Disinterest prevails in senatorial campaign

Lindsay Shoff

Although this year’s SGA boasts a record high interest in the race for University senate, all senatorial candidates will run unopposed, and science and engineering senators will be appointed by next year’s SGA president and vice president to occupy empty seats.

“I think I know exactly why people don’t run for senate seats,” current arts senator senior Ryan Costella commented. “Quite frankly, no one knows what senators are supposed to do.”

Junior Lea Taylor maintained Costella’s comments about the lack of information available to students. “Freshman year I was never aware there was a senator position until after the senator candidates announced that they were running and began mini campaigns,” she said.

“I had no idea what a senator does on this campus.  Everyone knows naturally what the president and vice president do by their enormous campaign platforms and the general understanding that they run the government and are in charge.”

Current arts senator Paul Vitale also commented, “I think the university needs to publicize these positions more and explain to the students what a senator does and the importance of their voice being heard in the university senate.”

Vitale also noted the difficulty in obtaining signatures. “I needed to get 200 signatures of only arts majors,” he said.

“I believe the process of getting these signatures is good, but it is probably the underlying factor that people do not run or qualify for the ballot. I believe it is the struggle to obtain the required number of signatures from one’s own college frustrates too many people.”

Other arts senator candidate Anthony Albanese explained his feelings on running for senator, saying, “I personally feel that getting the signatures was not too difficult of a process, and the $20 [that candidates must pay SGA] goes toward 50 posters that you can use in your campaign anyway.”

University professors expressed different reasons for the overall disinterest in running.

Faculty congress chair Jeffrey Johnson said, “It strikes me that student interest in university governance often rises and falls as particular situations change on campus.”

“If people feel either satisfied with the situation or alienated from it, they may be less likely to participate.”

Johnson noted his surprise, however, in the lack of interest during this particular academic year.

“In light of the recent senate discussions and vote on the university budget, which led to adjustments by the president and board of trustees, I would have expected more student ‘buzz’ about the senate this year,” he said.

Nursing dean Louise Fitzpatrick blamed lack of nursing interest on busy student schedules.

“It may be that our students, because they are in clinical practical off campus Mondays and Wednesdays, and in classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, cannot afford the time …” she said.

Next year’s currently undecided president and vice president team will be responsible for appointing an engineering senator, a science senator, as well as a position in the college of the arts.

Last year Tim McGovern and Nestor Fernandez were responsible for appointing Ralph Bernardo to the position of arts senator due to lack of candidates.

Fernandez and McGovern chose Bernardo for his interest in the University senate. “He expressed a sincere desire to be a senator,” McGovern noted.

A similar privilege will be granted to the newly elected heads of SGA in the upcoming school year to decide who they want in the university senate. It is up to them to decide what to do.

“They could have an application process if they wanted,” McGovern said.

In this year’s election, because people were under the impression they were running against eight or nine other candidates from the initial announcement, McGovern thinks the right candidates are in place.

“In the end, the people that really wanted it went ahead and fulfilled the requirements, knowing they might have a competitive campaign against many candidates,” he noted.

“It is a shame that not many people put forth the effort to get on the senatorial tickets.  I was actually looking forward to running against the opposition,” future arts senator candidate Albanese said.

Nursing senator for next year Regina DeCristofaro expressed her shock at her peers’ disinterest, “I hear so many people complaining about their majors and/or the university itself that I was surprised that more people don’t take the challenge,” she said.

Current arts senator and senator for next year Safeer Bhatti also expressed his disappointment for lack of competition.

“I wanted a competition this year and was actually happy that I had 10 people running against me,” Bhatti said. “Now, I don’t feel so good.”

Bhatti still plans on hanging up posters, however. “I want to still show my constituents that regardless of my win, I will lose if I did not campaign,” he said.

What many students also don’t know is the opportunity the senator positions offer to enact change at Villanova. Costella notes, “Senators have the same amount of ‘power’ … as the SGA president when at senate meetings.”

Vitale expressed similar sentiment: “Although the president and vice president might have more recognized positions, the senators make big decisions for the university as well.”

“They also receive decently sized budgets to form committees and host great events,” Costella said. “Maybe if students know this, they might want to run.”