By Arthur O’Sullivan
If you thought election season was over, think again! In November, we voted for a bunch of politicians in far away places. This coming Sunday, we’ll be voting for our Student Association members. Unlike high school, this student government has the opportunity to influence campus life for everyone: cutting or increasing student costs, aiding or protesting administrative abuses, fighting for or against student interests. It all depends on who gets elected. To that end, it’s my pleasure to interview my friend and colleague, Logan Blakeslee, prospective candidate for SA President. In the months I have worked with him, he has been one of the most hardworking, humble, and cooperative people I know. In this interview, we discussed his life, platform, and lessons learned from his previous campaign in 2021. It is my hope that this interview convinces you to vote for Blakeslee this Sunday, and support his comprehensive plan to repair this university.
- So why don’t you introduce yourself and explain why you should be SA President, briefly? Gladly. Born and raised here in Broome County, I have worked hard my whole life to improve my community as much as possible. I was the president of the Oak Tree Leadership Club in high school, which brought children with autism together to raise donations for the homeless. In my freshman year at SUNY Broome, I was elected Vice President of Student Affairs, where I similarly raised donations for homeless college students. At Binghamton I served in Student Congress and currently I hold the position of OC3 Vice President of Programming. I want to be S.A. President because I am tired of complacency within student government and outright malice from the university administration. I am the only candidate who is focused on living expenses and the quality of amenities that we depend on. People who vote for me are voting to upend the status quo and take a more radical approach in fighting for our basic needs.
- Why are you running for this position? The S.A. President is one of the very few positions on campus that frequently meets with Harvey Stenger, Brian Rose, and other university administrators. If elected, I would be able to directly tell them about the issues that affect this campus and demand that they address them. While they can try to ignore most students individually, they cannot ignore the S.A. President. The office comes with the responsibility of sitting in boardroom meetings with the college higher-ups. Being elected also implies that there is a consensus around my agenda from students, which puts even more pressure on the administration to make changes that are actually helpful.
- What sets you apart from other candidates? The other candidates are making the same exact promises that the incumbents before them made. The E-Board that now runs the S.A. generally did not deliver on their campaign promises because they were too vague, too abstract, and now those promises are being recycled. They mentioned how dedicated they are to equity without defining it, and they seem to have no strong stances on major campus issues, like dining or building renovations or the SUNY tuition increase. I have nothing against the other candidates personally, but I don’t think there’s anything in their platforms that critically evaluates the relationship between S.A. and the administration. Rest assured, if one of the other candidates wins, the S.A. will look exactly the same as it does now: reclusive and unresponsive.
- What does “Abolish Parking Services” mean? Are you serious? Is it a metaphor? Will you actually do it? “Abolish Parking Services” describes a movement, not a policy position. It encapsulates the frustration that hundreds of commuting students feel every day when they are wrongly ticketed, run over a pothole that’s been ignored for months, or just can’t find a space in any of the parking lots. Binghamton loves new construction projects but refuses to adequately expand parking access and the introduction of the Appeals Fee, in my opinion, is one of the most immoral things this college has ever done. The fee blames students for a crisis that the university created. The slogan is therefore hyperbole, but the intent behind it is very real. I will use my presidential authority to advocate for new parking spaces, lower ticket costs, and the removal of the Appeals Fee. If possible, I would also state that I am in favor of installing electric vehicle chargers in commuter lots. Reform is sorely needed, and that is ultimately what I am promising.
- Aside from this main platform, what issues would you prioritize once in office? In other words, what are the first things you would do? On day one of a Blakeslee presidency, I would call out Harvey Stenger and Brian Rose for putting profits over the wellbeing of the student body in my inauguration speech. Besides that, I want to force the S.A. to create a permanent Dining Committee to report on Sodexo’s abusive practices, whether they be mistreatment of employees, food poisoning of customers, or violating cultural dietary restrictions. Unfortunately S.A. Congress rejected a proposal to create such a committee and they never revisited the issue. My other major goal is to cap the Student Activity Fee, because S.A. Congress constantly votes to increase it every two years. By successfully balancing the S.A.’s budget, I can likely cut the Student Activity Fee and prevent hundreds of thousands of dollars from going to waste every year. Putting pressure on Congress to approve more budget requests is yet another major goal of mine.
- How do you intend to implement these reforms, legally and practically? A platform is only as good as the people who work to implement it. Negotiations and compromise are always part of the process, but I will never settle for lower quality services at a higher cost. All of my planned reforms for the S.A. itself would be within my constitutional authority as president to enforce. I see no significant challenges there. However, bringing reforms to the university administration will be very difficult. It will require nonstop dedication and perseverance. I will be the first S.A. President to stand up to Sodexo and Parking Services, and that means that I will be confronting hostile monopolists on day one. With that being said, I do think that I can rally the student body to protest the worst abuses we suffer on campus. We must show unity.
- One of the biggest complaints with the administration has been their lack of communication with the student body, especially about inclement weather and food/tuition price hikes. How might you address these concerns? If the administration refuses to communicate with students about important topics, the S.A. must take up that responsibility without hesitation. Not only will I talk about the impact of price hikes with the administrators, I will publicly address them as president and make sure that students aren’t left in the dark. The S.A. President can send mass-messages to the student body, and I intend on using that power frequently to spread awareness. Inclement weather, meanwhile, is an active danger to commuters like myself. I believe that the university should authorize a snow day when nearby schools, particularly Vestal, are dismissed because of the weather. I drive about 30 minutes each day to get to campus, and in my rural corner of Broome, the roads can become extremely icy or impossible to traverse. Commuters deserve to know when driving may be too big of a risk.
- If elected, how would you interact with other SA officials, especially those who might oppose your platform? I think synergy is important when building a coalition. My platform will not be accepted by everyone, but while campaigning I learned that the issues I am talking about matter deeply to most students. For S.A. Congress, I would try to encourage students who dislike Sodexo or Parking Services to run for office in the Fall semester. For the S.A. E-Board, I am pleasantly surprised that many of the vice presidential candidates are open to my platform. My agenda can only succeed if they have an equal chance to fulfill their own campaign promises, and I would be glad to assist them. Essentially, my cabinet members will build each other up for success.
- What have you learned from your previous presidential run, and what will you do this time to win? Two factors played a major role in the outcome of my previous presidential run: ambition and apathy. Ambition, because my platform at the time went far beyond the scope of the S.A. President. I had wanted to demilitarize the campus police and hire more mental health counselors (and still do) but lacked a cohesive plan to accomplish that. Apathy, because I had discovered concerning elements in the way the election was conducted and discreetly reported on it for the Binghamton Review. As this was during the Covid-19 pandemic, hardly anyone paid attention, and the S.A. J-Board (with new justices appointed by the winner of that election) dismissed my complaints. This time, I am running an active ground campaign and going from club to club to share my message. I am actively listening to students talk about their issues with this university, and I feel like that is making a huge difference this time around.
- What makes this time different? My new platform is a realistic one, but still tackles the problems that students face on a daily basis. Having acquired more executive experience from my time as VPP of OC3, I can say that I have overcome the résumé gap that I faced the last time I ran for president. The other candidates in 2021 were previous S.A. E-Board members or other higher-ups, and compared to them, a mere congress representative wasn’t very impressive. My drive to hold the administration accountable is greater than it has ever been before. I learned from my last campaign, and this time I will not slow down in my quest for fair treatment. If you want to see real change at Binghamton University, I urge you to vote for Logan Blakeslee as your next S.A. President.