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Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024
The Observer

Observer Editorial: The Observer Endorses Oppman-Lorenc

The Observer Editorial Board interviewed the only ticket running for Saint Mary’s student body president and vice president on Tuesday evening. The candidates —juniors Bailey Oppman and Lydia Lorenc — answered questions regarding their platform and plans for the following year, and shared their goals for the College’s Student Government Association (SGA). After reviewing their proposals, aims and qualifications, The Observer endorses Oppman and Lorenc for student body president and vice president, despite significant concerns about issues their platform fails to address.

The Oppman-Lorenc ticket proposed a number of initiatives that reflect their personal experience within SGA committees, particularly pertaining to food services and sustainability. The pair said it plans to expand Munch Money to various South Bend eateries, and has already gauged interest with places such as Einstein Bros. Bagels. Although this plan requires the cooperation of outside companies before it can be put into place, the ticket expressed optimism about the possibilities, pointing to Jimmy John’s and Papa John’s as examples of restaurants where the system has been implemented successfully.

The ticket also proposed a healthy-options-only café to be opened in the new Angela Athletic and Wellness Complex, as well as an addition to the BelleMobile app to allow for online ordering at the existing cafes on campus. Although the healthy options idea would benefit the Saint Mary’s community, the feasibility of the College and Sodexo implementing this initiative is questionable.

Additionally, Oppman-Lorenc stressed the importance of sustainability, a goal College President Jan Cervelli has been adamant about since arriving at Saint Mary’s. The pair plans to continue working towards a program to donate leftover food to the local food pantry, a plan the College has explored in previous years but has yet to fully implement. Oppman and Lorenc are still working on the logistics of transporting the food to the pantry, but creating a permanent program would be a great step forward for the College that we believe the ticket could realistically accomplish once in office.

Although the Oppman-Lorenc ticket had a clear vision with regards to food services and sustainability, several other points of their platform seemed vague and undeveloped. For this reason, our endorsement comes with a number of reservations. The ticket had a wide-ranging platform, but it lacked concrete and feasible goals. The issues of food service and sustainability were clearly well-researched, but outside of their previous experience in SGA, the candidates did not have well-articulated goals nor clearly defined paths to achieving the ambitions they did have in place.

In particular, one of the goals outlined in the pair’s platform is community, and though an enhanced sense of community is a reasonable goal to strive for, the Editorial Board does not think several of the ticket’s actual proposed initiatives — such as continuing to foster dialogue at Monthly Mingle events and organizing weekly office hours — are innovative. Students should expect more from their representatives than to maintain the values and structures already in place, particularly at a college that already succeeds on that front.

When the pair was asked about plans to introduce new programs or organize new events, their answers often reflected complacency with the status quo, opting to continue what the McCarthy-Dingler administration accomplished in the 2016-2017 school year and providing few fresh ideas. If the ticket truly deems improving the Saint Mary’s community to be one of the most important goals — considering they included that goal in their platform — their ideas should be more original and detail-oriented.

The pair’s optimism and dedication to the College is reflected throughout their platform, with an emphasis on community emerging from nearly every proposal. The Editorial Board commends this focus on sisterhood, but believes the candidates have room to improve in setting clear, specific and reasonable objectives in this area.

Notably, we found that the ticket also fell short on several important topics — specifically, diversity and sexual assault. Any plan to address sexual assault was omitted from the ticket’s platform altogether. This is surprising, especially since Lorenc served on former President Carol Ann Mooney’s Taskforce for Sexual Assault. More than simply surprising, however, we found this to be extremely concerning, given the fact sexual assault is such a prominent issue on college campuses. When asked if they had plans to combat sexual assault, the candidates merely pointed to the existing programming already available and the Belles Against Violence Office on campus.

The Oppman-Lorenc ticket also failed to present plans to address campus diversity in any capacity. The pair’s platform included a point on promoting inclusivity for people of different faiths, including those without a particular faith, but it did not expand further than that. The lack of specificity in this regard is not only concerning, but disappointing. Although religious diversity is important, the issues of race and gender should be a prevalent concern for the representatives of the student body.

The candidates brought up the issue of inclusivity as a potential topic for a meeting they hope to implement between the student body and the College’s administration, but again, they did not expand further than acknowledging that it is a topic that warrants discussion.

Despite these reservations, the Editorial Board felt the Oppman-Lorenc administration had some established, well laid out areas for advancement — particularly regarding food services and sustainability — which could potentially extend into other initiatives that would benefit the Saint Mary’s community.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.