Ahead of Student Government, Incorporated’s executive board elections for the 2020-21 academic year, Her Campus spoke with Ariel Laura Metayer and Carley Germain, who are running for president and vice president, respectively, of the DREAM ticket.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Her Campus: To start off, tell me about your platform.
Ariel: The platform we have is three pillars – accountability, visibility, and sustainability. Accountability really speaks to fostering a community in our campus that is holistic in a way that we approach it. We’re making sure that the student body is able to express themselves and their concerns.
For visibility, it really speaks to making sure that students on campus from underrepresented groups and marginalized backgrounds are recognizing that they have resources that are provided, and making sure those resources are accessible to them and at the forefront. Oftentimes we have organizations that are only known amongst a certain demographic but not known to another. We want to make sure we have an integration of culture, gender, and more.
Sustainability is to cultivate a healthy physical environment on campus, but then also mutually fostering an effective academic and social space for our student body. It doesn’t only look like being a green campus but making sure that we’re approaching holistic steps for our students.
Serving as the liaison makes us really effective in the way that we’re responsible in the way that we speak with the students and the way we advocate when speaking to the administration. At the end of the day, we too are students, so what we’re advocating for isn’t just for “them”, we’re a part of the student body so their concerns are our concerns.
Her Campus: How did your ticket come together?
Carley: I started reaching out to people that I was very close with – the closest person being Caitlin, our senior senator. Then we started brainstorming, thinking about who we can connect with, who we thought would be great. I focused on branching out to different communities on campus and different people. Even Ariel and I have different impacts and focuses on campus, so really trying to tie all of that together was really important for me. We’re all very different and have different aspects of our life and perspectives of St. Johns.
Her Campus: Why do you want to be President and Vice President, respectively?
Carley: The job of vice president has an emphasis on committees as well as parts of SGi that are kind of in the background. I’d like to be VP because I love committees – when I was involved with SGi as elections chair last year, I had the opportunity of running representative elections as well as executive board elections. That experience taught me how much a little committee can do and have such a big impact on this campus. I really want to make sure all individuals working as chairs can spearhead and do all that they’re capable of.
Ariel: The experience of being involved on campus was a dream, because going to college was an end-all be-all for me. I remember I didn’t want to go to any school in NY and this was the only one I applied to. My mom actually went [to St. John’s], and she was also involved to an extent on campus and her dream for me was to become active on campus, and she always suggested SGi.
I have a cabinet of mentors who constantly pour into me and have my best interest in mind. They are leaders on campus, or were leaders and have since become alumni. They spoke so much life into me and reminded me of the position I have. Oftentimes as women we feel like there’s certain positions that we aren’t meant for and they made sure that they eradicated every thought of that so I would be able to attain a position like this or even speak after it. They also made me realize that there’s an urgency on our campus to address issues, and it’s important that we have someone who can be there with a form of intensity and emergency.
It wasn’t until I saw the urgency on our campus to address what’s happening with COVID-19 but even prior to that, we mentioned as an e-board what’s happening with sexual assault on campus – how are we appropriately addressing that? It made me realize overall, there isn’t much of a sacrifice on my end, it’s more of an obedience to the calling that I have for the campus. It’s an obligation that I have – because this campus has done so much for me, I really want to reinstate that. I’m not just speaking about the institution itself – but the people in it, making sure they have someone who looks like them who advocates for them, who listens to them.
Her Campus: What about your backgrounds and experience make you the best candidates?
Carley: I have a lot of experience in SGi, but not only SGi, which I think makes me a well-rounded candidate for the position. Being a sister of Theta Phi Alpha has really impacted me, and I’ve gained so much leadership experience and professional experience. Also, being involved in student ambassadors and being a R.I.S.E. mentee really showcases that I’m not just focused on what SGi has given me but also what the other aspects of my leadership has given me as well. Speaking for the other candidates on our ticket, they all have great experience in different ways and I think that highlights who we are as people.
Ariel: We all are very much qualified. I’ve assumed many roles on campus and that’s when I realized this is not a position I should stray away from. Being a resident assistant, I’m in close proximity with the students on campus. I take it as an opportunity for them to tell me their concerns and also to provide them resources. Another thing is my relationship with the administration. I’ve built a lot of relationships with administration and I didn’t even know why it would be helpful until now.
Those relationships came from me being an RA but also seeking mentorships from people who were shaping the organizations and culture of our campus. I was active with the SGi equity committee for two years, and a RISE mentor – making sure I build relationships with the next generation of St. John’s students. This is my second year serving as a mentor. Freshman year I was a historian of Haitian Society and sophomore year I became secretary. This year, I assumed the role as vice president while mutually being the president of my organization Collegiate Curls. Previously, I was the vice president and I also helped found and initiate the chartering on our campus in January 2018. That diversity that I have on campus being a part of different orgs and departments, being able to develop relationships, that allowed me the leverage to get access to other students.
Her Campus: What are some of your favorite things about St. John’s?
Ariel: The cultural aspect. That’s been a huge thing for me. Being someone who does a lot of public speaking and events outside of campus at other universities, I see that there’s a lack of culture in other places. Although sometimes we see diversity and inclusivity as a marketing tool, we do foster relationships when it comes to cultural representation. We have the Latin American Student Organization, Carribean Students Association, Haitian Society, even other clubs that may not have a cultural identity nationality-wise, but they still have their own kind of culture. Those clubs also foster the alumni relationship that we have now; even when people leave after their fourth or fifth year, we have that connection with people who were here before us and build us up now.
Carley: One of my favorite aspects of St. John’s is definitely Greek Life. Since I’ve been initiated for the last two years, I’ve learned so much not only about my own organization, but also about others on campus as well. We say greek life is a bubble but we really learn so much from each other. It really highlighted my experience at St. Johns. Especially this past spring, I was able to be a rho gamma and that really opened my eyes! I got to show other girls about greek life, whether they were going to join my organization or others.
Her Campus: Where do you think this year’s SGi e-board fell flat, and in what ways do you think you can improve upon any mistakes?
Ariel: For our e-board, we see what they’ve done, and we critique it for ourselves as something to construct us and to prepare us. There are places where they did not follow through, like what’s been happening on campus with COVID-19. Some of the concerns that are being brought up should have SGi at the forefront. We shouldn’t have to wait so long to have them come forward and speak about how we should appropriately address moving forward academically. I understand from the e-board’s perspective that they are students too, however we recognize that they also have a responsibility to the student body. We want to make sure moving forward that regardless of the challenges, our student body is at the forefront of our mind.
Her Campus: What did you think about their response, or lack thereof, to the coronavirus impact on our campus?
Carley: I was a bit torn. I know it’s hard on an e-board – especially in times where you’re worried about your family and your own personal health and wellness, to respond to a big community. But it’s also the role that you took on. One thing that they faulted on was responding as late as they did. There should’ve been a response once we were first learning about the coronavirus. One thing my ticket would’ve done differently was to send something out initially on March 9, when they sent the email that we’d be going home for two weeks, just to say we are there for the student body and are contacting the administration as much as we could. That is super important as well – the administration really does want to hear from the students and get input as much as they can.
Ariel: As the student body, we’re the ones who ignite and enact change. I believe overall it’s not just about casting shame upon the current e-board; what we truly want is to hold accountable what they’ve done. Also, it’s about saying “here’s how we’re going to improve”. It’s important to digitally send out something, send a video. Seeing where they lack, we as an e-board can pick up. Whatever is important we need to do that now even before elections. [The situation with] the pass/fail grading option really speaks to what we can do together and if we work with each other.
Her Campus: Do you have any specific goals or hopes for next year?
Carley: My biggest goal is to promote the visibility of SGi. There’s so much good SGi can do and what they already do, but not many people know about it! Really trying to reach out more to the student body. A lot of people think you can’t be involved with SGi if you don’t have a position, but SGi is open to everyone! Focusing on opening up meetings, picking a different space to host meetings that’s more open and inviting for any students – for example, Marillac Terrace. Students can come in and sit down after grabbing dinner, and just hear us talk. My ticket as a whole is very focused on wanting to be a resource and easy to come to. So a goal for us is to have the student body be able to come to us, whether it’s criticism, needing assistance, anything.
Ariel: I want to work in collaboration with the Inclusivity Resources Center (IRC) to bridge the gap that exists within our student body but also enact specific policy, and merge IRC and SGi resources together. Also, I’d have people from administration come into SGi student body meetings, listen to us and what we have to say so they can foster a relationship with us. An additional thing I’ve been working on was making sure that we have access to housing for students on campus. I’ve encountered housing deficiency as a freshman. It exposed me to the truth on campus that students do not have a place to live nor a place to eat. There’s so many things we need to address. I’ve been working with someone who creates different housing for different university students who cannot afford on campus housing. I’ve met in meetings with him to develop ideas and provide a sustainable way for students to find a place to live.
Elections will be held April 15th to April 17th.