Keith Conway ’16

The Argus: Of the things you’ve done at Wesleyan, of what are you most proud?
Keith Conway: My Wesleyan career has just begun, so I haven’t completed a lot of things, but I’ve started the initial groundwork on a couple of things that I’m proud of. I’m in my first season of track, my second season of varsity running. Every season you view as something to be proud of. A lot of hard work goes into every race.

A: What made you decide to run for WSA president?
KC: When I got the emails about the elections, I was talking with a few people, and I realized that no one really knows what goes on in the WSA, and that’s not right because it’s supposed to be the student body’s hand in the administration, not the administration’s hand in the student body. I thought I should try to change this and make it more transparent for everyone, make it more to where anyone can have their say, not just this group who, even what they decide on, no one really knows how it went down unless you read the minutes online, which some of the minutes aren’t even updated lately. I just thought it could be much more transparent.

A: Why would you make the best WSA President?
KC: A lot of people say that the fact that I haven’t been a part of the WSA is a bad thing, but I think it’s actually a good thing. Everyone who has been a part of the WSA has all these allegiances to other people on the WSA. I’m willing to work with anyone. I have no true biases against groups of people at Wesleyan. I’m a fresh set of eyes on the whole process. I could give it a new direction that it might have been lacking, make it more efficient than it has been, maybe make it so that it can be more about the students and not just about the 12 or 15 people who are in each general assembly.

A: Assuming you’re elected, what will be your top priorities when you take office?
KC: One thing I think should definitely be addressed is getting a second practice room for music because there’s only one full one. There are so many bands on campus that we should be accommodating them more and more. They’re a huge part of our community, and everyone enjoys the bands when they’re playing, so we should support them by giving them a place to practice.

A: What distinguishes you from your opponents?
KC: I’m a fresh face that can just bring new ideas, new energy, not the same things that these candidates have been saying for the last few years on the WSA. I have new policies that could work that they might not have. I’m an athlete, so I know what teamwork is all about. I’ll cooperate with other people and work hard to get stuff done. I feel like those things can definitely be added to make the WSA even more effective.

Mari Jarris ’14 and Chloe Murtagh ’15

The Argus: Of the things that each of you have done at Wesleyan, of what are you most proud?
Mari Jarris: Last year, I was the chair of the Academic Affairs Committee, and a project that the WSA had been talking about for a long time—that the whole campus had been talking about for a long time—was getting academic minors at Wesleyan. I worked with this professor, Joyce Jacobsen, about the proposal, and we ended up after talking with a lot of different professors and departments passing that through first the Educational Policy Committee, and then, finally, through the faculty.
Chloe Murtagh: Last year I was on Student Affairs, and I worked on the Fire Safety Committee and wrote a proposal that eventually got passed through to have a graduated fine system for some fire safety offenses. It’s a more fair system for infractions.

A: Is there anything that, in retrospect, you would have done differently, or that you wish you could have done differently?
CM: Last year on Student Affairs, I began engaging with the chalking ban. We started with a certain approach, and it was a lot of negotiating; we thought that would be the best way to appeal to the administration. Turned out to be unsuccessful because when you make so many promises—what’s going to be written, where it’s going to be written, with what medium, on what surface—it’s really easy for the administration to just be like, “It’s not going to meet these perimeters that you’re setting.” We learned from that experience and this year, I’m working with people on the WSA to engage with the issue in a totally different way.
MJ: As VP right now in the structure of the WSA, you are the chair of the Organization and External Affairs Committee. It’s a lot of internal WSA structure, whereas going into VP, I was more focused on policy issues and projects. I think one thing I regret is not being able to be engaged in those policy issues and projects that I really set out to.

A: Why would you make the best President/VP team?
MJ: We really want to focus on a different style of leadership. Rather than what we have right now, which is basically the power and responsibilities concentrated in eight members [of the Executive Committee], we want to have a different model where each member of the Assembly has formal responsibilities, whether that means being the point person for a project, being the chair of a subcommittee, or doing whatever they conceive as their main purpose and role on the WSA.

A: Assuming you’re elected, what will be your top priorities when you take office?
MJ: The two big things we want to focus on are financial aid/affordability and student rights and student options, in addition to internal WSA reform. This is something we’ve been really involved in this year because of the need-blind controversy. Chloe started up this student organization.
CM: We’re currently in the midst of finding ways for student groups and individual students to raise money for financial aid.
MJ: And I started this Admissions Committee, which is the first time we’ve had student oversight into the admissions process. As the changes to need-blind, now need-aware, are being implemented, we really want to make sure that we have students who are involved in the process and who are able to oversee it and, with that information, provide an argument for why we need to move back to need-blind.
CM: We really want to focus on increasing student rights and freedoms. Some things we want to focus on are lifting the chalking ban, reinstating senior cocktails in a way that works for everyone, and redefining RAs so they can become a person that residents are really comfortable trusting and speaking to without the fear of being written up.

A: What distinguishes you from your opponents?
MJ: We are really focused on and want to emphasize that every person has the capability and the potential to be a productive member of the Assembly. In order to build leadership, you need to take a few risks and entrust new Assembly members with a new project.
CM: We’re really reaching out to people in new ways and thinking about the current system in ways like, “Why are we not relating to students? Why are they not coming to our meetings? What are some ways we can really reach out to these people?” We want to engage people and stir their passions.

Nicole Updegrove ’14 and Andrew Trexler ’14

The Argus: What has each of you done throughout your time on the WSA that you’re most proud of?
Andrew Trexler: For this particular year, I suppose the thing I’m most proud of, even though it hasn’t resulted in the most satisfactory conclusion, is my work with Zach Malter and the Student Budget Sustainability Task Force on the financial aid and need-blind admissions issue.
Nicole Updegrove: This year, I’ve been the chair of the Student Affairs Committee. We work with everything from ResLife to Public Safety to judicial things, alcohol, things like that. And what I’m most proud of is being able to get and respond to real student feedback about how those systems are working.

A: Is there anything that, in retrospect, you would have done differently, or that you wish you could have done differently?
NU: I think everyone knows about the smoking resolution. I don’t regret putting it forward, because I think we had a really valuable discussion on campus about smoking, about Neon Deli and the role that it plays on this campus, and I appreciate that a lot of people got involved and made their voices heard. The one thing I wish I had done differently is not started with a document, because as soon as there was a proposal, people sort of panicked.
AT: One of my largest regrets over the last two years, specifically, is I’ve done significantly less active canvassing, going around door-to-door, asking people for suggestions and issues that are bothering them, and that sort of thing; because of my position as chair of the Student Affairs Committee last year and then the chair of the Finance and Facilities Committee this year, I’ve found myself too bogged down in organizational things for my committee.

A: Why would you make the best President/VP team?
AT: I would say that, of the members of the assembly, Nicole and I are two of, if not the most hardworking members on the Assembly. We’re both relatively rational people, and we do take time to consider what the opinion of the students is, and we do try to get to the bottom of an issue before we vote on it or take action on an issue.
NU: I’ve only been on [the WSA] for three semesters, [so] I’ve had three semesters just as a student like everyone else not really understanding what the WSA did, not really understanding how they affected my life and my experience here. I think that brings something really different to the table; I’m not as wedded to the structures we work under, which aren’t always great.

A: Assuming you’re elected, what will be your top priorities when you take office?
AT: The first one I would say is the consent pledge campaign; promoting a culture of consent on campus and actively trying to reduce sexual violence in our community is probably the foremost of my priorities. Pretty close up there is getting the University to publish a road map to need-blind admissions so that the community can assess where Wesleyan is along that road map and further us toward getting back to need-blind admissions, which more or less everyone agrees is our goal.
NU: A big thing with me is working on getting alumni involved in helping us figure out what we’re doing. I’m currently working with the Board of Trustees on getting an optional January term at which alumni who we elect would come back and talk about how they got to where they are.

A: What distinguishes you from your opponents?
AT: Like Nicole, I was encouraged to run long before I made my own decision by a surprisingly large number of people. And one of the most influential things that was mentioned to me by somebody who’s been on the Assembly for a long time [was] that on more or less every sudden, important issue that has come up in the last three years or so, I have been there taking the lead on the WSA’s response to the issue, but our competitors have usually stayed relatively quiet.
NU: Along those lines, I think what sets us apart is just how hard we’ve worked and how many hours we’ve worked. We take this job really seriously. We were elected by students to be representatives. We were elected by the assembly to chair committees and to be on the Executive Committee, and that work is really serious, and so we try to go outside the scope of our explicitly-stated responsibilities.

Interviews were edited and condensed due to spacial constraints.

Comments are closed