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USGA presidential candidates begin campaigning

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Presidential candidate Phillip-John Puzzo and his running mate Samantha Juarez are counting on their experience and diversity to win votes in the USGA spring elections.

Students will receive freebies, fliers and buttons galore in the next few days as Unified Student Government Association (USGA) candidates campaign for the upcoming spring elections taking place on March 26 and 27.

Loyola students will elect members to three executive positions — vice president, president and the chief of student organizations — and 28 senator seats. The winners will be announced on March 28.

This year, voting stations will be placed in Damen Student Center and the IC, where members of the elections board committee will guide students through the online ballot. Students will also receive a link to the ballot via their school email accounts — the only form of voting that has been available in past elections.

According to senior Emily Taft, a member of the Spring Elections Board, few students voted last year, as only 24.2 percent of the student population submitted ballets. She said that the board aims to have a participation rate of at least 30 percent for this year’s election.

“What is really exciting about this election is that [my opponent and I [pull] from very different networks,” Phillip-John Puzzo said, referring to his opponent for the presidential spot, Flavio Bravo. “He’s a year younger than I am, so we [pull] from upperclassmen and underclassmen. I’m in Greek life; he’s part of a lot of other organizations. I think that because we’re so different, voter turnout could be the biggest ever.”

This election season, only two teams are vying to replace current president Pedro Guerrero and vice president Thomas Serena: Puzzo and vice presidential candidate Samantha Juarez are running against presidential candidate Bravo and his running mate Michael Fasullo.

​Bravo and Fasullo’s platform includes a four-step initiative that advocates student awareness, student change, a chief of community relations officer and a “Commitment to Mission” plan. The chief community relations officer would be a student in charge of fostering relationships between Loyola and the Rogers Park and Edgewater communities. The “Commitment to Mission” plan is to create a strategy to follow Loyola’s mission as a Jesuit Catholic University. More details on these pillars can be found on their campaign website, bravofasullo2014.com.

​“We really want to focus on achievable solutions,” Fasullo said. “Something we really want to showcase is  Tea with the Dean, where students will be able to sit down with the dean of students and the vice president of student development twice a month and talk.”

Bravo and Fasullo also seek to organize a board of trustees luncheon to give students the opportunity to sit at the table with administrative decision-makers.

Bravo, a 19-year-old philosophy and political science double major with a concentration in social justice, currently serves on the judicial branch of USGA. Last year, he served on the justice committee.

Fasullo, a 19-year-old political science major with peace studies and photography minors, currently serves on the legislative branch and is chairman of the Residence Life and Dining Committee as well as the budget review board. Fasullo said that he and Bravo, both sophomores, have the advantage of two more years at Loyola to carry out their initiatives.

“We might not be re-elected senior year, but we’ll be around. We’re here for the long run. These initiatives take more than one year and we wouldn’t run if there wasn’t a need for us to run,” Fasullo said.

Contesting Bravo and Fasullo’s initiatives, the Puzzo and Juarez platform involves what the candidates call “Three C’s”: creating an inclusive and diverse community, cultivating sustainable initiatives and confirming the value of the Loyola academic degree. More information on their initiatives can be found online at puzzojuarez2014.com.

According to Puzzo, the main objective for the Puzzo-Juarez team is working toward creating a more diverse campus. He said that he and his running mate hope to combat Loyola’s lack of diversity by instating a chief diversity officer in Rev. Michael J. Garanzini’s cabinet to offer a student perspective at the administrative level.

vice presidential candidate Michael Falusso, left, and presidential candidate Flavio Bravo will push for "achievable solutions" at Loyola if elected.
vice presidential candidate Michael Falusso, left, and presidential candidate Flavio Bravo will push for “achievable solutions” at Loyola if elected.

“Diversity is the No. 1 issue that we’re focusing on,” Puzzo said. “It is a huge issue on this campus — there’s a lack of socioeconomic, racial, ethnic and minorities on this campus. We can’t stress how important it is to us that diversity is a part of the college experience.”

Puzzo, a 20-year-old international studies and political science double major, has been involved in the Communications Committee (which was dissolved after his freshman year), the Spring Elections Board and the events planning committee. He has also served as chairperson and senator of the Safety and Wellness Committee.

Juarez, 21, is also an international studies and political science double major. Currently studying abroad, she serves as the chair of advocacy of the John Felice Rome Center Student Activities Committee and has previously served as a USGA senator and Residence Life and Dining Committee chairperson.

Juarez and Puzzo, both juniors, have been involved in USGA since their freshman year. Juarez said she and her running mate’s additional year of experience as well as their ability to represent key sectors of the student body give them an edge over the opposing candidates.

“We are the most diverse ticket,” Juarez said. “As a Hispanic woman, I represent both a majority and a minority of the student body whose voices need to be heard. I am not declaring myself the sole representative of these populations, but I think that there is some weight to that. Phillip-John and I also both identify as members of the LGBT community.”

Puzzo added, “We are the most experienced ticket … We have a year of experience over our opposition. On top of that, we have diversity. We’re both gay. Samantha is a female and she is Latina, a minority who can speak with authority about diversity issues.”

Both presidential candidates said that a main objective will be fighting for opportunities for undocumented students. They also both aim to monitor Loyola’s tuition rate to ensure that students are offered the best value for their education.

In the final days of their campaign, Bravo and Fasullo plan to shake hands with students around campus, hitting the pavement to make connections and garner support. The pair also hosted a campaign kickoff event on Monday in Palm Court to talk about their initiatives and get students to sign up for the “Bravo Network,” a team of supporters.

The campaign strategy for Puzzo and Juarez, on the other hand, involves promoting in underclassmen residence halls, working tables in Damen, talking to students in the dining halls and getting endorsements from student organizations.

“I’m going to be up at 6 a.m. every day waiting outside of dorms,” Puzzo said. “I have lots of goodies to give out to freshmen and sophomores. I’m glad it’s only a week and I’m excited to plow through it.”

The campaign process, which began on Friday, March 15, will last until midnight on Tuesday, March 25. Until then, students may benefit from the flurry of campaign activity to discover the positions of candidates who will represent Loyola next year.

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Angie Stewart is a senior journalism major from Columbus, Ohio. She loves to travel, eat pasta and watch YouTube videos of capybaras. Fun fact: She once met Ted from How I Met Your Mother at a bachelorette party.

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