So why don’t you introduce yourself and explain why you should be SA President, briefly?
As you already know, my name is Logan Blakeslee, and I’ve been involved in the SA for about two-and-a-half years now. Before that, I attended SUNY Broome as a freshman, where I was elected as a Student Senator and later Vice President of Student Affairs. These days I represent OC3 in the SA Congress. I feel as though I would be a good fit for SA President because I have the determination to make real change for the Binghamton community. I answer to the constituents who voted for me in the first place, and every vote I have made in the SA was done with them in mind. I will be assertive with the administration, and I will listen to students about their needs. That is my top goal.
Explain why you have decided to run for this position.
I chose to run for SA President because I, and many other students, have lost faith in student government when it comes to solving issues. We see this in the low voter turnout rates and the lack of options in previous elections. I was deeply frustrated at how the same agenda kept popping up every year, and previous candidates had disturbingly similar platforms. We need new ideas, and the courage to implement them! I’m not giving up on Binghamton, and I’m not going to use this position as a stepping stone for a career. This election is more about us versus the administration more than it is about student leaders facing off against each other. Also, I really, really detest Sodexo. It is a deplorable company and I wish to use the power of the SA President to bring them in-line with student values.
What makes you stand out as a candidate for this position that sets you apart from other candidates?
The other candidates for SA President had much higher positions than I ever did during my time at Binghamton. Curiously, the same issues that they are pledging to solve now are virtually the same issues they pledged to solve a year ago. Mental healthcare is still lacking. Food services are still subpar. Campus safety is still a major worry. The difference between me and the other candidates is that I won’t hold back, and if I am elected, we can finally put these long-running problems to rest. I succeeded in my campaign promises while I was in SUNY Broome’s Student Assembly; I helped revive their campus newspaper after years of inactivity, I gathered donations for the homeless, and I was in charge of a system where student clubs held administrators accountable. I have long-lasting accomplishments that I am proud of. My record speaks for itself.
What exactly is your main platform as a candidate for student office?
The short version of my platform is “Pro-Student, Pro-You.” To elaborate on that slogan, I am calling for a more decisive approach to SA oversight of the administration. I am against any increases to tuition or the Student Activity Fee, I am against Sodexo’s monopolistic policies as a food provider, and I am against the university’s nonsensical policies towards the Greek Life community. Beyond that, I take the mental health of Binghamton students very seriously, and I call upon the university to hire more counselors. What I think is the most important part of my platform, however, is a return to normalcy. COVID-19 has done unimaginable harm to the Binghamton community. It has created an environment of constant fear and stress. The fact that many students can’t get a housing refund if they leave campus is absolutely horrendous. If I am elected, I will steer this community back to how it was before the pandemic, back when we could enjoy the company of our friends and peers. I will prioritize vaccination so that we can restore the large-scale events that we used to enjoy, while also keeping everyone safe. I want Binghamton to live again!
So how do you plan to improve the SA? How can you improve its relationship with the student body?
The SA needs more than just symbolic power. As many are likely aware, resolutions passed by the SA demanding significant change are almost always shot down by the administration. The position of SA President is one exception to this, as the title gives the opportunity to meet these bureaucrats face-to-face (or screen-to-screen, depending on how much longer Zoom is utilized). I will be the biggest advocate for expanded oversight into university affairs and operations. We students pay for this school, we should have a role in deciding how it is run. As for improving relations with the student body, the solution is quite simple. Get results! If the SA managed to achieve some permanent victories for students, then perhaps they would start caring about the SA. It is essential to break the image of the SA being a clique that only looks good on a résumé. People need to believe that someone has their back in difficult times, and if I become SA President, I will stand on the side of students every single day.
What would the first thing you do as SA president, assuming you get elected into office?
Good question. The very first thing I’d do is give an epic speech that lists all of my grievances with the university administration. The next thing I’d do is begin my plan to reopen campus. Once we’re clear of masking and social distancing requirements, I can promise you that the good times will be just around the corner. U-Fest, which I intend on bringing back to its glory days, will be a celebration unlike any other (and that’s just the beginning!). I wish to be the SA President that made Binghamton a happier, more fun place to live and learn. I wish to make the 2021-2022 school year our best one yet.
Recently, some students have been frustrated with the approach that the administration is taking in regards to the pandemic. What are your thoughts on the administration’s approach?
I fully understand the concerns of these students. They’re right to be disappointed, frustrated, or angry. I feel the exact same way they do. Denying housing refunds during the pandemic, as I mentioned before, was a terrible thing for the administration to do. Many students also rely on a consistent OCCT schedule to get to work off-campus, and the administration showed how little they cared by limiting busing hours on weekends. Cramming everyone into the University Union by shutting down the other dining halls was especially awful. How do they expect us to social-distance? Yet, the administration has the audacity to blame us for the spread of Covid-19. They fail to recognize that their own policy may very well have contributed to the pandemic.
What would you change (if anything) about the University’s approach to the pandemic?
My approach would be to phase the university out of pandemic-related restrictions. The existence of multiple vaccines, which the university should be keen to provide to the whole student body, is the surest sign that we are near the end of the lockdown era. I believe that, fairly soon, we should return to in-person instruction, and that we should have more in-person events as we did in the past. On another note, the administration should be ashamed to have had classes open on significant religious holidays back in the Fall semester. That won’t be happening again if I am elected SA President.
Some students have complained about the lack of care taken in regards to quarantine housing. How would you approach addressing these concerns?
They are right to complain! My heart goes out to the students who have been, or currently are, stuck in quarantine. It is painfully evident that the university takes action without thinking deeply on the logistics or the effects. I will do my best to provide students in quarantine with adequate food and care, if that will still be necessary by the time I take office. Students should not have to deal with unclean or unsanitary living conditions for as long as they are forced into isolation. It is time that we held someone responsible for this.
The administration has recently rolled back service in several dining halls. Do you think this was a necessary action?
I do not. I believe that this makes the crowding issue worse, not better. Keeping people spread out between the different dining halls was simple enough, given how most students are engaged in remote learning these days and are not eating on campus anyway. The decision to roll back service just sends the remaining on-campus population back into the Union building, thus defeating the purpose of social-distancing. The administration is being counterproductive on this issue.
If you were to get elected into office for the upcoming semester, how will COVID policies change, if at all?
I will carefully ease the university back to its pre-Covid operations. I am committed to seeing the return of in-person events and activities. Things like mandatory testing and mask requirements, I hope, will be a thing of the past once enough students are immunized, although I cannot deny that New York state law also plays a major role in how this campus will reopen. I will ensure that the policies reflect the fact that this pandemic is almost over. As Covid-19 rates decline, the more and more things at Binghamton will appear like how they used to be. Frankly, my intention is to give everyone the ability to see their friends and loved ones… once it is safe to do so.
One of the biggest complaints with the administration has been their communication with the student body.
How would you address these concerns? It is no secret that the administration is bad at communicating. It infrequently sends out vaguely-worded emails that do little to instill a sense of trust or respect. The administrators themselves like to pat their own backs for pretending to solve an issue that they either created, ignored, or made exponentially worse. I will be taking student feedback directly to those in charge of this university, and I will be highly active in improving transparency. It is crucial to be straightforward and clear when addressing the student body.
How will you handle your fellow elected SA officials? Would you compromise some of your positions when discussing student policy with them?
I do not think that compromise will be needed. My intention is not to bicker with the rest of the SA E-Board over particular details, but to channel student discontentment towards the administration. At heart, I think my future colleagues on the E-Board will understand my agenda and it will closely align with the sort of change they wish to see on campus. My positions are designed to be pro-student, after all.
Last year, a popular instagram account began sharing accounts of students who claimed to have been harassed and assaulted by their fellow students. Many of these accusations blamed Greek Life organizations at Binghamton. What are your thoughts on this and how would you address the situation in regards to Greek Life?
Firstly, I would like to state that I take the issue of assault or harassment very seriously. It is good that people are coming forward with their stories so that victims of these heinous acts don’t have to feel alone or ashamed. Secondly, I acknowledge the fact that Greek Life is an important resource for students to get involved in the campus community, and to make friends. I do not wish to blame every Greek Life organization for the wrongdoing of a few students, and furthermore, the recent policy that suspends these organizations for having a connection to an assault/harassment case is an overreaction. We need to hire more sexual assault investigators and collaborate with the U.P.D., not shut down organizations before their case is resolved. I want to protect students, first and foremost. I want to go after individual perpetrators and make them face the consequences of their actions.
What services could you provide to students through the SA to help them in their college experience?
This is one admittedly far-fetched idea that I’ve had for several years, but if I had the opportunity, I would create a student-run retail store on campus where folks could buy and sell materials that they no longer need. Want to get rid of a notebook that you never wrote in, or a lava lamp that’s been sitting on your desk for ages? Sell it off to the SA General Goods Store, or whatever its name might be. It would operate almost like a pawn shop, and any profit derived from it would go into reducing the activity fee. Another idea I’ve had is to host an end-of-semester campus yard sale that would function similarly, but it would give the chance for students to be their own vendors and to keep whatever profits they earn from it.
Within the past year, there has been a lot of political tension on campus. How, as SA president, would you attempt to both ease tension as well as ensure that everyone has the right to freely express themselves?
I have no desire to see this campus more divided than it already is. I recognize and respect the right to protest, to express one’s thoughts, and to criticize virtually anything. Free speech, as enshrined in our Constitution, is a fundamental natural right. As SA President, I would work closely with the Multicultural Resource Center to facilitate dialogue between politically-distant student groups. Progress has been made on this front already. I seek an end to the climate of fear and distrust between students. I also disagree with existing tabling policy on campus due to how it limits the free exchange of ideas between individuals.
Over the years, there have been multiple complaints in regards to Sodexo and student dining. How would you improve on student dining?
Sodexo is a terrible company, to be blunt. They prevent any real competition and charge students high prices for low-quality food. This is unacceptable! They should be closely observed for price-gouging or health violations. Additionally, Sodexo should not be able to restrict third-party catering whenever student groups request it. I also think that multicultural groups should be consulted on matters related to food policy, as they are often ignored.
As a free-speech publication, we believe that it is necessary for all students to have a voice. What can you do to have all voices on campus be heard without being shouted down?
I agree, every student should have a voice. I believe that no one attending a public institution should be afraid of censorship, vandalism, or violence because of their political views, or any views for that matter. If elected, I will use the powers of my office to defend free thought on campus to the fullest extent. There must be room for dialogue and conversation where appropriate. At other times, there must be room for protests, as well as counter-protests. Free speech goes both ways. Do you have any suggestions or a message to send to our readership? I want to tell all of you that the upcoming SA election might be the most important one in this university’s history. There is much at stake. I hope that my words have given you hope for this college’s future, and I would be honored if you voted for me to be your next SA President. Also, be sure to follow my campaign Instagram: blakeslee4prez