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Editorial: For Student Association President: Grace Wickerson

Courtesy Christina Tan

By Thresher Editorial Board     2/19/19 10:35pm

It is the opinion of the Thresher editorial board that only Brown College junior Grace Wickerson has the experience, attitude and knowledge to effectively lead the student body as next year’s Student Association president. During Friday’s SA Debates and in an interview with the Thresher editorial board, Wickerson, the current SA internal vice president, has demonstrated that they are committed to moving the SA forward and building consensus.

Wickerson demonstrated a mastery of the subject matter that their opponents simply did not. They spoke comfortably and specifically about areas in which they would like to improve financial accessibility — especially at the college level — and discussed specific ways they would like to improve sustainability in the athletic department including providing recycling bins in facilities and installing more efficient lighting.

Wickerson also noted in their interview that they have a close relationship with administrators which was built during their previous SA roles. They said that they have laid the groundwork for their plan to improve the process of taking time off from the university and have a close relationship with the director of the Rice Student Health Services Office that may yield the expanded weekend hours they call for in their platform. Wickerson is known to the administration and one critical function of the SA president is to lobby administrators in students’ interest. 

Baker College senior Bill Duong proved entertaining as he applied his single-plank platform to the questions posed at Friday’s debate. However, we believe that students have bigger problems than 8 a.m. classes, and Duong’s singular focus on that issue makes him an unattractive candidate.

We find some of the constitutional reforms in Will Rice junior Freddy Cavallaro’s still-evolving platform enticing. For instance, we believe that allowing any student to submit legislation before the SA Senate without the requirement of a Senate co-sponsor would allow more voices to be heard in a reputedly insular institution. But we worry that some of his reforms, like a three-strike system for senators, would create friction and prevent real business from getting done. 

However, the primary factor preventing us from endorsing Cavallaro is his promise to resign upon either completing his reforms or deeming them impossible. That would throw the SA presidency into limbo. If Cavallaro were to win and resign, each SA vice president — first internal, then external — would have the option to either complete the rest of Cavallaro’s term or decline and force a special election. It is ironic that a candidate whose platform is rooted in the idea that the SA Senate isn’t representative of the student body intends to carry out a plan that could leave the student body with a president they did not elect — especially since both vice presidential races are uncontested. 

In our interview, Wickerson endorsed many of the reforms Cavallaro proposed and said they were willing to implement the more effective changes. Wickerson also discussed re-examining appointed executive positions, a point for which Cavallaro has advocated. They did not endorse the strike system, which they saw as poorly defined. 

While we endorse Wickerson, we find some of their platform points lacking in specifics, deliverables and methods of funding, including their promise to expand health center hours and create a voluntary social issues class. Wickerson noted during our interview that almost their entire platform is comprised of projects that would take over a year to implement. There is no guarantee that these projects would be taken up by Wickerson’s successor; therefore it is likely that even with Wickerson’s best efforts, many will never be completed. We recommend Wickerson set measurable one-year targets for each element of their platform to become a stronger candidate — something that would have proven necessary to earn our endorsement had either of their opponents not run single-issue campaigns.

Another potential problem we see with a Wickerson presidency comes from their track record. Wickerson was one of the minds behind the proposed Green Fund, which the Blanket Tax Committee dismissed, calling the plan “rushed”. After that, Wickerson attempted an end-run around the committee by taking the proposal directly to the SA Senate, a move which drew criticism. Past presidents have pushed to implement rushed plans  without the full buy-in of the student body, a pitfall Wickerson must be careful to avoid.

Cavallaro has done important work in calling attention to weaknesses in the SA Senate, but we don’t believe he is the candidate best suited to carry them out. Wickerson is capable of pushing for constitutional reforms — and perhaps eliminating 8 a.m. classes — while also serving as the student body’s voice to the administration. We think the choice is clear: Grace Wickerson for Student Association president. 

Infographic by Sydney Garrett

Correction Feb. 20, 11:00 a.m.: One line of this editorial initially misgendered Wickerson

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