This year’s Student Assembly presidential election is unfolding at an unprecedented time for the College of William and Mary. While classes have been suspended and residence halls are shuttered for the rest of the semester because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the novel virus has also had spillover consequences for April 2’s SA elections, with campaigning and voting moving entirely online in a stark contrast to last year’s competitive contest. These incredible circumstances demand a presidential ticket capable of calming minds, assuaging nerves and exercising leadership; for this reason, despite some reservations about their platform, The Flat Hat Editorial Board endorses the uncontested candidacy of Senate Chair Anthony Joseph ‘21 and Sen. Kyle Vasquez ‘21.
Joseph and Vasquez offer unparalleled experience in SA, and subsequently will be adept at navigating Senate bureaucracy and engaging in meaningful conversations with College officials. Their passion for a myriad of diverse policy issues, including on vital topics like diversity, mental health accessibility and LGBTQ+ advocacy, will serve us well in improving student life. Furthermore, their positive working relationships with a vast array of SA representatives, student organization leaders and advocacy organizers demonstrate a laudable dedication to campus engagement. We were also very impressed by their response and plan for the COVID-19 pandemic. They have well developed plans to deal with the many issues and disruptions caused by the pandemic. Likewise, their unwavering commitment to campus safety brings us relief after the inaction of previous administrations. We especially commend them for their plan to instill active-shooter prevention on campus.
Though we appreciate Joseph and Vasquez’s experience in navigating SA and the College’s administration, we have concerns about their platform and its feasibility. It is difficult to completely grasp everything they plan for their term because some of their plans seem unlikely to ever happen.
“These incredible circumstances demand a presidential ticket capable of calming minds, assuaging nerves and exercising leadership; for this reason, despite some reservations about their platform, The Flat Hat Editorial Board endorses the uncontested candidacy of Sens. Anthony Joseph ‘21 and Kyle Vasquez ‘21.”
For example, part of their platform includes the refitting of all of the residence halls in order to be fully accessible, which sounds great, but is not likely to happen under their term. There is no way that the College could take on all of those projects in one summer, or any time soon if they were to spread it out. They say that they have spoken to the administration about completing construction in a more timely manner, but the College does not have the best record with construction. Various construction projects across campus have lasted far longer than planned, such as the renovation of Landrum Hall, the Reveley Garden and Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall. Also, if the two of them want all of the halls to be fully accessible, a lot of the halls would require extensive work, such as the addition of air conditioning and elevators, as well as addressing the mold concerns in several of the older dorms. As nice as this idea is, their plan to tackle these housing concerns does not provide many details to how they would accomplish such a difficult task.
In a similar vein, Joseph and Vasquez’s commitment to diversity rung hollow through their lack of detailed action plans. Sprinkled throughout their platform one can spot platitudes paying homage to multiculturalism. However upon closer inspection, a lack of audible inclusion of several marginalized groups, such as Hispanic/Latino students and Jewish students who require Kosher options, proved to be alarming. Despite this, we appreciated Joseph and Vasquez’s commitment to diversity of thought. As advocates of the “Chicago Statement of Free Expression,” their future administration will work to continue to protect speech on campus as afforded by the First Amendment. We especially appreciate that they will seek to continue to work with the William and Mary Police Department and the Williamsburg Police Department through their taskforce for free speech in order to prevent the violent suppression of free speech that we’ve seen at other universities in the United States.
Additionally, we implore Joseph and Vasquez to continue to flesh out their plan for reparations for African Americans at the College, ensuring that they work side-by-side with the administration and with all students, without antagonizing anyone in the process. Likewise, we approve of their policy to rename buildings with unsavory Confederate origins, under the condition that they work to preserve both sides of history and not erase events from our past deemed as inconvenient by reactionary groups on campus. After all, how can we hope to not repeat the past if we’re erasing it from our memory?
Along with housing and accessibility, another important issue addressed by Joseph and Vasquez is the enforcement and effectiveness of Title IX. We feel that some parts of their platform are vague and don’t offer any realistic courses of action or specific ideas to help the College with sexual assault prevention and support for survivors. One example is their plan to “ensure that all information related to sexual assault is easily digestible and available to all students.” While this is all well and good, the statements provide no concrete plan of action or description of what “easily digestible” might mean in this context. We worry that with vague points like this one, an issue as important and nuanced as Title IX might not be getting the attention and detailed reforms it needs.
The staff editorial represents the official opinion of The Flat Hat. The editorial board, which is elected by The Flat Hat’s section editors and executive staff, consists of Gavin Aquin Hernández, Zoe Beardsley, Ethan Brown, Chloe Folmar and Alyssa Slovin. Email email@example.com.
Editor’s Note: Ethan Brown recused himself from this editorial to maintain objectivity in his reporting.