Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Question and Answer: Timmy Sullivan and Nathalie Amazan’s second bid for SGA president and vice president: ‘louder and bolder’

Candidates used the year-long gap after they lost to try and improve their platform

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(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

By Jackson Cote, News Editor

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Last year, sophomores Nathalie Amazan and Timmy Sullivan—freshmen at the time—ran their Student Government Association presidential/vice-presidential campaign on a platform they described as progressive and politically bold. They ultimately lost against incumbents Anthony Vitale and Lily Wallace, SGA veterans who beat Amazan and Sullivan by an almost three-to-one margin.

This year, though, they begin their second bid as the seasoned veterans; only this time, they’re flipping roles, as Sullivan will be running for president and Amazan as vice.

Here’s the transcript of their question-and-answer interview in preparation for Monday’s SGA executive debate from 6-8 p.m. in the Commonwealth Honors College Events Hall.

You ran last year for president and vice president. You were ultimately unsuccessful, receiving 937 votes to incumbents Anthony Vitale and Lily Wallace’s 2,504. Why do you think you lost, and how you do think you can win this time around? What’s the change

Nathalie Amazan: I think part of the reason why we lost was our organization, and I think this year, we’ve changed in that we’re definitely more structured, definitely have a better team behind us that is committed to our platform and our message and really believes in us, and I think we also even believe in ourselves more.

Just what we’ve been doing since the last election, the work that we’ve done, we have only gotten louder. We have only gotten bolder. We’ve done a lot more to just make ourselves more appealing candidates and also further the things that we care about, and I think that through just that experience we’ve had last election and now the team we’ve been able to build up, we have a lot better chance of winning this year.

Timmy Sullivan: I want to echo a lot of what Nathalie said, but I do think one of our strengths last year, which has only gotten even stronger, is just the amount of people that believe in our message and how genuine it is—the work that we’re doing is. The 937 votes we got last year were people who were really passionate about what we were saying. We couldn’t walk around the campus and not have people really be in awe about the things that we were bringing to the SGA and the progressive platform that we were running on, and since we lost, we’ve done a lot more tangible work on campus.

We’ve met with administrators like every month since we lost basically—working on campus policy changes, meeting with students, building student power, meeting with other groups to elevate a lot of these platform points, and I think that now that we’re coming out and we’re releasing our platform again and we’re out on social media and we’re talking to students, I see a lot of the same energy that we got last year just in such greater volume.

Last year, you ran on a platform of improved sustainability efforts on campus—a “zero-waste culture,” as you called it—as well as reforming the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health, wheelchair accessibility at the Fine Arts Center and working with the Sanctuary Campus Movement, among other things.

A year is a long time. What has changed about your campaign since then, and what’s your platform this year? Is it still as progressive?

NA: Yeah, I’d say our platform is just as progressive—I’d say even more progressive. Definitely encompassing in supporting Martial I students, encompassing student security and privacy security on campus, supporting accessibility needs on campus as well. It encompasses all of that. Supporting queer and trans[gender] students on campus. My work at Stonewall has just gotten more intense I’d say. I’m instructing more training, I’m putting on more events, different events that highlight issues that are unique to the trans community, and I think that is receptive to a lot of people who feel kind of forgotten on campus or often overlooked.

So, I think our work has just gotten more progressive and more significant I’d say since last year.

TS: Definitely. I think one of the big things that separates us from the other candidates is that while all three tickets may say that they support progressive values, we’re the only ones, who, since our time on this campus, have really been fighting passionately for all of these issues and have tangible work to be putting out that supports our platform points.

So, for instance, affordability is one of the big things that entered our platform this year that wasn’t so much in there last year. I know for myself, I’ve been working tirelessly for the past year to make UMass a more affordable education for all students on campus. So, within the last year, I’ve met with UMass system president Marty Meehan three times to build a student and administration partnership that looks at recruitment and retention of low-income students, addressing food insecurity on campus and increasing state funding for UMass.

I’ve met with Senator Elizabeth Warren twice to talk about increasing federal dollars to public colleges. I’ve met with Congressman Jim McGovern about increasing federal dollars. I went to the College for All Acts press hearing with Bernie Sanders and Senator Warren to talk about free public college across the nation. I’ve worked with PHENOM, the public higher education network of Massachusetts, to bring students to the State House and lobby for increased state dollars in public education. Nathalie and I spoke on a panel with state Senator Jamie Eldridge to talk about his free public college bill, Senate 681, and we both served as delegates to the Massachusetts State Democratic Party convention over the summer, and we voted for and adopted free public college into the Massachusetts Democratic Party platform.

 So, over the last year, we’ve done a lot of work fighting for progressive values, and so now that we’re campaigning, in my honest opinion, I think we’re the only ones with the track record to back it up and not just say we support progressive values.

 How do you feel like your platform differs from the other candidates?

NA: Yeah, I think experience and also just honesty and transparency. The work that we’ve been doing since day one on campus, since the election happened, has just been to improve and work towards our platform goals.

And I think the other candidates, if we’re being frank here, can’t show us that history, can’t show us the history of fighting for affordability, for fighting for marginalized students, for putting student voices at the center, for trying to empower students through political organizing work on campus. I think that the hours we put into this really speaks for itself.

TS: I think, honestly, we’re the most qualified candidates in the race, and it’s because we’re not just starting to talk about these progressive values now that the election has begun, but we’ve been actively working on them and trying to bring them on campus for the past year and a half.

What do you think Anthony and Lily did right over the course of their time at the SGA, and what do you hope to improve? 

NA: Something that I really want to see is an SGA that is truly representative. Students don’t really know what the SGA is, and if they do know, they think that it’s like model UN for poli-sci [political science] majors or just something that’s not legitimate. I think that legitimacy that we have and the power that we have is just dormant right now, and I think that if we’re able to have an administration, have me and Timmy in office and being able to bring students who wouldn’t otherwise be a part of SGA, and bring in their passion, bring in their energy, we could really make great change on campus.

I just think that what we can bring and what we really want to change is how the student government operates in and of itself to be a change-making body, to be a more representative body.

TS: One of my biggest criticisms of the SGA is how insular it is, and I think that’s one of the reasons why a lot of folks on campus don’t understand the power that is in SGA, and I also don’t think we’re utilizing that power.

We have this document—it’s called the Wellman Document—and it gives students primary responsibility over governing issues that affect students. And so, we can bring up to the Board of Trustees and the administration any policy changes that we want to see on campus, and the way that students get to advocate for those policy changes is through the Student Government Association. But we don’t talk about the power, the representative power, and the ability to make tangible policy change on campus through the SGA. That narrative is completely absent from how we talk about the body.

We only talk about funding. We only talk about…giving money to RSOs, which is something that would happen regardless of who’s doing that job. That is just one of the functions of the SGA, but what does depend on the people that you elect is whether or not they are going to bring your concerns and elevate the progressive work that you’re doing on campus to the policy change level with the administration. And that’s something Nathalie and I really want to change.

This year you are running for president, Timmy, and you’re running for vice president, Nathalie. Could you explain the switch?

NA: We’re a team.

TS: Yep. We’re not running for the title, and we’ve never been running for the title. So, we inversed the positions because we don’t think that the title is important. What’s more important is our partnership, and win or lose, Nathalie and I are going to be running again next year.

Portions of this interview have been edited out for length.

Jackson Cote can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @jackson_k_cote.

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