On Tuesday, February 21 at 7:00 p.m., the Fairfield University Student Association held its annual presidential debate in the Lower Level of the John A. Barone Campus Center. The FUSA Court moderated the heavily attended event.

Pictured above, from left to right, is FUSA vice presidential candidate Zachary Vargas ’24 and FUSA presidential candidate Aliyah Seenauth ’24 (Photo courtesy of @aliyah.zach.2023 Instagram)
Pictured above, from left to right, is FUSA presidential candidate Giovanni Young ’25 and FUSA vice presidential candidate Bob Paltrineri ’25 (Photo courtesy of @young.paltrineri.2023 Instagram)

On one ticket is presidential candidate Aliyah Seenauth ‘24, along with vice presidential candidate Zachary Vargas ‘24, and on the other is presidential candidate Giovanni Young ‘25 and vice presidential candidate Bob Paltrineri ‘25. 

Citing the most crucial points of advocacy within their campaign, Young and Paltrineri outlined their push for student rights, small class sizes and a modern education. 

Seenauth and Vargas touched upon their efforts to uplift Stag spirit and encourage health and wellness, especially with regard to mental health. They also pledged to promote diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging on campus. Touching on the issue of undergraduate mental health specifically, Vargas spoke to his and Seenauth’s efforts to overcome the “stigma” surrounding mental health, as well as their fight to “make sure that all students feel as if it’s in their power to communicate that they’re not doing well.”

For their part, Young and Paltrineri elaborated on their vision of “student rights,” urging for protection of students’ “self-expression” on campus and condemning bullying on the increasingly popular Fizz app. The candidates also called for an increase in campus security, discussing the ease with which vehicles can enter campus grounds, with little to no screening.

Although each pair has their own unique set of goals, both parties discussed how they would respond to several key issues if elected as the 76th FUSA president and vice president. Such topics included: bridging the gap between Fairfield Bellarmine in Bridgeport, Conn. and the Fairfield campus, managing a large budget, maintaining an inclusive campus culture and addressing housing conflict that arises from the university’s ongoing expansion of the student population. 

Pictured above are Fairfield University students at the 76th FUSA presidential debate. Photo taken by Annie Tomosivitch ’24.

When asked how he plans to connect Fairfield Bellarmine and Fairfield University students, Young replied, “When we say we will try to reach out to you, we mean every student at Fairfield University.” 

“Whether we’re here on North Benson or whether we’re in Bridgeport, we want to make sure that the same goals—small classes, modern education and student rights—are promoted across all campuses,” he continued.

When questions arose as to plans to address the housing shortage on campus, Vargas responded, “You’re guaranteed four years of housing and we’re going to be a thorn in the side of the university to make sure that that promise is maintained.”

“We shouldn’t be turning everything into a triple—it’s not beneficial to the students…We need to implement ideas in order to have beaches more accessible, more apartments off campus, or to have on-campus housing more readily available,” he continued.

Within an hour and a half of debate and dialogue, each pair of candidates managed to summarize their campaigns simply. “Zach and I are unapologetically people for others,” Seenauth said. “We want to be able to look back at us and [have people] say, they did everything they could afford to [do for] others.” 

“I truly do believe in the fact that this is a Jesuit university, and I truly believe in the values of self-respect for the individual and the encouragement of people that that entails,” said Young.

The official ballot opened February 23 at noon on Life@Fairfield and will close on February 28 at 5:00 PM.  Results will be announced shortly afterwards.

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