Transparency, Mental Health, and More: An Interview With Future SGA Co-Presidents Maggie Ober ‘22 and Connor McNerney ‘22

Jocelyn Buggy ‘22

News Editor

On the evening of April 26, the Student Government Association (SGA) emailed the Holy Cross community with the results of their 2021 elections.  After three years of service in the SGA, Maggie Ober ‘22 and Connor McNerney ‘22 were elected as Co-Presidents for the 2021-2022 academic year.  They sat down (virtually) with The Spire to discuss plans for their co-presidency, including how they hope to support the Holy Cross community as students face a series of upcoming transitions in the Fall 2021 semester.  

When asked what their first course of action will be as Co-Presidents, Maggie and Connor both referred to their First 10 Days campaign initiative.  Maggie said: “As part of our campaign we outlined our First 10 Days policy, which was a list of things that we plan to accomplish during our first 10 days in office.  We’re getting a head start on some of those plans right now by adding a Director of ENGAGE, which will be a new Cabinet position that will work exclusively to ensure that the ENGAGE Summit can happen next year. We’re also adding a Director of Dining Services to better connect the student body to decisions surrounding dining, as well as a Title IX Liaison to create more communication between students and the Title IX Office.”  

Connor continued: “We also saw that mental health was a big focus across both campaigns over the past few weeks. Something that we plan to do to keep this conversation happening within our own Cabinet is to expand the current role of the Director of Public Health and Safety to address more mental health resources on campus. This position will attend COPE meetings on a regular basis and go to the Counseling Center in order to determine how the SGA can better advertise what they offer to the student body.” Maggie added: “Mental health remains a big priority of ours. We saw during our campaign that students are really passionate about this topic, and with the transition back to fully in-person learning next Fall, we’re excited to connect with the student body about this.”

The College sent an email on April 27 stating that students will be required to get the Covid-19 vaccine before they return to campus for the Fall semester.  The Spire asked Maggie and Connor how they plan to enforce this mandatory vaccine policy as Co-Presidents.  Connor said: “Throughout our campaign, we said that we want to provide a free shuttle service to the nearest Covid vaccination clinic for any students who are unable to get their vaccines over the summer months.  We want to make it possible and accessible for everyone to get the vaccine that they need to be back on campus in the Fall… We also plan to work closely with President Rougeau on this topic. We want to ensure that the policies he establishes are supported by the SGA, and that the safety of students is a top priority in this conversation.” 

Maggie also responded, saying: “We don’t yet know the full extent of specific plans related to the mandatory vaccine policy, but we are planning to meet with members of the Covid Core Team to learn from them and offer a student perspective on how this will work.  We know that many students have different circumstances based on their home environments, health conditions, and other factors that affect their ability to access vaccines. We also know that students have questions, and we are open to creating a Google Form to gather student responses.  This will help us connect them to people like Dean Murray and those on the Covid Core Team who can address their concerns.”  

Connor added: “We also plan to summarize the big emails from the Administration about what needs to happen in order for [students] to return safely in the Fall. We’ve seen what SGA has done on social media in previous years, particularly on Instagram, and plan to continue putting out important information to the student body in a way that works for them.” Maggie shared that she worked with current Co-President Victoria Tara ‘21 last year on the SGA Instagram account, saying “The main goal of our work was to meet students where they are with the information that they need. Last year, that was Instagram.”

Graphic by Hui Li ’21. Graphic of Maggie and Connor from @maggieconnorhc on Instagram.

Over the past year, the rise of Black Lives Matter and recent examples of police brutality continue to highlight systemic and racial injustice in America.  The Spire asked the future Co-Presidents how they plan to respond sensitively to the current historical moment, especially if a group of students wants to bring a controversial speaker to campus, like when The Fenwick Review hosted author Heather MacDonald in 2019.  Connor responded, saying: “We recognize that as SGA Co-Presidents, our primary concern is always for the interest and safety of the entire student body. It is important for us to put aside our personal ideologies to make sure that we truly work for every student at the College. At the same time, we also need to recognize that there are major issues occurring in our society, and it is important for us to take a stand when marginalized communities are hurting. Over the past year, we were able to see how Victoria [Tara ‘21] and Noah [Sisk ‘21] responded when George Floyd was murdered.  They put together a position statement to show the SGA’s support, and the school’s support, for students of color in the midst of those events. That is an approach that we definitely want to keep up.”

Connor continued: “If a group of students wanted to bring on a speaker like Heather MacDonald [during our time in office], those students are also protected at Holy Cross and should not receive threats, or feel unseen or uncomfortable in this space. This being said, students who are against those kinds of speakers also have the right to peaceful protest as well.  Maggie and I both participated in the walkout demonstration during the 2019 Heather MacDonald event, and that was our right. It was a peaceful protest that did not cause physical conflict on campus.”

 Maggie added: “We are trying to meet this moment and acknowledge what is going on in the world right now… People are having tough conversations about the threats [facing people of color] and instances [of police brutality] that are occurring all of the time. As leaders, we want to facilitate environments where those important conversations can happen… We are prioritizing the ENGAGE Summit as an environment where [campus] can talk about these things.  Also, we have the idea to apply for a TEDx license to have conversations about a variety of topics, but especially including those related to social justice.”

Maggie and Connor both emphasized the importance of transparency in their coming co-presidency. “I worked on the SGA Instagram [during the College’s Presidential Search process],” Maggie said, “And when we asked students what they thought the most important quality was to have in a new College president, the most popular response was transparency.”  Connor echoed this, saying: “One of the top concerns [that current students have] about Holy Cross are the transparency issues with the Administration. I think that by [our administration] being as transparent as possible, it will help students feel like they can come to SGA. I want to be as approachable as possible.  If there’s a concern or initiative that students want to address on campus, I want them to see our administration and the entirety of SGA as an approachable part of campus.”

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