Frances Burton and Nico Gardner-Serna announce campaigns for VSG president

Rachel Friedman, Campus Editor

This year’s campaigns for VSG President and Vice President are Frances Burton and Veer Shah and Nico Gardner-Serna and Taylor Thompson. The election will be held March 19 and 20 after two debates: the first on main campus March 12 hosted by the Vanderbilt Political Review, and the second on Commons March 13 hosted by The Hustler.

Gardner-Serna began his VSG career as a Memorial House Senator, and later served as chair of the Executive Steering Committee. Currently, he serves as the chair of the Academic Affairs Committee. Gardner-Serna ran for vice president last year on a ticket with Phyllis Doremus.

“To us, the answer isn’t VSG consolidating its power and making itself more powerful, but really enabling leaders and communities to make change,” Gardner-Serna said. “The platform point that I’m most excited for is just this reshaping of VSG– so it’s unapologetically fighting for the student body. So the way we accomplish that is creating a platform within VSG that incentivizes collaborations between organizations and student advocacy so that change happens on the ground.”

Coming into the campaign as a vice presidential candidate, Thompson has never previously been involved in VSG. On campus, she serves as the president of the Vanderbilt Intentional Diversity Experience, president of the Model UN team and a member of the NAACP Community Service Board.

Burton has also been involved in VSG since her first year, serving as Murray House President, when the Commons Leadership Council was still a part of VSG. She later served as Branscomb & Blakemore senator, and currently serves as Director of Campus Outreach. Shah is a member of the Community Building, Outreach, International, and Diversity Committee.

“I love Vanderbilt, and I think when you love a place, you feel a lot of investment. So I think that’s my biggest motivation,” Burton said. “I’ve had a fantastic Vanderbilt experience, but I’ve also, as we all have had, lots of ups and downs, and just generally see how special place it is, but how much it can improve. That’s my primary motivation. I think given that motivation, I feel like I have a lot of good experiences to draw on that kind of allow me to take this motivation and use the role of VSG president to actually make some of the changes.”

The two platforms share an emphasis on student wellness. Burton and Shah propose creating a campus wellness app to condense resources, expanding classes at the recreation center, working with the Women’s Center to bring increased women’s hygiene products to campus and expanding campus dining hours for late-night options. Gardner-Serna and Thompson advocate for an expansion of UCC resources and a more representative staff, creating a VSG Student Well-Being fund and expanding access to contraception and feminine hygiene products.

Burton emphasized that their platform is formed of tangible and actionable goals that they believe can be achieved within a one-year time frame. Each part of their platform is composed of steps that can be taken to achieve specific goals, she said.

“I want every single student to feel the impact of VSG because I think right now a lot of people either don’t like VSG or they think it doesn’t do anything,” she said.” Given the size and resources the organization has, every single student should feel what VSG is doing, for the positive.”

One of the most prominent and unique parts of their platform is an emphasis on environmental sustainability– something that Burton feels particularly passionate about, she said.

Gardner-Serna and Thompson’s platform emphasizes bringing student leaders into university decisions; specifically, they hope to work with the administration to make a place for student leaders on student-related committees, Gardner-Serna said. For example, Greek organizations’ leaders should have a role in deciding the plans for the new West End construction, Gardner-Serna said.

“I trust them [the administration] to do a wonderful job, but they’re going to miss stuff because they’re not students and they don’t have our lived experiences,” he said. “So, it’s just really making sure that the administration just doesn’t know what we think, but we’re actually being incorporated into the decision making process.”

Additionally, both sides have emphasized the importance of the vice president position. Thompson, as an outsider to VSG, promises to bring a new perspective to VSG.

“What can be dangerous is doing things just because that’s the way they’ve been done in the past,” Thompson said. “I think that’s something that me and Nico are really trying to push against, coming in with a fresh set of eyes that hasn’t really been accustomed to necessarily the flow of doing things. It’ll be a balance of learning but also incorporating new things.”

Shah also wants to change the role of the VSG vice president position. In the past, Shah said, the vice president position has been used to balance the presidential candidate. However, he sought out the position for its own merit, he said. Under their ticket’s vision, the president and vice president will work together on equal footing.

“I want to be that VP that puts in the work that any president would because it’s like a team. If Frances needs something and she can’t do it because she has a certain meeting, I’m willing to go do that for her, as well as do my own initiatives as well.”

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