For the first time in the history of Fordham Lincoln Center, the United Student Government (USG) hosted its presidential debate entirely online due to the coronavirus outbreak. Presidential candidates Loreen Ruiz, Fordham College at Lincoln Center ’21, and Robert Stryczek, Gabelli School of Business ’21, answered questions before an online Zoom audience on April 3.
In preparation for the debate, both candidates discussed their respective platforms and shared their thoughts on the unique nature of the debate.
Robert Stryczek, current USG vice president, said he hoped to improve student engagement on campus if he were elected as President.
“In terms of what I would like to accomplish, increasing involvement is always at the top of my list. We have such a great community at Fordham and I always want to get more people to join it,” he said.
Stryczek wishes to streamline the communication within and between student groups and organizations. “I’ve been treasurer and Vice President of USG, and I understand how tedious club creation, budgets, and being heard by administration can be,” Stryczek said.
As USG President, Stryczek promises to “continue streamlining processes to help club leaders and events hold the events they want” in a more prompt and easier manner. Stryczek also hopes to launch an intramural sports league at Fordham Lincoln Center next academic year — something which he had hoped would be launched this spring but which was delayed by the coronavirus outbreak.
In short, he hopes to make sure “everyone has a great Fordham year 2020-2021, and to leave a mark that would go beyond that.”
Ruiz described her campaign as “centered around USG administrative reform and making Fordham a place students are proud to be.” USG, according to Ruiz, “needs to regain students’ trust, and the first step to reform is acknowledging that we currently don’t have it.”
Ruiz has worked for the Office of Student Involvement for three years, where she often acted as a liaison between students and USG itself. If elected president, Ruiz hopes to reorganize USG internally and to improve its image as “an organization that has them on their side.”
She has promised to increase transparency within USG, including to release vote tallies for the next election. “I know admin work is not sexy, but it’s exactly what USG needs!”
In addition to reorganizing the structure of USG, Ruiz also hopes to improve school spirit on campus. “Students can’t be expected to find or understand school spirit just by wearing maroon or hosting fun events,” Ruiz said in reference to Fordham Fridays, a USG-sponsored event in which students wearing Fordham colors or gear are given free pizza slices.
“School spirit and pride is based on creating a community in which every student — commuter or resident, freshman or senior, club leader or not — is happy,” she said.
Going into the debate, both candidates expressed that they were undeterred by its online nature.
Stryczek was confident that the new digital component wouldn’t be too disruptive to the election process. “It’s disappointing that Loreen and I won’t be able to add a more in-person touch to our campaigns, but doesn’t every election have its challenges?”
While Ruiz believed the coronavirus outbreak and transition to online was “certainly trying for us as a community,” she saw both a challenge and an opportunity for community members to stay connected digitally, as well as a way to improve their online and social media communications skills.
“I believe that proficiency in social media is an important skill to have as USG President, and I hope to demonstrate this proficiency through my campaign,” she said.
The USG Elections Committee explained in an email that it hopes the unique circumstances of this year’s election cycle won’t discourage community involvement and voter turnout, stating, “We hope that a virtual debate allows people to tune in from the comfort of their home or space while also still being active in deciding the future of their student government.”
The committee believes that the pandemic has shown people that “the decisions of the government and their swift actions can truly decide the future and wellbeing of its people.” The committee also hopes that the online debate will give students a platform in which they can directly interact with student government: “We want to stress that EVERYONE is a member of USG and that your voice matters in a campus as close knit as ours.”
A full recording of the debate can be found below this article and on YouTube.