BCSG Presidential Debate Highlights Diverse Pool of Candidates


The Bates College Student Government (BCSG) Presidential Debate took place on Monday night, with a representative from each co-presidential ticket discussing their platforms, the role of student government and changes they hope to implement this coming school year. 

There are three pairs running for co-president this year. Rising seniors Ella Blum and Cole De Magistris are running together, rising senior Rebecca Anderson and rising junior Dhruv Chandra are running as a pair and rising sophomores Aleisha Martinez Sandoval and Zara Ahmed are running as a team. Blum, Anderson and Martinez Sandoval were debating on behalf of their ticket on Monday night, with Anderson appearing via Zoom, as she is currently studying abroad in London.

The debate took place in an upstairs meeting room in Commons and was well attended, with around 40 students in the audience. Questions were composed from Bates community members, Imti Hassan ‘23 told the audience as she began moderating the debate. 

In her opening statement, Martinez Sandoval thanked her supporters and cited her and Ahmed’s work on the facilities committee this past year as first year class representatives as proof of their experience. She also stated that as underclassmen, they would not be distracted by thesis and other senior year requirements and could instead focus on policy making.

“We care about our school and its students,” she said.

Anderson spoke next, pointing to her experience in many different student groups on campus, like the women’s cross country and track and field teams. She and Chandra have both served as representatives on BCSG, and said they uniquely understand how the governing body functions. Anderson stated that they planned on “advocating for thesis opportunities for all students and credit for lab time.”

Blum concluded the opening statements, speaking on her friendship with De Magistris, who unlike other candidates, has not spent any time working with BCSG previously. She is on the field hockey team, volunteers in the Lewiston community, serves as a junior class representative on BCSG and works for the Athletics department. De Magistris, Blum said, is a rhetoric teaching assistant, a member of the football team, on the board of the Bates film festival and is a tour guide.

The first question asked to the candidates was about the issue of inclusivity at the college. Martinez Sandoval said that her campaign “wants to focus on [Office of Intercultural Education] work and increase access.” Anderson echoed those promises, saying that she and Chandra hope to “partner with those groups and uplift them.”

Blum proposed centralizing the OIE into a more accessible building, as it is currently located at 96 Campus Avenue. The college has planned to move the space back to Chase Hall once renovations are completed this summer, but Blum said her campaign would like it to be in a more centralized location.

Parking on campus has been a serious issue, referred to by all the candidates as a “crisis.”

Anderson suggested banning first years from having cars on campus, as the “parking problem is something we’ve all experienced.” 

Blum advocated for faculty and staff to park in the Page and Village lots on snowy days so that students had better access to the lots in Merrill Gymnasium during street parking bans: “People who buy passes should be guaranteed to have spots,” she said.

Martinez Sandoval, a current first year who has a car on campus, stated that she and Ahmed’s time on the facilities committee within BCSG this year helped them foster a strong relationship with Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Geoff Swift. They believe this will help them get the parking crisis under control.

“I’m a freshman with a car on campus because I don’t feel the Bobcat Express is efficient,” she said, citing stories of friends stuck at Walmart for three hours waiting for Campus Safety to give them a ride back to campus.

All three candidates spoke about their opinions on the role of BCSG co-presidents, as well.

“In order to be a great leader, you need to be a great listener,” Blum said. “We promise to never leave a stone unturned.” She and De Magistris hope to invite incoming President Garry Jenkins to at least one BCSG meeting per month, as well.

According to Martinez Sandoval, “as co-presidents you’re not authority,” but rather a “bridge to connect students to administration.” 

Anderson argued for a decentralized assembly, and said that she and Chandra “understand the support that’s needed from co-presidents to get that done.”

Another hot button issue is the possible implementation of the new Race, Power, Privilege and Colonialism requirement. 

Martinez Sandoval called the requirement “one of the best yet most obvious ideas for a predominantly white college,” and said she and Ahmed fully supported it. 

“It’s necessary that we’re aware how our privilege affects society,” she added.

Blum echoed that point, saying “this requirement should’ve already been in effect years ago.” She added that “we want to make sure that nobody who is teaching the course is ill equipped or not comfortable teaching it.”

Working with incoming President Garry Jenkins was also questioned, as many students are unsure what to expect from new leadership. Anderson stated that she and Chandra will not be “afraid to raise concerns that may not be popular,” while Blum is committed to inviting him to Alumni Gym to play badminton, as he is a fan of racquet sports.

She added that she and De Magistris would have “no hesitation” to call “an emergency meeting if something like neuro happens again,” referring to the sudden cancellation of Neuroscience theses for rising seniors. 

Martinez Sandoval said she and Ahmed want to foster a close relationship with Jenkins so they can bring up important issues comfortably.

“If students are worried about it, then Zara and I will be worried about it,” she said.

The candidates then moved on to closing statements. 

Blum said that she and her running mate “know what it takes” to serve as co-presidents next year, promising to “listen first.” She also reiterated a strong stance in her campaign’s platform that laundry on campus should be free. Blum concluded that they wanted to improve working conditions for students on campus, and add a “OIE lounge in a major building on campus.”

Anderson went next, reminding the audience that she and Chandra “are super passionate about BCSG,” and “want to hear from students and engage with students.”

Martinez Sandoval closed out the statements, emphasizing that she and Ahmed will “bring a fresh perspective” as underclassmen. 

After closing statements, the debate opened up to student questions. Current BCSG Co-President Ali Manning singled out Blum, noting that she and De Magistris were the only pair of candidates that were both white. 

Blum responded, saying “Cole and I have been discussing this,” and spoke at length about the divide between athletes and non-athletes on campus, as they are both athletes. 

“I can’t promise you that we’ll be perfect,” she said, but they would try to “be the bridge.” Blum did not address her or De Magistris’s race. 

The other current BCSG Co-President Kush Sharma asked a question to Martinez Sandoval about her class year, questioning how she and Ahmed will serve seniors properly. 

“We do want to put an emphasis on our junior and senior classes,” she responded. “We want to make sure we are a tool for anybody and everybody.”

Each of the three candidates also spoke about their favorite projects from this past year on BCSG. Blum said she was proud of installing a new bike rack outside of Merrill, as “we can often get caught up trying to do really big projects,” but reminded the audience that smaller issues were just as important. 

Martinez Sandoval said the upcoming student art initiative, which she said has been “student chosen [and] student driven” has been rewarding. Anderson’s favorite project has been reinstalling the presidential advisory committee, which she has served as the head of: “it establishes a strong relationship between [the] president and assembly,” she said.

Voting for BCSG co-presidents will take place on Bates Engage from March 27-29.