Running for president and vice president of Undergraduate Student Government, Fiona Phie and Camila de la Vega, were able to send some voice memos over iMessage, as well as texts, to answer Mass Media’s email. Elections are from April 27 to April 30 at 11:59 p.m..
Claire Speredelozzi: Do you have any experience in USG? If so, what?
Camila de la Vega: I do not have any experience in USG, it was in my years that I spent at UMass Boston, which has been almost three years.I have not felt a natural gravitational pull to it. I haven't had an professors or classmates be like, 'Hey you should like look into this. You would be good for it.' So no, I haven't been at USG. I also think that would be something that we both share to a certain degree. That we would be more grounded with the population at UMass Boston because the majority of the population is not at USG and so it's that 'outsider perspective' that I think a lot of us want, a lot of us students want, a more grounded experience.
Fiona Phie: To add on the first question I don't have experience in student government, I have had informal experience getting students and organizations on campus together to talk about the student space that's been a really big topic. I got involved when we organized a sit-in in the USG office, in addition to attending GAs and calling student government senators. What made me interested was the fact that a lot of the students who are representing the student body population were not representative of the student population as a whole and it was a lot of conflict between—well not a lot—I wouldn't say dramatic or anything—I would say there was a significant disagreement about how to deal with the students in the student space and um being someone who goes to the Queer Student Center and the Asian Student Center and have a lot of friends in the other centers, it was really important that our voices be heard and to have our agency's be in the room while these decisions were being made.
CS: If you haven't had any experience, what made you interested in USG?
CdlV: Fiona and I were actually talking about this the other day and it's really funny. I had been wanting to get involved in—to some degree—at UMass Boston. And me and her bonded in a class, in a political science class and she was like, 'Yo, you should come with me to this meeting with the Vice Chancellor.' La-da-da-da! Class ends, we go to the meeting with the Vice Chancellor, and we're sitting in this meeting and a variety of things are on the table, a variety of topics; what I notice is that, at the table it's all a mix-bag of student leaders. Basically Fiona was like, 'I see you, I see your politics, I see what you stand for, I see how you are in this classroom and how you are as a student, to this space.' That type of natural invitation I was like, absolutely I'll come through and after that meeting, after all these things are on the table, me and her were like, 'We're confused.' I'm—there's so many things happening at this school and what—like what things that are happening at this school aren't what's being discussed in this meeting. From this one meeting with the Vice Chancellor—still there are hundreds if not dozens of other things that could have been discussed among student leadership that were of higher importance and there wasn't. It felt like very sidelined, very passive involvement and the responses also felt passive. And in some ways very infantilizing. So she was like, 'Yo will you run with me' and I was like, 'Absolutely' because if this is the way it is we gotta do something about it, we have to like ... actually represent what we're hearing from our classmates and other commuters and students.
CS: What made you want to get involved?
CdlV: I think as a UMass Boston student has two jobs or many jobs at a time, I don't always have the most access to what's going on like had it not been for Fiona, I wouldn't have known about this Vice Chancellor meeting that was open to the public so It's significant, it's important that, that people--that students know that students know that they have a say in what happens in their institution and what happens and government is where those means to accessibility are made. I have experience working in government, with working in the current administration in Massachusetts, I have also been in a variety of healing communities and organizations outside of UMass Boston. And I think it takes a high amount of courage and bravery to change the way institutions are being run and so that's what made me want to get involved.
CS: How long have you been thinking of running for president and VP? What made you decide to run?
CdlV: I had never intentionally set out the goal to run for VP. However, I have made myself available to the opportunity of representing our community in a way that felt organic and not forced for resume our clout. At the beginning of the spring semester I knew I wanted to get more involved but didn’t know how that could happen. It wasn’t until I met Fiona in a POLISCI class that the opportunity was presented to me. It was just perfect timing for them and myself. We have extremely similar politics and are both privileged enough to speak up whenever we feel necessary. Specifically, there was this one time after class Fiona had invited me to a meeting with the VC and I had no idea what it was about but I said yes and decided to show up with her. Sitting down at this meeting I noticed the variety of student representation at the table along with admin staff but why weren’t there more people at this meeting? Why did it seem so formal? I was confused but anyways, I stayed and mostly observed the issues brought to the table. Issues that were not being discussed around me on a daily basis, that I had never heard brought up in class, that our teachers weren’t bringing to us and that just was not an apparent priority for the majority of the student body. After that me and Fiona debriefed and we immediately synced on what we perceived the student body actually needed. After that I decided that running with Fiona might be the one of the most effective ways to, not only get something done that represents the student body, but let admin and the institution know what we really care about. What actually might make us feel like the institution cares about us.
CS: How comfortable are you in GA?
CdlV: I’m not sure what this question is actually asking. If it’s referring to Roberts rules and the logistics of how GA is carried out, yes I know how Roberts rules works and have years of experience with it. If it’s asking if I’m able to be formal and manage that level of bureaucracy, then the answer is also yes. I have years of management experience and have spent significant time working for the state on a political and admin level. If it’s asking if I’m actually emotionally comfortable with physically being in GA, the answer is truly that no it’s not my favorite place to be. It doesn’t feel natural and the Roberts rules and the formality of it makes it extremely inaccessible to your average student. Nevertheless, we strive to set new precedents including in GA and will work it to the best of our ability to represent the student body.
CS: What makes your team the best candidates? How do you think you can make a difference?
CdlV: I really know that how we are making a difference is because we are the best team. And I say this to also say that there are hundreds if not thousands of other teams of students that would also be the best in representing themselves. Again, we are privileged in that we have the means and ability to do this at this point and time in our lives. This has allowed us to be brave. I trust in Fiona and believe in their capacity to always show up and show out to the best of her ability And I know she trusts in me to do the same. That’s what makes us the best. We’ll speak your truth and our truth even if that means making some people uncomfortable. That’s what it takes to make change happen.