The following is an interview conducted with Presidential nominee Dana Calamia. Students can attend the Presidential Debate this Thursday at five in the afternoon to see Calamia and the other candidates talk of the main issues they feel should be addressed concerning Parkside. Elections will be held on April 5th and 6th.
Harring: Can you please state your name, your year in school, and your major for me?
Calamia: Sure. My name is Dana Calamia. I’m a junior going on senior. I’m an economics major, business and math minor, with a certificate in global skills.
Harring: All right, so I know for this year you were Vice President and obviously became President because of the situation at the beginning of the year. What’s making you run for President [for next year]?
Calamia: I enjoy doing it and I think I’d like a year where I have the summer to prepare myself because this year I felt like it was a lot of scrambling and always trying to keep up because I was just thrown into it at the end of September. I think I’d do a better and more efficient job if I had the summer to prepare what my plan for the year was and what priorities for the year were. That, and I think it would also keep us more consistent from one year to another to not have a transition in leadership. It’s not that I don’t think any of the other candidates are qualified, it’s just that it’s a position that I enjoy doing and I think that I’ve had some successes this year, but I can see them growing a lot next year because I can just start rolling right away from day one and I don’t have to take all that time to figure out what I’m doing and get my head on straight.
Harring: You mentioned having plans and priorities, so what issues are you hoping to address and work on for next year?
Calamia: One of the things that I looked at this year that sort of fizzled out was [an issue I heard about from students] when I was running for election [about having] the library open twenty-four hours or to have later hours. When I looked into it with the library staff, administration, and police department about what it would cost to keep it open, the costs were pretty outrageous just because when the library is open the rest of campus is open because you have to be able to get to the library. [Having it open later] just changed the police’s schedule. The solution that they had offered was to keep the Student Center open more often because then at least if a student needs to go somewhere at two in the morning they have a building to go to, even if it’s not the library.
It was something we looked into and it was kind of more under my purview as Vice President because the Vice President chairs the Student Life Committee and it kind of just got swept under the rug because so many other things started going on. [We’re planning on] issuing a survey to students about making segregated fees higher to keep the Student Center open later, but it hasn’t been sent out yet, it’s just in the queue behind some other survey. Hopefully we can get it [out] before May.
[I’d like to work on] just developing the Student Center as an area that students can go late at night, getting more internet docking stations put out, and potentially extending the hours of the Den–but that’s a different battle because it’s a contracted food service. [Those are] what I started the year with as my main goals. And I just sent another [survey] out about parking…one of the two really hot topic issues on campus (the other being the smoking ban). The students don’t have a direct power to change [these], you know. The student government can’t just vote and implement a smoking policy because it’s an administrative policy. We only have the purview to change things that we fund…the things that come directly out of student fees. [In relation to parking], I think we’re the ones paying parking permits, so to me, that’s a student fee. But it’s not part of segregated fees so we don’t really have the authority to change things for parking.
One [things] I want to look into is how [we could] change that process of who makes those decisions for parking. Right now it’s mostly the police department, which makes sense, but I don’t know what extent students have input with that. On top of that, I’d like to look at exactly what the parking problems are. You ask students what they hate the most about Parkside and everyone always says parking, but they don’t ever say what about parking! That’s why I made that survey detailed; if we don’t go to [the Chancellor] with a solution [for the parking problem] they’re never going to do anything about it.
Some of the solutions I’ve thought of would be implementing a tiered system where juniors and seniors can buy permits for these main lots the first week they’re on sale, and if they sell out then freshmen and sophomores are forced to buy permits for Tallent. It sucks for them, but at the same time, when you have to tell someone they have to park in Tallent, how do you make that decision? Seniority seems the fairest, to me, and that way we can limit the amount of permits sold for the main lots. [However], if everyone tells me that’s a really stupid idea, then I’m not going to go forward with it. I have to be careful to do things that everyone wants. That’s what the survey is for.
Harring: What qualities do you feel you possess that make you a good President?
Calamia: I think I am pretty personable. Approaching different groups on campus has never been a problem for me this year. I think I have a lot of ways to relate to different groups of students and I’m approachable. My experiences in different departments on campus give me a really well-rounded knowledge of the way that campus works. My experience this year as President gives me a leg up for next year. If I need to talk to the Dean of Students, I know who the Dean of Students is and I can call his office, versus there being an issue and I don’t know where to start. That’s probably the hardest part for most students; they know there’s a problem, but they don’t know where to start.
Harring: What have you learned this year through acting as President that has helped you and will help you if you’re implemented in next year?
Calamia: So, you know how people say it’s all about who you know? I have the opposite feeling. It’s not about who I know, it’s about who knows me. Because a lot of students can probably say they’ve seen the Chancellor and know who Chancellor Ford is, but when she has a hundred emails to read through, who is really going to be the top priority in her opening an email? If I can call her secretary, Diane, and Diane knows who I am, it’s probably going to be easier for me to get a meeting with her. I think I’ve established a lot of really good relationships this year and I’ve been able to keep some solid working relationships by understanding the balance of when I need to step in and say students’ rights are being violated and there needs to be a change, but at the same time understanding that administration has a little more wisdom that I do, and I have to look to them for mentorship.
Harring: What challenges could you foresee if you’re voted in and how do you think you can overcome those?
Calamia: A lot of the same challenges from this year. But then, [there will] also be a new senate, too. I think my biggest challenge that I faced this year was [working towards] getting a unified student government. There’s the executive, the senate, and there’s the judicial branch, but how do we all work in synch? When I am coming in as an executive, I don’t want the senators to feel like, “Oh, that’s the President.” But, at the same time, I don’t want them to feel like they’re the senate and what they say goes all the time. I think that’s some of the problems I’ve run into this year, where things have not always worked out well when I’ve disagreed with senators. I want to be able to start from the beginning on the right foot.
I think one of the things I tried doing this year was getting a good picture of why people became senators and what their goals were because while it’s a governance [position], it’s also leadership training and development. I want them to come in as one person in the beginning of the year [and] grow throughout the year, so when they come to the end of the year they have accomplished the goals they had at the beginning. I want to be able to work with them and not have it seem like I’m working against them.
Harring: So, in relation to your veto with the weight room resolution, do you think that because you did that it will hurt your campaign in any way?
Calamia: It might. And, like I said, I don’t want it to seem like I’m working against senate. I made that decision because I really thought it was in the best interest for the student body. At the end of the day, if I lose the election because I stood up to what I thought was ethically correct, I’m not going to be upset about it. I’d hope that wouldn’t happen, but if that’s what I’m going to lose votes over, I’d rather it be that and not something like, “Oh, her sign wasn’t cool enough.”
Harring: How are you campaigning?
Calamia: Right now we haven’t done a whole lot. We have some windows out and [there’s always] Facebook. For me, it’s mostly just about the days of the election. I want to be approachable to students. If they have a question, I’ll sit and talk with them. I’m not going to blow anybody off. Mainly, right now, it’s about trying to make sure I’ve been getting information out to students about what I’ve been doing this year and what I want to do next year. We might get more into campaigning the week of the elections because I think that’s probably when most students realize that it’s happening.
Harring: And debates are coming up soon.
Calamia: Yeah, that’s another part of it, too. You know, there’s going to be students voting who have no clue who the six people running are and are just going to pick a name. It always happens. But, there’s going to be students that really care about the issues. Hopefully we get a good crowd at the debates. If I can’t win at the debates, then maybe I don’t deserve [the position].
Harring: You’re paired with Jisha Jose. What do you think you guys have that will help you form a good team as President and Vice President?
Calamia: I think Jisha has a lot of valuable experience. Her job as Pro Temp this year [makes her even more relatable to senate than me]. She’s been there and they look up to her. Between the two of us, we have a lot of different perspectives of things on campus. I also just admire her as a person. I think she’s a really strong leader [and] she’s never afraid to speak her mind.
Harring: Well, that’s everything I had. I greatly appreciate it!
Calamia: You’re welcome!