With the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) presidential and vice presidential elections taking place from April 23 to 27, The Argus spoke with the current candidates for president and vice president. Presidential candidate WSA President Zachary Malter ’13 and vice-presidential candidate and Academic Affairs Chair Mari Jarris ’14 spoke to The Argus about their campaign platform.
The Argus: Why do you want to be president (or vice president)?
Zachary Malter: I see the WSA as potentially a very effective force in making improvements in student life and taking steps to improve the student experience. I find that work very rewarding, and I really think the WSA needs to be continuing to do those things and I hope that Mari and I will be the people to do that.
Mari Jarris: We’ve both been on the WSA for our entire time at Wesleyan. We’ve accomplished a lot in that time in the roles that we’ve served. I would like to serve as Zach’s vice president as he goes into the second year of his presidency. I think it’s essential that we have people who have experience and are really going to focus on fostering these relationships.
A: What are your qualifications for this position?
ZM: Well I’ve been president for a year and I don’t think that fact should be taken for granted. It’s been a very productive year with things like minors, which was an issue that had stalled for many years before, with all the work that’s been done with sustainability. I think this year has been a particularly effective year for the WSA both in terms of getting things done and improving its reputation. I think that I’ve been instrumental in that, and really every year [I] have been instrumental in all of the main projects, and I think Mari has too.
MJ: Zach named a bunch of our more tangible achievements, which I think are an important part of our qualifications. But also we’ve both been committed to the WSA and committed to reforming the WSA.
A: What do you hope to accomplish should you be elected to this position?
ZM: I think next year’s going to be a pivotal year. I think students have lost a lot of faith in the affordability of Wesleyan’s education because of tuition rising—student charges being raised by 4.5 percent for next year—so I think the WSA needs to assert that concern loudly and ensure there are many considerations made to make Wesleyan affordable. We’re paying so much—we should be able to have minors in many departments, we should be able to have student spaces for art, performances, [and] studying 24/7. We should be able to have top-notch mental health services and free STD testing given how much we pay to go here. Our goal is to address these things.
MJ: Going into next year we also would like to expand the free health services, increase on-campus jobs, and increase the student spaces on campus as well. That’s going to be the focus of what we’re doing.
A: Are there any potential changes you’d like to make to the WSA?
ZM: We’d definitely like to improve the outreach to students. I think starting with the newsletter was the first step; also by holding meetings in different places to expand our visibility. But we still think we need to make a more proactive effort to reach out to students. We’re going to canvass a lot more, potentially have a table in Usdan where people can interact with WSA members and register suggestions. We’re going to put a lot more effort on making sure that the SBC funding is going to the best student events and publications. I think there’s a lot of room for reform.
MJ: I think one of the biggest issues is to make sure that the WSA is treated just as any other student group is treated when it comes to finances. Any project we have would be evaluated on the same basis as any other student group.
A: What separates you from your opponent?
ZM: I think Arya and Sam see the WSA very differently. For the past years Mari and I have worked on projects to improve student life and the student experience, whether it was through getting more shuttles, more dining points, the cheese co-op, [or] the textbook exchange website. Arya’s time on the WSA has been more focused on being an adviser, having conversations about the student voice and what students think. I think we were really committed to tangible projects and we have a track record that just diverges from what Arya’s focus has been for the last three years. Lastly, I do think my experiences this year have put me in touch with student leaders from pretty diverse areas of campus. I’m not sure whether Arya and Sam have that experience.
MJ: We had very different approaches to the WSA. I think Zach and I are more goal-oriented and project-oriented. We like to see results for what we’re doing. It’s harder to say about Sam because this is his first semester on the WSA. But again I want to say that they’re both very committed and work very hard, it is a different approach.
A: What are some of the major issues on campus to you?
MJ: One big issue that arose the previous year and will be a major thing next year is trying to fight some of the restrictive administrative policies that have come up. Two of the major ones are the chalking policy, which has been around for quite a while, and the open container policy, which is newer. We believe these are rights of students that we want to fight for at Wesleyan.
ZM: A few things that are disconcerting would include the visiting professor issue—the number of courses we’re forcing our visiting professors to teach [and] how that may compromise the quality of academics at this institution. Similarly, the Art Library move is something that has bothered a lot of students. Mari and I are going to fight to make sure that this is a place where student input and student priorities are integrated and considered in the day-to-day operation of the school. I think that next year we’re going to make sure that students have access to the courses they want, that in departments where there’s the most need there are minors, there are good courses, and good professors. That’s something we’ve worked on and that’s something we want to continue working on.
A: Is there anything else you would like to say?
MJ: The thing we really want to emphasize is that we have been on the WSA for our whole time at Wesleyan. We’ve achieved a lot of results. We are very committed to both expanding student options, making Wesleyan more affordable, [and] also hearing what the needs of the student body are and providing the best possible support for that.
ZM: I really hope that we can make the WSA a friendly place—a place that students feel is helping them out, listening to them, asserting their viewpoints to administrators, getting results for them. I really hope we can do that, and I’m really excited for the opportunity to do that with Mari. I love the WSA and helping the community and I’m looking forward to more of it.