The Bates College Student Government (BCSG) Presidential Debate took place on March 21 at the Benjamin Mays Center and over livestream. Moderated by Larry Cruz ’22 and Hayden Eckblom ‘25, the hour-long debate featured questions compiled by the BCSG and concluded with a Q&A with the students in attendance.
The debate covered five topic areas: Campus Safety and Title IX, Student Life, Community Involvement, Tuition and Transitions and the Purpose of Student Government.
This year, there are two pairs running for co-presidents: Ali Manning ’23 and Kush Sharma ’23, and Oyuka Lyndon ’25 and Manuel Machorro Gomez Pezuela ’25.
Manning and Lyndon spoke for their respective candidate pairs in the debate and detailed their aspirations for the 2022-23 academic school year and for the future of the college.
The debate began with each candidate providing short opening statements.
Having held various roles within BCSG over the past three years, Manning, hailing from Australia, eagerly began by noting that “it’s been an absolute joy and an absolute pleasure [to be part of the BCSG community].”
She hopes to lead the BCSG and stated, “I really believe in it, I really love doing it, and I believe in our campaign.”
Lyndon, a first-year from Mongolia, explained that she and Machorro Gomez Pezuela decided to run for co-presidents because they love the Bates community and “wanted to give back.”
CAMPUS SAFETY & TITLE IX MATTERS
Cars on Campus
Manning would ideally like to see fewer cars at Bates. She pointed to both the Bobcat Express and the Bates Green Bikes programs as viable, eco-friendly solutions, and she plans to bring “greater exposure” to these services in the coming year.
Lyndon offered up three solutions to combat the parking crisis on campus. She hopes to implement a prioritization method based on students’ dorm locations, encourage students to only bring their cars to campus if absolutely necessary and increase education on parking.
Manning said that she and Sharma are already working alongside Bates’ Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) “to ensure [its] greater visibility amongst [the] student body.” For instance, the pair are in the process of establishing a partnership between CAPS and First-Year Centers (FYCs).
Lyndon brought up the importance of CAPS, Green Dot Training and FYCs. Next year, she and her running mate plan to create a Mental Health Committee so BCSG can “work more closely with CAPS” in order to “make it more powerful, and more accessible, and equitable for all.”
Lyndon stated that she believes that “the Bates community is a beautifully inclusive space that has problems, problems that we can solve.” She recognized COVID-19’s devastating impact on club life, which she and Machorro Gomez Pezuela plan to revitalize.
Additionally, through their mental health campaign, the pair are looking into working closely with affinity clubs to increase inclusivity and offer better and specifically catered support “towards the unique struggles of people within different affinity groups.”
Manning stated that “Bates has the potential to be inclusive” but “has a lot of issues.” However, over the past three years at Bates, she has seen many issues resolved, which gives her hope. Manning is also especially passionate about her and Sharma’s Mobilize Commons Mission to create a collective student space on campus to hang out. She wants to give Bates students a “home.”
Lyndon applauded the work CAPS has done, but she believes it’s “not enough.” She and Machorro Gomez Pezuela hope to implement a Mental Health Campaign next year led by students who have personal experience with CAPS and who can help brainstorm potential solutions to increase accessibility and allocate resources accordingly.
Manning, on the other hand, stated that she does not think it should be entirely “the [BCSG’s] responsibility to be putting the work of CAPS on their back for other students.” CAPS is a luxury that all students and workers should be able enjoy at Bates, she explained. With that being said, she is looking forward to furthering her relationship with the new director of CAPS and hopes to increase accessibility and visibility.
Lyndon frequents the OIE and considers it a home for international students like her. To ensure the continuity of staff, she believes the OIE should increase the activities already being held and further publicize it.
Manning believes the upcoming renovation of Chase Hall is an opportunity to reform the OIE and increase worker retention rates. “Students need to engage in the OIE in rewarding ways for the workers and the workers need to be treated as such,” Manning said.
Post-Pandemic Club Involvement
Manning explained that the Budgets and Clubs Board (BCB) within the BCSG have already been working on a club reform program in order to assist clubs as best as possible by increasing communication efforts and allocating more budget resources.
Lyndon and Machorro Gomez Pezuela have a five-step solution for club reform: they plan to host meetings between the BCSG and every club leader; find contacts for each Bates club at other institutions with equivalent clubs; work closely with the BCB; encourage open meetings for most club; and reinstate biannual club fairs.
TUITION AND TRANSITIONS
Lyndon suggested the creation of step-by-step tutorial videos created by the Student Financial Office in order to increase accessibility to certain financial processes such as emergency funds. Additionally, Lyndon believes greater food equity during breaks is needed, and hopes to increase communication and accessibility between students and financial services.
Similarly, Manning and Sharma are considering a partnership with Student Financial Aid Services to increase accessibility and visibility.
PURPOSE OF STUDENT GOVERNMENT
Having worked on BCSG for the past three years, Manning spoke of her and Sharma’s extensive BCSG committee experiences and the strong relationships they have established on campus. Manning said that she believes they will bring “a real fight for students” to the presidency because “we know how to be persistent [and] we know how to push.”
Additionally, Manning and Sharma, who are both class of 2023, believe they offer something unique to this presidency: being members of the last class — and next year, the only class — to have experienced pre-pandemic normalcy at Bates. The pair saw this as an extreme advantage for the entire student body, as they “know what needs to change if we want to get back to that.”
Lyndon commented on how being elected the co-president of the BCSG would impact her: “Being able to serve a community that has done so much for you … means a lot to me”
Although only first-years, both Lyndon and Machorro Gomez Pezuela have considerable experience in student government from high school and feel strongly that they are suitable candidates. The pair saw their youth as nothing but an advantage because they are “uniquely able to stay [at Bates] for three more years” and will be able to ensure that “the policies we are going to implement are going to actually reach their fruitful ends.”
Voting takes place on Bates Engage from March 28-30. You can find Manning and Sharma’s candidacy page here, and Lyndon and Machorro Gomez Pezuela’s here.