April 19, 2011

Meet The Candidates: Michael Mestitz '12

For the third year, we will be bringing you interviews with the candidates for VSA Executive Board. We've updated our questions from the previous years (2008, 2009) and have opened the interviews up to more positions so that students can have a better idea of who to vote for. Continue to check back to see more interviews as the voting period gets closer.

Our first interview is with Michael Mestitz '12 who is running for Vice President of Operations.

Mads Vassar: What experience qualifies you for the position?

Michael Mestitz: I've been an participant in Vassar's committee structure, which gives me a sense of how our sometimes-arcane system works: I've sat on the Campus Master Planning Committee for two years, and the Committee on Inclusion and Excellence for two years, working with other students, faculty, and staff. I'm also one of the student co-chairs of the Sesquicentennial, and that experience working with the development office and all sorts of other college offices has really helped to familiarize me with the offices and people the VP for Operation works with in the course of his or her duties.

MV: What campus issue matters most to you?

MM: If I had to choose a single issue, I'd say I'm most concerned with student support at Vassar. Now, granted, that's a very broad issue-when I say "student support," I mean that it's important to me that ALL Vassar students feel as if they're supported, and that the college is their home. I'm a tour guide, so I genuinely want everyone to find a great experience here. As VP for Operations, a big part of my interest in students' belonging is how the VSA communicates to students, and draws interested students into a discussion of its weekly activity.

MV: If anything, what do you want to see changed about the VSA?

MM: Building on the above, I'd like to see more transparency and communication from the VSA. The "VSA Today" website is a great idea, but it's not updated that frequently; I would make sure that it has regular reports not just on VSA Exec's projects, but also from the various student committee representatives. I also want to make sure that students can get the information they want, without filling the inboxes of students who don't care about weekly agendas. It seems to me that some sort of weekly newsletter in an email list with additional information on VSA activities like committee schedules, polls, and minutes from the previous week's meeting would be an easy and effective solution.

MV: Describe your platform in 140 characters.

MM: My three main platform points are enhancing transparency in the VSA, education about the process, and efficiency in the work. I described the transparency part above: It goes hand-in-hand with education (making sure that the students who want to participate know how) and efficiency (making sure that when people participate, things actually happen).

MV: Ok, now you can elaborate...

MM: There are some projects I'm interested in undertaking in order to improve all three of these. For transparency, keeping the VSA website current and getting out information on meeting times and agendas, as well as what proposals the VSA is working on. The proposed restructuring this year was "unveiled" to students, and that more than anything else led to the ensuing chaos: With such large proposals, I firmly believe the best thing to do is involve the larger student body in the planning stages, and try to include as many voices as possible.

Education just takes a lot of work on the VPOP's part: Offering town hall meetings maybe once a semester on the constitution and bylaws, and pulling together a comprehensive list of all student representatives on the VSA and joint committees, as well a clear list of all the responsibilities of each office of the college so that students know who to consult or contact with an issue.

Efficiency is also a communication issue, and another set of work, but the first step is regularly contacting student committee members to check to see what projects a given committee is working on. The staff and faculty on the joint committees talk across committees and organize with each other-many of them sit on more than one committee at a time. As a student representative sitting on more than one committee, I've seen how much that extra communication can streamline things, and we can enhance it by making sure that students representatives keep each other informed, too.

MV: What is your favorite Vassar memory or moment?

MM: That's a hard question... A really nerdy answer is the semesterly finals' week tradition my friends and I have of staking out a library table from open to close for the entire week and just spending it together, goofing off and trying to keep from writing the million-and-a-half papers we have due. It goes to show that good company is everything, I guess.

MV: Anything you want to add?

MM: This candidacy is a little tricky because I'm abroad in England right now! Don't hesitate to email or Facebook me with questions if you have any; I'm looking forward to getting back to campus in the fall, and I'd be honored if I could spend my last year at Vassar working for the student body as the VP for Operations.