CATHOLIC VALUES COLUMNIST
For juniors Athanasius Sirilla and Clement Harrold, serving as Franciscan University Student Government’s president and vice president means one thing above all: to be the voice of the students.
“The mission of Student Government is to represent students to the administration and the administration to the students,” said Sirilla in a phone call Saturday. “I think in a lot of ways, students have concerns that the administration is either unaware of, or they don’t know the extent to which that’s (the students’) concerns. We want to be that voice and make (the relationship) better.”
One of two tickets running to be next year’s president and vice president, Sirilla has been preparing for this election since the spring 2019 semester. Serving as a senator his sophomore year, Austrian ambassador in fall 2019 and currently as treasurer, Sirilla said his previous Student Government experience showed him the potential the organization has and how, if elected, he and his team could “change it for the better.”
The Sirilla-Harrold platform consists of 20 policies structured under five main goals: Increase Transparency, Support Students, Foster Authentic Community, Improve Facilities and Renew Campus Culture. Sirilla said each goal is a way in which his team believes the university can improve for the better, and the subsequent policies are specific ways those goals can be achieved.
The campaign’s policies range from hosting a monthly coffee-and-doughnuts for fellowship after a Sunday Mass to conducting semesterly town hall meetings with the Rev. Dave Pivonka, university president, for students to address the administration directly and ask Pivonka questions.
“I understand it’s a very ambitious plan, but it’s one we’ve definitely thought about a lot,” said Sirilla. “We know we can achieve it if we put our mind to it and we have a team that’s willing to work with us.”
While Sirilla said that many issues, especially mental health awareness and treatment on campus, are important to him and his team, their priority is transparency — from the university to the students and vice versa. It’s something he believes is lacking from the current Student Government.
“I don’t think Student Government is on purpose trying to be secretive, but they’re doing a really bad job of making themselves accessible,” he said.
As an example of Student Government being accessible, Sirilla cited last year’s practice of FUSG on the Hill, a weekly event where Student Government members surveyed students about changes they would like to see at Franciscan. This year, however, similar efforts have unfortunately been non-existent, he said.
Additionally, Sirilla would like to make minutes and bills from Student Government meetings publicly available and revive Student Government’s university website, which hasn’t been updated in over a year and is not accessible over the university’s internet.
Sirilla credits the election season with bringing the issue of mental health on campus to the forefront, saying he’s “been struck by the actual extent of the problem” over the course of his campaign. As part of his plan, he will be creating the informal, unpaid position of student support advocate to gather input on how the university addresses mental health and to present to the rest of Student Government how it can better support mental health awareness and treatment.
Additionally, Sirilla hopes to allocate $5,000 of next semester’s Student Government budget toward addressing mental health. While he said he doesn’t know exactly how that money will be used, he hopes it will be used to raise awareness and provide resources on the issue, maybe even being used for a conference on mental health awareness.
“It’s something we’re going to be working on with the student support advocate and with the Senate to determine,” he said.
When Sirilla and Harrold put together their proposed cabinet, Sirilla said they did so with diversity in mind.
“We wanted to ensure that every single major group on campus was represented,” Sirilla said. “We represent, I believe, 14 majors, 11 households, and six sports, as well as freshmen, sophomores and juniors.”
Additionally, Sirilla made the unusual step of selecting four people to fill vacant justice positions; previously, candidates have put forth a nominee for chief justice but not for the other justice positions. However, Sirilla said this move was made with transparency in mind.
“We want to show them that I’m not trying to hide my best candidates and not be up-front or transparent with the rest of the student body,” he said.
Sirilla’s proposed executive and judicial members are as follows: Harrold, vice president; Jack Greve, treasurer; Joshua Schutte, internal auditor; Ellie McCarty, secretary; Amelia Kehoe, public relations liaison; Pilar Slonkosky, student support advocate; Paul Aubert, executive assistant; Katie Parrish, Austrian consul; Mary Ann Cortese, chief justice; Aidan Howard, justice; Josh Costello, justice; MaryKate Bateman, justice; and Francesca Dyke, justice.
For all his campaign’s proposed policies, Sirilla would not have the actual authority to enact most of them, especially with financial allocations. He acknowledged this, saying that his administration would “do the utmost” in order to make those policies realities, but exactly how it all plays out relies heavily on the Senate, which is elected by the student body, not appointed by the executive branch.
“We need the Senate,” Sirilla said. “Even though (Student Government has) a budget, it’s not my prerogative on to just spend that money as I will.”
He also said that while he hopes to bring the current administration’s ideas to fruition — such as extended hours in the J.C. Williams Center and student key card access to their households’ dorms — he can’t commit to that.
“We don’t know that we can’t do them,” Sirilla said. “We just are very unsure about whether or not we can. … So, we just want to say we will advocate for it.”
In the end, Sirilla said he believes Franciscan University is great and Student Government specifically can make it better.
“Our goal is to change Student Government from being a group of 20 students who just sit in the St. Leo Room that nobody knows what they do to a Student Government where people feel like they’re being represented and they really understand what’s going on.”
For more information on the Sirilla-Harrold campaign, visit makefranciscangreatagain.com/.