Final Presidential Candidates Discuss Plans for Upcoming Academic Year

To gain perspective on the three remaining Student Council presidential hopefuls before spring term elections, The Phillipian conducted separate interviews with Upper candidates Allegra Asplundh-Smith, Sam Levenback, and Fan Wang. The Phillipian: Why did you choose to run for school president? Allegra Asplundh-Smith: From talking to kids, from talking to teachers, from going to Student Council meetings, visiting dorms… I felt like I could represent this student body well. The Student Government has really become something I want to pursue regardless of the outcome of this election. Sam Levenback: I enjoy all aspects of the life of a public servant. I take pleasure in the ability to promote positive change. I enjoy the diplomacy involved in harmonizing disparate interest groups with different motives. In addition, I appreciate the fact that this may be the only time in my life where politics is in good spirit and for the most part, fun. Fan Wang: I think that I have the ability to be a very good president. There is a lot of potential for the Student Council. The Phillipian: What sets you apart from the other two candidates? Asplundh-Smith: I feel that I have a good sense of this school. I’ve been here for three years, and I am invested not only in a lot of activities, but in the interests of underclassmen. I also recognize that I stand out as a female candidate. Levenback: I am the only candidate who is a Disciplinary Committee (DC) rep and this is helpful because the DC System is always one of the most popular agenda items that Student Government deals with. I feel like I really have stressed relations with the administration—the most important instrument of student government. Bad relations with the administration means that nothing gets done. I want to be a diplomat to the administration. Wang: Last year I was on Cluster Council as Dorm Representative and this year I am Upper Representative, so I’ve had a great variety of experiences, both on the Cluster and Student Councils. I’ve also built some relationships with my Cluster Dean and different deans at the school and those definitely will help. I’m extremely dedicated to the Student Council. The Phillipian: What do you think is the most difficult issue or problem facing Andover students today? Asplundh- Smith: The biggest issue is trying to achieve a duality between being a really rigorous academic environment, while also being a healthy place for people to live. This is a residential school and we all chose to come here not only for the classroom, but for the experiences in living with each other. I think that there is a lot still to be done in terms of residential life here. Levenback: I really do feel that campus morale seems to be off. I think there are things that can be done to raise the morale of students’ day-to-day lives. Obviously the scope of Student Government can’t make everything sunshine and flowers, but it can give them something to hold onto. Wang: I think the campus has generally been the same for the time I have been here and I don’t see any huge, emergent problems. I think the issues that have always been in place are still in place, like Pace of Life and communication between the Student Council and the student body. The Phillipian: What is one area of academic, extracurricular, or residential life at Andover that you would most like to see improved over the next year? Asplundh-Smith: I think I would have to go back to connections between faculty and students and between students and students. There is a lot of class division, and I have been researching and looking into a lot of different programs to address that. Our academic excellence has been institutionalized here, but our residential life and our communication as a community hasn’t been institutionalized. Levenback:: I think that the Pace of Life Committee is, as of now, working really hard and is trying to present good ideas to the Academy. But I think that the ideas presented recently are not in the best interests of the student body. When the school accepts kids to come to a seven-day school like Andover, they should trust us to know how to handle ourselves and manage our time properly. I think the Pace of Life Committee is doing a great job, but I think the Pace of Life issue should not be a major agenda item for the Student Government. Wang: I think Commons should be improved. During Andover/Exeter,Exeter’s Commons just impressed me greatly. The Phillipian: What, in your view, is the appropriate role of the Student Council President in the Phillips Academy community? Asplundh-Smith: I would really like to see the School President become more of a visionary in terms of making the Student Council a creative forum and not just rehashing the issues of DC Reform and Pace of Life. I would like to see Student Council become an environment that not only fosters innovation and creativity, but where that innovation is a fundamental pillar where students feel that they can come with daunting ideas. That’s what student council is really about: giving power to dedicated students, and the results that come from that. Levenback: Being a diplomat. The Student Government President has the rest of the representatives to help look for ideas, to run committees, and get things done. The Student Government President is the face of the student government and as the face needs to be a diplomat and needs to keep relations with administration and faculty at a peak. Wang: Being the President is a huge deal. The President plays a very vital role in establishing a model of excellence and directing people in the right way. I don’t think the Student President should be a politician or an entertainer at the All School Meetings. I think he should be a manager who gets things done. The Phillipian: How do you feel about being the sole female candidate and just the second female finalist in the past two years? Asplundh-Smith: I recognize that I stand out in this campaign because of my gender. I am not, however, here to represent the ‘female’ perspective in Student Government any more than Sam and Fan are running on a ‘male’ platform. I want to be President of this school’s Student Government because I believe that I am qualified and that I possess a vision for this Government’s future. I am eager to address the deficit of females in elected position on this campus. But equally perplexing is the lack of student interest, both male and female, in Student Government. Students are simply uninformed about the Government’s role, not only in affecting positive change, but also in preserving their privileges as students. The Phillipian: What about your “Jersey Girl” posters? Asplundh-Smith: I have talked to some girls who think that I am sending the wrong message with my “Jersey Girl” posters. However, we live in a culture that expects intelligent women to be self-deprecating and non-vocal about their accomplishments. I do not fit this mold and neither do the vast majority of females on this campus. So why do we still hold each other to these arcane standards? I also find it noteworthy that our culture eroticizes girls’ bodies to the extent that a picture of my back is interpreted as my pandering to boys’ interests and votes, while Sam duPont ’04 had his posters of his shirtless, flexing chest and no one bats an eye. This is not a national presidential campaign, and I refuse to allow my fellow male candidates monopolization amusing posters and sexual innuendo. The Phillipian: How has your position as a Disciplinary Committee Representative influenced or prepared you for the school presidency? Levenback: As a DC Rep, I deal with faculty and administration on specific students. I’ve seen how they feel about different disciplinary infractions and have served as a liaison between students and administration. Also, Phillips Academy needs a more uniform disciplinary system. The Phillipian: In your radio interview you spoke of “moving forward to the ideal of a more perfect Academy.” How would you describe a more perfect Andover? Levenback: A more perfect Andover is not a place where every student gets a 1600 on their SATs. A more perfect Andover is a place where every student can remain happy and healthy and still pursue their academic, extracurricular, and athletic interests. The Phillipian: Why do you think it is necessary to encourage members of the Student Council to take on more responsibility? Wang: It is necessary because most Student Council members do very little now. While some people do work, however, it is not mandatory for most members to attend meetings. Should I become President, the grade representatives should follow my model from this year, and just spend more time getting involved. The Phillipian: In what ways is the Student Council capable of improving life here at PA? Wang: One example is Commons. I have asked Director of Food Services Bob Noyes to add two waffle machines, which will hopefully improve student life. My style is to focus on practical things, sometimes that are small. Practical things like the BluePages have very clear benefits, but do not involve going to the faculty School Congress for approval. By noticing small yet visible changes in their daily lives,People will then have more confidence in the Student Council. We will then have more power and efficiency in school policies.