision-making processes that go behind all the resolutions, all the initiatives that we have planned,” she said.
The issue of transparency is particularly relevant right now, as an ongoing impeachment of current president Mary Zimmerman ’21 has been largely kept quiet by the organization aside from a single Instagram post in early March. Though the unnamed allegations were brought against Zimmerman last November, the proceedings were delayed until March and there has been no official word from student government since.
“The process is continuing,” Charles said. “The executive board is handling the elections and we’re also proceeding with the impeachment process.”
It is unclear what will happen if the investigation and proceedings do not complete before the end of the semester, and Charles said she is not sure whether a decision will be made before the change in office.
“When we’re not being transparent or addressing the needs or concerns of students, then that’s where a lot of problems and issues of trust arise,” Caceres told The Lafayette after the impeachment was announced.
Caceres, who is currently a member of the equity and inclusion committee, said she hopes to push for more “collective force” in student government decision making, creating stronger connections with the Board of Trustees, as well as engagement with underclassmen.
“I really want to connect with the upcoming classes because with this whole pandemic, I don’t think a lot of them have been able to connect with upperclassmen. I think this would definitely give me that sort of connection to bridge the gap,” she said.
The Lafayette Community had the chance to learn more about Caceres and her vision for student government at a candidate forum hosted this past Tuesday. The forum was adopted because of the demands of the Black-led coalition Dear Lafayette College for a more transparent election process.
“We’re doing that so people can meet the candidates for these various positions and get to know them and learn about what they’re campaigning on and what their vision for Lafayette is,” Charles said.
At this forum, Caceres proposed multiple reforms. An increase in the minimum wage for student workers on campus, the inclusion of a social justice and community service requirement in the Common Course of Study, as well as an update to the parliamentary rules of student government were all on the agenda.
Considering the polarizing issue of fraternities and sororities’ place on campus, the topic of inclusivity and Greek Life was also raised during the question-and-answer session.
Caceres promised to listen to concerns and bring in “different folks who have been leading these efforts [regarding inclusivity in Greek life], looking towards our Greek life committee on student government and other folks who have been involved in these conversations.”
She noted, however, that “Greek life has been so ingrained within this institution [the College] that I don’t think I’ll be able to do much within my first year.”
“What I can do is to try and take that first step, so that the following presidents can do a lot more than what I can,” she said.
Charles noted that the elections were held over the course of several days because of COVID-19. The upcoming executive board elections, for example, are slated to take place from Thursday, April 15 to Saturday, April 17.
Meanwhile, Caceres welcomes the opportunity to lead as student government president at a time when the College will be getting a new president as well as a new Dean of Students.
“We’ll be able to tap in with fresh minds and see what are some ways we can maybe advance the College in ways that we have never been able to before. I’m really looking forward to that,” she said.