The cabinet secretaries of Student Assembly President Ryan Scofield’s administration assembled for their weekly cabinet meeting Sunday night, sitting in a row of couches and chairs in the SA house. Across from them sat Scofield, a senior, flanked on his left by Vice President Amanda Norris, also a senior, and on his right by acting Chief of Staff Tom Moyer, a junior. Filling in the semi-circle was SA Senator and former Chief of Staff James Evans, a senior, who sat leaning against the TV cart at the front of the room.
p. The start of the meeting had been delayed a few minutes by the viewing of an episode of “The Serious Show,” a mock news show in the vein of “The Daily Show,” produced by and starring the student government officials themselves. This particular episode featured a segment on Scofield inspecting the condom supply at the Fish Bowl, and another in which Evans did his best frazzled pundit impersonation, referring to the president as “Ryan [expletive deleted by program] Scofield” on more than one occasion, and attacking Secretary of Public Affairs Seth Levey.
“Seth Levey? That guy hasn’t had a public affair since the Brett Phillips incident,” he said.
p. Once the meeting was underway, each of the cabinet secretaries (there are six total, but Secretary of Health and Safety Anna Bovill, a senior, was absent from Sunday’s meeting) briefed Scofield and Norris on their respective divisions, discussing both past and upcoming events. The tone of the meeting was very laid-back, as multiple conversations carried on at once. Topics of discussion ranged from serious policy matters, to Norris’ insistence on the need to play rap as filler music in between acts during campus events.
p. “I’m sick of this Jimmy Buffet shit,” Norris said.
p. Despite the casual atmosphere, the meeting did not get out of hand; Scofield shushed everyone at one point to bring the conversation level down. The dynamic of the cabinet meeting highlighted the three main components of the administration: Scofield and Norris, the executive staff and the cabinet.
p. **Scofield and Norris**
“We’re equals, as far as I’m concerned,” Scofield said of himself and Norris. He added that their goal in every instance is to come to a decision that they both agree upon, which he said happens “98 percent of the time.”
p. This system of equality was decided upon when they first agreed to run for SA executive offices. Scofield, who was the secretary of the class of 2007, and Norris, who was the president, had each become discontented with the direction in which the SA was going. Although they were not close friends at the time, they had discussed the possibility of running before. On the night before their last chance to declare their candidacy, Scofield went over to Norris’ dorm room in Jefferson Hall. Norris was especially unsure of making the jump, as she would have to give up her position as class president to run for SA vice president. After a long discussion, they came to a decision.
p. “We were just like, ‘OK, let’s do it.’ And the rest is history, I guess,” Scofield said.
p. After they won the election, Scofield grew into the role of the public leader, the face of the administration — a role he still holds today. While Norris excels in creating policy, Scofield’s strengths lie in implementation. He also tends to take the lead on finance, diversity initiatives and public affairs issues. Norris steps forward on academic policy, student life and health and safety issues, is described by her aides and advisers as a very hard worker behind the scenes.
p. “No one on this campus works harder for the students than Amanda Norris,” Moyer said.
p. While they have equal roles in decision-making, their leadership styles are very different. Norris said that Scofield does a good job of never getting angry, but that she tends to lose her cool and be less diplomatic at times. Evans, who describes the two as “an old married couple,” said that their differences work to their advantage.
p. “They don’t always agree, but they compromise,” Evans said.
p. “They work independently a lot, but when they work together they’re very effective.”
p. When asked what they believe makes a successful administration, Scofield emphasized “being normal students.” He said that both of them function as all students do (although he is quick to point out that Norris now lives off campus and no longer has a meal plan), which enables them to stay in tune with the wants and needs of the student body. Norris cited setting realistic goals as another essential aspect of a successful administration.
p. She added that they have been largely successful in implementing the programs that they set out to, listing the Blue Book policy, the revamped Alcohol Task Force and the Campus Bike Program as a few of her proudest achievements. Scofield mentioned that the few areas in which they did not have as much success as they would have liked involved city issues, such as student voting and the three-person housing law.
p. Their friendship has grown during their time working together, as they each now consider the other a very close friend. They often go out to dinner together, and set a rule for the night that they are not allowed to talk about the SA (Norris admitted that this rule often ends up being broken). Scofield said that he feels as though he can call on Norris for anything, and Norris said that she considers Scofield her closest male friend.
p. “He held my head for three hours on my 21st birthday,” Norris said. “That’s true friendship.”
p. Scofield cites their bond as key to their working relationship.
p. “I think that’s the source of any strength that our administration has,” Scofield said. “It’s very helpful to know that we’re always there for each other.”
p. **The Executive Staff**
Acting Chief of Staff Moyer began his tenure with the Scofield-Norris administration when he signed on as communications director two years ago. He then became deputy chief of staff to Evans, and ran the re-election campaign in spring 2006. This year, after Evans left his post as chief of staff to become a senator of the class of 2007, Moyer assumed the role of acting chief of staff.
p. Moyer acts the part of a behind-the-scenes adviser. Dressed in business casual for the informal cabinet meeting, his Blackberry at the ready, Moyer grows visibly nervous at the slightest off-color comment made by anyone in the administration during the meeting, seemingly concerned about the media presence.
p. His experience as communications director is very apparent, as not only is he careful to shield the public from anything appearing slightly controversial (“no comment” and “off the record” are key phrases in his repertoire), but he also has a knack for producing a good sound byte (he described Scofield as being “blessed with an uncommon combination of brilliance and approachability”). Moyer also weighs in on policy issues and attends senate meetings to stay abreast of the latest bills. He described a main component of his job as “making sure Ryan and Amanda are as informed as possible.”
p. Evans, who served as chief of staff for approximately a year and a half, was appointed to the SA senate this year after a seat opened. Scofield said that while Evans no longer has any official role in his administration, he unofficially turns to Evans for advice on gauging the pulse of the senate and questions regarding SA procedures. He estimated that since Evans joined the senate he has come to about two out of every three cabinet meetings.
p. “I still come to cabinet regularly,” Evans said. “I don’t want to change my role as an advisor and a friend, I just wanted to change my title.”
p. Evans’ presence at the cabinet meeting created an interesting dynamic, as he joked about whether or not he should even be in attendance (Norris made a similar joke, asking “Why are you here?”), and chose not to be photographed with the rest of the meeting’s members for this story, yet still took an active advisory role in the discussion and debate of various issues.
There are six cabinet secretaries in the Scofield-Norris administration: senior Casaundra Maimone, secretary of academic policy; senior Bradley Justus, secretary of finance; senior Megan Dorward, secretary of student life; Bovill, secretary of health and safety; senior Lydia Bailey, secretary of diversity initiatives; and Levey, secretary of public affairs. Each cabinet secretary has a deputy secretary and as many assistant secretaries as they see fit (Levey’s deputy, sophomore Julie Dewberry, was the only deputy in attendance for Sunday’s cabinet meeting).
p. “We couldn’t do anything without [the cabinet secretaries],” Scofield said.
p. The cabinet secretaries work together with Scofield and Norris both to come up with policy initiatives and implement them, regardless of whose idea the policy was. Dorward, who often works closely with Norris, said that Norris is “always willing to champion a cause I believe in.” Justus said that there is a feeling of “equality with a sense of direction” with regard to Scofield and Norris’ relationship with the cabinet. The group is very tight-knit as a whole, as they spend a lot of time together socially (they plan to spend a weekend at Norris’ family beach house in North Carolina sometime in the next month). Moyer said that Scofield and Norris have gained the respect and friendship of their cabinet secretaries.
“They earn people’s respect,” Moyer said. “They don’t come in to these positions expecting it by virtue of their title.”