Here is our exclusive interview with Nate Silver '10, who is running for VSA President. Be sure to check out our interview with candidate Caitlin Ly '10 if you haven't done so already.
Mads: What experience do you have that qualifies you for president?
Nate Silver: Next year I will be the only student on campus with three years of VSA Council experience under my belt. What this means is that I have worked closely with three previous VSA Presidents - I know what has been effective and what hasn't, and I'm truly ready to lead. I've served the student body in a variety of capacities - VP for Student Life, Class President, Food Committee Chair, and I've sat on a number of committees (College Life, Inclusion and Excellence, Residential Life Advisory, Priorities and Planning, Orientation, Vassar First Year, etc). My first three years have helped me develop the tools to be President, and I would hit the ground running, which is crucial because next year will be an important one.
M: What campus issues matter most to you? What, if anything, do you want to see changed about the VSA?
NS: My candidate statement highlights most of them - the student voice in restructuring the curriculum, need blind admissions, the meal plan, local foods, sustainability, room entry policy, supporting local vendors - but there are three that I would like to add to the mix. I call it my (re)form agenda: (re)Inventing Leadership, (re)Thinking Majors, (re)Imagining Admissions.
Reinventing Leadership: What became abundantly clear this year is that in many ways, the VSA Council is not an accurate representation of the student body. We need to reinvent what it means to be a leader on this campus; the Council needs to be comprised of representatives from all across the campus - not just residences and classes. Where you live is random; what you do at Vassar defines you. We need Council to consist of representatives from ALANA organizations, GLBTQ organizations, RSL organizations, Council of Black Seniors, ViCE, athletics, etc.; we need to condense the dorm representation so that it becomes a smaller piece of a much more diverse, representative Council.
Rethinking Majors: As a rising senior, I have been struck by the number of my peers taking classes next year 'because they need it to graduate.' At the same time, students are getting shut out of plenty of required courses, leaving them frustrated and confused. In future years, as the faculty shrinks, this problem will only get worse. If departments could find ways to reduce stringent departmental requirements into more broad, inter-departmental ones (collaborations between Drama/English, Anthro/Soc, PoliSci/International Studies, etc.), we would reduce the strain on the curriculum, while at the same time providing more options for students.
Reimagining Admissions: NYU this week took bold steps to change their past standardized testing policies, which they observed to discourage talented applicants who may have scored below average on the SAT from applying. We need to reminagine Vassar's admissions process; we need to think of creative ways to reach populations that we currently do not, and we need to not rely so heavily on test scores, as they are often not an indication of how successful a student will be at Vassar.
M: If voters should know one thing about you or your platform, what should it be?
NS: My ideas come from a mixture of idealism and pragmatism. It's important to dream big, to think outside of the box and to never be swayed by the status quo. The past few years the VSA has taken great strides to implement new policies and improve Vassar, but we have a long way to go. I know where we want to end up; I know how we can get there. And I'm really, really, a lot of fun.
M: What is your favorite Vassar memory or moment?
NS: The quad after Obama's victory - hands down. It was a defining moment of the 21st century and it was a privilege for Vassar students to share it with each other.