By Connor Ryan
Tochi Mgbenwelu, FCRH ’15, and Nevin Kulangara, GSB ’15, made their United Student Government presidential candidacies official Wednesday night — nearly a week before voting is set to open on campus — by publishing Facebook pages and websites, detailing their personal backgrounds and presenting future plans if given the chance to lead Rose Hill’s student body.
It marks the first step in a week-long blitz of campaigning that is anticipated to consist of hustled residence hall tours, intense social media promotions, polarizing endorsements and a debate on Monday night between the executive tickets.
Upon close examination of the candidates’ platforms, Fordham Daily found that Mgbenwelu and Kulangara share several goals. Both candidates, for example, plan to make the club budget process more transparent, the campus more sustainable and the purpose of USG more defined.
The specifics of how the candidates say they will go about accomplishing those goals, however, vary noticeably.
Mgbenwelu plans to clarify the “rules and rulings” of the budget process. She also plans on sending out monthly emails to students with updates about the developments of USG. In the hopes of bridging the gap between students and USG, Mgbenwelu highlights an absence of communication between student leaders and club representatives, according to her platform.
Meanwhile, Kulangara says the additional revenue gained from the increased student activities fee should be put toward “a diverse group of student clubs that represent the various interest and passions” of the student body. In addition, he would recommend that Fordham host training sessions with professors unfamiliar with Blackboard in an effort to limit the printing of class materials. Kulangara also plans to make USG’s role in New Student Orientation more prominent in order to inform freshmen of student government’s purpose on campus.
In general, Kulangara’s platform — shared with his running mate Sarah Skrobala, FCRH ’15, who is currently studying abroad in Spain — uses specific language to connect large concepts of policy to practical examples of action. Mgbenwelu — who shares her platform with running mate Anisah Assim, FCRH ’16 — provides far fewer details, displaying her platform via quick phrases in bullet-point form.
Kulangara’s platform is divided into eight areas of attention: Student Life, Academic Life, Sustainability, Free Speech and Expression, Fordham in the Bronx, USG Visibility, Budget Allocation and USG Operations. Under each heading are focused plans of action that range in subject matter and scope. For example, Kulangara wants to join resident and commuter students “by creating more co-programming opportunities between student groups on campus,” and create an interactive guide to the Bronx to promote off-campus activities.
Also included in Kulangara’s platform are points of attention that would help further develop unfinished projects that he and Skrobala have personally invested a significant amount of time and focus. It is clear, for example, that Kulangara would work to approve Fordham Student Holdings, “an umbrella organization designed to organize and monitor student-run businesses on campus,” — a project he has been almost entirely focused on this year. Another point is to investigate how alumni can directly donate to accessibility renovations on campus — a subject Skrobala researched and authored a report on last year.
Mgbenwelu’s platform is centered around a theme of uniting USG and the student body, especially club leaders. Among Mgbenwelu’s specific ideas: post a calendar of all campus events for students to view, place a USG suggestion box in the McGinley Center and work more closely with the Deans Council to boost student research.
But the platform’s vague language raises questions about how Mgbenwelu plans to implement the larger policy themes she highlights. A series of bullet points, (for example: “increase club outreach,” “promote open meetings,” “promote open Student Life Council meetings” and “creating better resources for clubs to understand club processes”) match Mgbenwelu’s ideological baseline, but specific details are not present.
Alongside a platform page, Mgbenwelu touts a message of transparency, collaboration and inclusion in a page labeled, “Our Philosophy.”
“Collectively, USG is bursting with knowledge and we want to share that knowledge with the whole student body,” the page says. “We want to be there to listen to concerns and to respond immediately. By creating more of a transparent environment, USG will not only be more approachable for clubs but also students who are seeking partners in change.”
Mgbenwelu’s platform does not address free speech on campus — a controversial topic that has been widely discussed on campus over the course of each student’s three years on campus. Kulangara, however, does discuss free speech in his platform.
Editor’s note: Because this is meant to be an article of straight platform analysis, neither of the candidates were contacted for comment.