As the election date for the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) presidential and vice presidential races approach, flyers for the candidates have been posted across campus, some of which have raised questions of accuracy. Chair of the WSA Student Affairs Committee (SAC) Nicole Updegrove ’14, Chair of the WSA Organizational and External Affairs Committee (OEAC) and current WSA vice president Mari Jarris ’14, and Keith Conway ’16 are vying for the presidential spots, while Chair of the WSA Finance and Facilities Committee (FIFAC) Andrew Trexler ’14 and Vice-Chair of the OEAC Chloe Murtagh ’15 are competing for the vice presidential position alongside Updegrove and Jarris, respectively.
There have been several complaints among some WSA members that some of the flyers inaccurately represent the candidates’ projects. According to members interviewed, between the two campaign flyers, the main issue of contention appeared to be Jarris and Murtagh’s statement that they initiated the free online New York Times subscriptions for students.
“The [New York] Times has always fallen under OEAC, which is the committee that Mari and Chloe both serve on,” said Senior Representative on the Student Budget Committee (SBC) Arya Alizadeh ’13. “But the brunt of that work was done last year by myself and the previous chair [Meherazad Sumariwalla ’12] …To my knowledge, the majority of the work was already done, and they just pressed the launch button.”
Academic Affairs Committee Chair Sam Ebb ’13 shared a similar sentiment.
“[The New York Times’ subscription has] been around for a while,” he said. “There was a donor, and we’ve lost some of that funding, so the Student Budget Committee has worked along with the WSA Executive Committee to ensure that we maintain the funding. So I’m not sure how they quite initiated it other than being on the committee that is working on it.”
Student Affairs Committee member Jake Blumenthal ’13 took issue with Jarris and Murtagh’s campaign claim of fighting administrative crackdowns, arguing that Trexler and Updegrove are ultimately more involved with the administration.
However, WSA members also noted that Jarris and Murtagh worked closely with members of the administration in projects last year. Ebb collaborated with Jarris during the establishment of academic minors and confirmed her involvement, as stated on Jarris and Murtagh’s flyer.
“Mari was one of the biggest student forces behind that last year when it was passed by EPC [Education Policy Committee],” he said. “She worked closely with [Andrews Professor of Economics] Joyce Jacobsen, who was the chair at the time. So Mari worked with her to kind of get that passed. Currently, the [person] working on minors [is] me, as the Chair of the Academic Affairs committee. But she was very involved with kind of getting the ball rolling with that last year.”
Ebb also agreed that, as claimed on campaign flyers, Murtagh was involved with the establishment of the new student fundraising organization to support financial aid, Wes to Wes, along with Ellen Paik ’16, who came up with the idea for the program.
Consistent with the claims of campaign flyers, Jarris also oversaw the advent of student oversight in the admissions process, as confirmed by Alizadeh.
“This idea has been toyed with since [my] freshman year, and it’s an idea that’s received a bunch of backlash,” he said. “On the one hand, I was impressed when it came around. On the other [hand], having been here a few years, I question whether it was necessary….That was definitely Mari’s doing, not her idea, but her doing.”
According to a WSA report from this past September, Murtagh had been working on eliminating unfair Fire Safety fines along with Dina Moussa ’12. A University website states that the graduated fine system for violations was implemented by campus Fire Safety for this academic year.
Ebb, Alizadeh, and Blumenthal corroborated the claims made on Trexler and Updegrove’s flyers. Blumenthal spoke in particular about Updegrove’s involvement in blocking automatic suspension for Tour de Franzia participants.
“The ‘Tour suspensions’ was Nicole, and I was working on this with her,” Blumenthal said. “We meet with the Student Life Administrators regularly, every other week, and they brought up all the policies they wanted to do for the Tour. After that we argued pretty hard against it to the point that it changed their minds….She was very strong in terms of making sure they knew that automatic suspensions were ridiculous, wouldn’t work, and would lead to widespread protests.”
According to Alizadeh, Updegrove has also been fighting for student health issues since her first semester on the WSA in the last academic year. With regard to Updegrove’s claim that she helped bring free STI testing to campus, Ebb clarified that because of Obama’s new healthcare law, insurance is required to cover STI testing. Because all University students must have insurance, the testing is therefore free. However, Updegrove worked with administrators to get the direct billing to insurance.
Alizadeh also commented on Trexler’s efforts to persuade Bon Appétit to shift its policies and create a new meal plan for upperclassmen, which is consistent with the claims on Trexler and Updegrove’s campaign flyers. He additionally commented on Trexler’s commitment to student-faculty engagement and his effort to create student-trustee forums, also consistent with the flyers.
Members encouraged voters to critically consider of poster claims. Ebb noted the inherent issues in campaign statements, and the difficulty of trying to fit everything onto a small piece of paper.
“I think it’s good to fact check [the flyers],” he said. “I think there are ways that statements can be interpreted that can be misleading. So it’s important to delve deeper into the stories behind what they’re doing.”