Vandris and Wingfield Voted Presidential Finalists

News  /  by Grace Blaxill '18 & Katherine Xiong '19  /  April 15, 2016

Yiannis Vandris ‘17

Grace Blaxill ’18: Briefly describe your platform.

Yiannis Vandris ’17: Firstly, I’d like to address the system that currently exists for StuCo to propose policy changes to the administration. While there is a system in place, the student body doesn’t really assume an active role in it [...] A big part of my campaign would be to legitimize that process, make it more public, include publications on campus, keep the students involved at every step. Another big issue is disciplinary action. I would work with the administration to make sure that all students are afforded the benefits of the two strike policy, regardless of when they make their mistake. My third point is about school unity. I think that we need a real mascot. The conceptual color really just isn't doing it for me. We should also address issues that we’ve been dealing with on campus. One thing I've noticed in past years is that StuCo will often demand change of the administration without looking back on themselves. For example, we can’t legitimately ask for parietal reform before we address the hookup culture on campus. We can’t really preach about being inclusive truthfully with the inequalities on campus that I think still exist [...] Lastly, I'm a Ropes Course Instructor, love the outdoors, and think we have a beautiful campus. There have been initiatives with the Big Red Farm to get students more involved in our campus and get them outside. I think we have wonderful facilities that we don't utilize enough.

GB: In your eyes, what is the role of student body president?

YV: I think that the role of the student body president is to represent the students’ points of view and convey them to the administration in such a way that can elicit change. I think a lot of the time, the Student Council separates itself from the student body and collaborates with the administration on certain goals it wants to achieve but fails to keep the students involved. Not just at the beginning of the process, not just when you’re proposing an issue, but keeping them involved every step of the way. I think that the student body president has a responsibility to the students, to be that voice for them.

GB: How will you make sure to actually carry out the promises you make in your platform?

YV: A big part of my platform is not promising specific things but rather running more on the process. I think that working closely with the administration is hugely important, and I think that these are initiatives that the Student Council wants to get behind and that the administration wants to get behind because they fully know that there are issues on this campus that are not being adequately dealt with. I think often the administration is portrayed in a negative light, where in reality we just really haven’t engaged them effectively enough to request that change. I think in terms of academic honesty, that’s a huge problem, especially with recent developments. Disciplinary action has become huge on campus, and the School is very proud of its two strike policy. All these things are initiatives that the administration is in favor of pursuing, and with the student initiative that I would be willing to take on, a lot of these are very feasible.

GB: What character quality is most important in a president? How do you express this quality?

YV: The ability to listen would probably be my number one. I have a list of things I would like to do, and that I would like to see done, but I’m not campaigning on a certain set of social events. I’m campaigning on a process that amplifies the voice of the student body. If you don’t listen to the student body, you won't be able to do your job effectively. Period. I would say being able to take those critiques effectively, listening to what the school community is telling you, and being able to act is very important, and I think that’s reflected in my platform ideas.

GB: In what ways have you taken advantage of the opportunities at Lawrenceville, and how does this affect your vision going forward as a presidential candidate?

YV: A lot of people know that I’m involved in a lot of things, and I think that’s often a concern for people in my candidacy. I’m an Editor of The Lawrence, the Editor-in-Chief of The First Amendment, and a participant in Debate, Model UN, and Jazz Band. I've branched out into almost every aspect of Lawrenceville. In pursuing this position, it’s necessary to give some of these things up, and those are sacrifices I’d be willing to make because there’s nothing that I would enjoy more than being able to serve my peers. They have been amazing to me; they’ve stood by me and helped me through my time here. I’ve seen what Lawrenceville has to offer, met a lot of interesting people, people that I really love, and it would be an honor to give back to the community that has given me so much.

GB: What do you think is the biggest issue that currently exists on campus? How will you address it?

YV: I would say that the biggest issue that’s currently on the minds of students would be getting their voice translated into policy change, but that’s far too broad. More on a personal level, the most concerning thing for people is the increase in disciplinary action. As Cameron Anderson [’16] said in school meeting, it’s disappointing as a member of the community to watch your friends leave [...] I think that the greatest issue on campus is the true meaning of the two strike policy and standardizing what that means across the board.

Isaiah Wingfield ’17

Katherine Xiong ’19: Briefly describe your platform.

Isaiah Wingfield ’17: My platform is really a push for [ … ] more conversation, more community, and more cultural confidence. I believe that Lawrenceville is really a place that fosters the open mind [and] that is perfect for anybody looking for progressivism, so I’m big on having more conversations and really talking about pressing issues worldwide, because, I mean, if Lawrentians aren’t doing it, then who is? So that’s huge for me. Building on the community aspect, there’s so much more we can do to really bring each other together, so through Saturdays, through more events that bring Lawrenceville together, that celebrate the individuals as well as celebrate groups. […] We have so much to share with one another, and through that, we can really make this place better.

KX: In your eyes, what is the role of student body president?

IW: There are a lot of meetings—a lot of time, a lot of emails, of course. I’m big on really—not inspiring people, but trying to shed light on issues. I would say the role of the student body president is first, you have to be able to not run, but facilitate Student Council. Definitely spread your ideas, but definitely take in a ton of ideas. Have a very open mind because I do not know it all. There are people a lot smarter than me, people who have a lot more artistic talent than me, are better athletes than me—I’m certainly not the best one here. So keeping an open mind, being ready to adapt and learn from the Lawrentians around you—and then being able to work, kind of be a voice, and the medium between students and administration, and to really get things done.

KX: How will you make sure to actually carry out the promises you make in your platform?

IW: First, I made sure I didn’t make any outlandish promises, so I don’t think I have anything that would be too hard to complete [...] First, I would need to get everybody on board—I think a lot more can get done if the student body is rallying around the idea. So we’d do polls, and petitions, I think. I could show the administration that this is what a lot of people want done, and I think through my two years here, I have really created great relationships with Dean Eldridge, Dean Thomas, and really most of the administration. So I think they’d be willing to work with me; I’d definitely be willing to work with them. And if there’s anything that the whole school really wants to get done, I think I could do it.

KX: What character quality is most important in a president? How do you express this quality?

IW: I’ve had the opportunity to be president of the Hamill House [...] I’ve figured out what it takes there—I talked about this in my speech to the IV Formers, but really I think what’s big is you have to be stern. All the laughing and stuff—sure, it’s fun, but you do have to get a job done at some point. But at the same time, you really have to balance and be approachable and friendly, so I think having that balance is really key. I would like to think that I can do that pretty well, and I’m working on it, no doubt.

KX: In what ways have you taken advantage of the opportunities at Lawrenceville, and how does this affect your vision going forward as a presidential candidate?

IW: Lawrenceville has completely changed me. I came in here as a new sophomore from a small Catholic school, and really, my perception on it—well, I only had one perception on everything, one way of thinking. Through the diversity, through the communication, through living in a House with so many different people; through Harkness tables and discussions with kids from all over the world, I have really changed—for the better, I would like to think. So I would just say the opportunity to just—not even that I’ve seen the world, but to learn so much from so many other people—helped me build an open mind. That’s one of the most important things a president has to have. If you go in there thinking that you’re going to run the show and that your ideas are the only ones that matter, that won’t make too many people happy.

KX: What do you think is the biggest issue that currently exists on campus? How will you address it?

IW: I know this sounds so cliché, but people talk about the Lawrenceville bubble. I think it’s bad. We pride ourselves on being so diverse and open-minded, and so many people don’t even know what’s going on worldwide. Because we get so caught up in grades and sports and everything that goes into being a Lawrentian—our arts, our music—well, we get so caught up in ourselves, in our daily agenda, that we don’t even know what’s going on worldwide. That has to change. So through daily emails about daily issues, more talk about global things during school meeting—anything to foster the idea that Lawrenceville [...] the place where we live is not the only thing we should be thinking about.