Interview: SGA Presidential candidates on eve of election: Aaron Shifreen and Matt Walsh sit down with the Skidmore News

Posted by Andy Shi

In an interview with the Skidmore News both candidates for SGA President, juniors Aaron Shifreen and Matt Walsh, sat down to explain their views and qualifications before the student body casts its vote on Thursday.

Q:  Why do you think you would make a good SGA President?

Shifreen: My greatest personality trait is I listen more than I talk. I'm open to other people's opinions. I hear both sides of an argument before I formulate an opinion and I'm good at finding compromise which has made me a good mediator. I'm honest, an awful liar. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I care very much for the student body. SGA must be more transparent, and I believe my predisposition to honesty will help achieve this goal.

Walsh: I think the president has to be responsible. Responsible to multiple groups, and responsible for getting things done. I am also efficient, which is a very important quality. As Junior Class President, I worked on starting the Sustainability Committee. I had to be able to meet deadlines and make sure everything was on track so we could start the committee this semester.

I have no problem speaking my mind, even if my opinions are different from others. I would not be silenced even by a majority, which would allow me to project the opinions of the many groups I've been voted to represent.

Q: How have you previously participated in SGA?

Shifreen: I have served on the SGA since my third week in Freshman year. I was Howe- Rounds President from Fall 2009 to the Fall of 2010 when I went to Washington D.C for a domestic study my sophomore spring. I served as the Honor Code Commissioner during his Sophomore year and am currently the Vice President of Residential Affairs, where I chair the Inter Hall Board; I also sit on the Communication and Outreach committee and Budget and Finance committee, and is also chair of the Moorebid Ad-Hoc committee.

I also sit on the Intercollegiate Policy and Planning subcommittee on Student Affairs (IPPC-SA), an all-college committee that discusses issues pertaining to student life at Skidmore. The committee is currently conducting research to predict if in the future Skidmore might become a smoke-free campus, as well as working on easing the burden of student parenting. I am also the  only student representative on the new residence hall group, where I did work on student concerns with environment, water quality and providing more large hydration systems to provide greater water quality.

Walsh: I joined the SGA as Vice-President of the Sophomore Class council. I sat on the Communication and Outreach committee and was involved with the organization of Spring Fling. I helped with finding the music for Fun Day (unofficially) and did odd-jobs for people who needed help. I helped with election and policy and worked on a flow-chart to better depict how the SGA runs.

This year I was elected to Junior Class President. In addition to organizing Junior Ring weekend, I am also in charge of mentoring the new Freshman Class council. I help them transition into SGA. I also sit on the academic council and help plan the Major Fair.

My responsibility is to help people even if I don't identify with them. I am part of mobilizing the effort to educate the campus on diversity.

Q: What are important decisions you have made while a member of SGA?

Shifreen: As Vice-President of Residential Affairs I've worked on changing Moorebid without compromising its values and traditions. This past year I felt we - campus security, SGA, and Residential Life- did the best we could with the time and resources we were given, but by already having the ball rolling for next year, we have a shot at making sure the event will be as safe and enjoyable as possible for the student body.

Walsh: I can't really pinpoint one decision, it's all been more of one whole process. Just being part of the Senate body and helping manage the budget, willingness to serve, reaching out to others, see what they wanted, shape policy around others and just in general give back to Skidmore.

Q: What do you believe are the most pressing issues at Skidmore and how would you address them?

Shifreen: There is a need for the SGA to become more transparent. There is a need for dissemination of information from the SGA to the student body. Only certain SGA officers have control of the SGA email and that the content of the emails should pertain to announcing changes in policy as opposed to solely advertising events.

Another big issue with Skidmore is the way the college administration treats SGA. The administration doesn't take SGA seriously because the student body doesn't. We need to make the SGA and administration more accountable to the student body. This accountability could be accomplished by actively petitioning people on big decisions.

Walsh: SGA needs to encourage student input in decisions in a more formal sense such as with the AOD policy and summer housing. There should be more students in the SGA committees making policy with everyone else. Although the SGA members are voted to speak on behalf of the student body, there is a need for more student contribution in discussions on major issues that will affect the campus.

There is also a large diversity concern. The school can only do so much to getting the community to a comfortable place. As a freshman, I didn't see diversity as an issue, but once I joined SGA I realized how ignorant I was of the issues and that ignorance is part of the issue. I see a need to work on creating a more accepting campus and plans on working more closely with the Vice President of Diversity Affairs to formulate new ideas and plans for achieving this goal.

Both candidates encouraged students to attend Speech night on Wednesday and to cast their votes Thursday, at either designated voting booths in the dining hall or Case center. It's also possible to vote on the SGA website from any computer.

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