CATHOLIC VALUES COLUMNIST
A hectic and almost completely virtual Franciscan University Student Government election season came to a finish Friday, when Athanasius Sirilla and Clement Harrold were elected its next president and vice president.
The Sirilla-Harrold campaign ran on a platform including 20 policies the pair said they would advocate for if elected to office. They defeated Emma Vansuch and Patrick O’Brien’s campaign, which had made mental health advocacy its focal point, by a margin of 70.54%-28.03%.
“My immediate reaction was one of relief that the campaign was over,” said Sirilla on learning of his victory after 8 p.m. “We ended up having a celebratory Zoom call with the team … which was really nice to be able to see them.”
On Saturday, Vansuch reacted to the results, saying over text, “Obviously we’re disappointed to have lost. We put a lot of work into our campaign and were really hopeful. But it was so hard, with everything on social media, to gauge over the last few weeks how results were gonna look.”
The final days of the campaign were heated and had moments of drama as supporters of each campaign rallied around their candidates. Because in-person campaigning was not an option, given the coronavirus restrictions sending students to their homes, the campaigns relied on social media to disseminate information; Sirilla also had a campaign website. The Facebook group Frannies Chat saw an influx of posts in support of both campaigns. However, some students said certain posts crossed the lines of charity and gamesmanship.
Student Jen Hantz posted in Frannies Chat on Friday with a condemnation of what she called “taking politics the same exact way as … our country and secular culture.”
“Candidates are giving their opinions about other candidates to turn the spotlight back on them and it’s so sad,” she continued. “We NEED this to change. We NEED to raise the bar HIGHER and we shouldn’t stand for anything less.”
Sirilla commented a response on Hantz’s posts, saying that no one had confronted him about his campaign being uncharitable, adding that he “sincerely apologize if what I have posted on any platform was uncharitable.”
Friday night, Sirilla expressed regret over the aggression that had taken place on social media by people on both sides.
“Definitely, I never saw any of that from Emma or Pat or any of the people on their cabinet,” Sirilla said. “But people on both sides … got a little bit heated and that was really unfortunate.”
On her end, Vansuch said it’s understandable that tensions would run high “when it’s a tight race and everyone on campus knows each side so well. It can get personal far more quickly. We definitely tried to maintain as little engagement with the drama as possible, because our goal has always been respect and ultimately collaboration between the two teams and that sort of social media stuff is never constructive.”
Many people considered the race the first in several years to feature more than one viable candidate, meaning the lopsided results surprised some. Still, both Sirilla and Vansuch expressed their respect for their opponent.
“Knowing Emma, I knew (her campaign) wasn’t going to be a joke,” Sirilla said in an interview April 25. “They’ve done an incredible job.”
Vansuch concurred, saying, “We knew going in that this could be one of the tightest races campus had seen in a while. But we ultimately decided it was worth presenting our campaign and ourselves even if it meant a tight run, because we knew we had a lot of good to offer.”
Mental health awareness and treatment became a banner issue of the election, with both sides making it a central part of their campaigns. Vansuch’s campaign in particular ran with mental health as its main issue. Sirilla said he would welcome an opportunity to continue working on the issue with Vansuch in an official capacity, especially if Vansuch were to run for a Senate seat.
“She’s definitely shown a real interest in using Student Government’s resources to further her ideas and make campus better,” Sirilla said. “I would love to have a more formal structure to have her voice out there (as a senator). It would also just make collaboration so much easier because it wouldn’t have to be restricted to an informal meeting, but she could actually sit in on (Student Government) meetings.”
Vansuch said she would be open to a Senate position, if not working in some other capacity with Sirilla, but will decide first what the best route for her is moving forward.
“A lot of it will come down to what’s an approachable project for us, and how we want to prioritize approaching all the different pieces of the issue,” she said.
Here are the full election results as provided by Chief Justice Billy Chester:
- President-Vice President: Sirilla-Harrold, 70.54%; Vansuch-O’Brien, 28.03%
- Senior Senators: Carly Newman
- Junior Senators: According to Chester, there was an issue with the junior senator ballot and juniors must vote again for only that position. This special election will be held Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Blackboard.
- Sophomore Senators: Maria Gontis, Emmanuel Gessler, Leo Schafer, Camille Radakichenane, James Duarte