A sit-down with student body president Matthew Rojas
Last spring, after nearly half a decade of uncontested Student Government Association (SGA) elections, two opposing candidates ran for the position of student body president.
Senior Matthew Rojas won last spring’s SGA presidential election, defeating his opponent Ellie Halfacre.
Rojas reminisced about the political climate of last spring’s election, which gave students a chance to participate in animated and invigorating campus politics.
“The campus was electrified about the [spring] election,” Rojas said. “In the fall election that just wrapped up, we had great voter turnout. The momentum created from the [spring] election carried over, and now a lot of people know what SGA is, and are excited to be participating in the appointment process.”
Rojas joined the election as a result of his involvement in the SGA Leadership and Internship Program (SLIP). Despite his lack of direct involvement and experience in SGA, he maintains that his experience in SLIP will only advantage this year’s executive cabinet and term.
“In order to have an effective team, you need a diversity of strengths and weaknesses,” Rojas said. “If everyone brings the same thing to the table, you will have a very one-dimensional approach. Certainly this will hinder your success, especially on a college campus, a multidimensional and increasingly complex environment.”
Alongside Rojas as president, Sarah Brotzman serves as vice president, Natalie Criscenzo serves as vice president of student and academic affairs, Tyler Pirylis serves as vice president of external affairs, Haley LaMontagne serves as chief justice and Radhika Malhotra serves as chief of staff.
Rojas and the executive cabinet are most passionate about serving the veteran community, serving students of minority backgrounds, improving student conduct affairs and putting action behind campuswide pledges to prevent sexual assault, he said.
“There is no doubt that we are passionate about different things. However, we agree on all the big things,” Rojas said. “But, for example, Natalie Criscenzo is interested in pursuing the creation of a public radio minor.”
More quantifiably, Rojas and the executive cabinet want to increase student involvement in student conduct.
Rojas and the executive cabinet are also exploring the use of course syllabi as a means of not just relaying academic information to students, but all important information to students.
“Syllabi are essentially just a means of getting information to students,” Rojas said. “If every syllabus is going to have academic dishonesty information, Title IX information and information about Sexual Offense Support should logically follow.”
On the topic of the College Republicans’ decision to bring alt-right leader Milo Yiannopoulos to campus, Rojas said “it is bigger than just the College Republicans inviting a guest speaker to the university.”
Rojas also dispelled some assumptions about the St. Patrick’s Day task force, on which he sits. Such as, the proposed change to move spring break to include St. Patrick’s Day would not occur until the spring of 2018. And additionally, that the task force is nowhere near recommending the rescheduling of spring break.
Furthermore, Rojas commented on the recent bike safety signage that has appeared throughout campus.
“It is paramount that campus is as safe as possible for all students. We need to do better,” Rojas said. “There have been signs dispersed through campus, but we are still working with Provost Domenico Grasso and the university.”
Rojas and the executive cabinet are eager to enact campus wide initiatives that are designed to benefit all of the university’s student body, he said. They are dedicated to actively seeking student’s ideas, issues, concerns and proposals, thus fostering an open dialogue between SGA and the university’s student body.
“A big goal of mine is increasing the access for students to use student government as a tool to solve their problems,” Rojas said. “When students are trying to solve a problem, whatever it may be, they think of student government as a means to solve that problem.”