On Wednesday, March 2, the University of Maine Student Government (UMSG) hosted the UMSG Executive Election Debate in the North Pod of the Memorial Union. The debate started at 6 p.m. and was proctored by the chair of the Fair Election Practices Commission (FEPC) of UMSG, Jacob Chaplin.
“We will be hearing from candidates for both the positions of president and vice president,” Chaplin said. “We’re going to hear about their leadership experiences, qualifications and their goals for this position.”
There is only one candidate currently running for president of UMSG for the 2022-2023 academic year. Alyssa Ciasullo, a third-year business management student from Woburn, Massachusetts, has been a member of student government for the last two years. She currently serves as UMSG’s Vice President of Student Leadership and is now running for President of UMSG.
Ciasullo is running alongside campaign partner Peter Alexander, who is one of the two candidates for Vice President. Alexander, a third-year communications and media student and former chair of the UMSG Fair Election Practices Committee is running against Connor Bray, a third-year computer science student who is currently a senator on the General Student Senate (GSS).
The debate began with opening statements from each candidate in which Ciasullo and Alexander highlighted their campaign goals.
“Upon my arrival here I noticed a lack of a sense of community and I’m here tonight to help find that sense of community,” Ciasullo said.
Ciasullo and Alexander are running on a platform of student mental health, sustainability and student safety. They highlighted some of their goals including introducing a dead week and working with the wellness center to create more resources for students.
Being the only presidential candidate for this upcoming election, current FEPC Chair Jacob Chaplin jumped right into questions for Ciasullo.
Ciasullo was asked how she feels about being the only candidate for president and if she believes that’s an issue.
“I think not a lot of people know about student government,” Ciasullo said. “The biggest part of our platform is to get our name out there and share all the ways that students can get involved.”
This lack of involvement became a common theme throughout the debate as the vice presidential candidates were also asked what they would do to ensure that the student government has enough senators to ensure adequate and meaningful student representation.
“Every year as a senate we say we need more senators, yet we are never able to do so,” Alexander said. “I believe how we would do this is we would table every other week in the union to recruit more senators.”
Alexander stated that diversifying the senate, reaching out to new groups and taking the time to face this issue is of the utmost importance.
Bray also gave his input on this issue.
“Student government is at its strongest when it has an involved senate, when the senators are passionate about what they do and I think finding good senators is one of the most important ways to improve the student body,” Bray said. “I think finding senators who are really passionate about what they’re doing and changes they want to see is very important.”
There was a great turnout of student supporters during the debate and the candidates received multiple questions from the audience that also highlighted some important issues.
Kate Fogg, a fourth-year at UMaine, was a member of the audience and highlighted that there has been at least one reported assault on campus within this past year and asked what the candidates are planning to do about about the issue of rape culture and violence against women on and off campus.
Ciasullo suggested that one of her goals is to add more emergency blue lights around campus to make students feel safer.
“Just knowing that there is always someone there at the push of the button, and I keep going back to this sense of community but if we build it up and people are closer to each other they’ll hopefully be less likely to commit crimes against each other,” Ciasullo said.
Alexander expressed his gratitude that this question was asked because it is an issue not only at UMaine but campuses all across the country.
“Like my running mate said, there’s no clear cut answer, but we can do things to improve what we do about it,” Alexander said. “I think creating access to even more resources than we already have is the first step and the next step is to educate people.”
Bray also spoke on this issue and one of his goals is to add more lighting on campus.
“I’ve heard from many students that campus is really dark and students don’t feel safe at night, so I think lighting up the campus and making people feel safe will do a lot of change,” Bray said.
Each candidate highlighted that one of the reasons they came to UMaine is because of the people and the sense of community, and a major theme of this debate was definitely bringing students back together after facing unprecedented times.
“At the end of the day it’s my dream to see a campus full of involved students dedicated to the college of our hearts always,” Ciausullo said.
The student government elections will be taking place on Wednesday, March 9, and students can vote through a link that will be sent to their emails.