A Q & A with the candidates for president of the Undergraduate Student Association

This week, The Griffin spoke with Dylan Huston and Matthew Smardz, the candidates running for president of the Undergraduate Student Association. This is what they said:


Dylan Huston

Originally from Texas, I am a student of English and Political Science with a minor in Religious Studies. Although far from my family, Canisius has become a true home to me, but I am pained to see the struggles our community faces each day. In Canisius’ time of need, we must start looking for answers from the active and motivated students.

Despite the efforts of the students, I believe that there are many voices that the Senate fails to hear. We need a Senate for everyone, one that will stand firm in its principles and true to its word.

What will be your top priorities as president?

As president, it will be my top priority to look out for the needs of the campus as a whole. There is much work to be done concerning the needs of the students, the physical campus, and the direction of the institution entirely. Now more than ever, we must ensure that the Jesuit values our college was built upon are upheld.

I believe that there is work to be done with regards to the price and value of campus meal-plans. Because of the absurd costs of these mandatory plans, many students find themselves accruing massive burdens of debt early on in their education.

Likewise, I find it incredibly important to combat intolerance on campus. Far too many students suffer from hatred each day, and it is time that the Senate makes it clear that there is no room for hate in any form on campus.

Finally, I believe that there is a genuine need to stand in solidarity with the Canisius College facilities workers. During the negotiations between the Administration and the Workers’ Union, the Senate has remained silent. It is time that we stand up for our values here at Canisius, and let it be known that we will support the right of the workers to retire in dignity.

How will you create a stronger connection between the student body and USA?

To create a stronger connection between the student body and USA, I will encourage greater student input in the decisions of the Senate. I believe very strongly in the merits of direct democracy, and I would like to see it applied more often in the Senate. When USA wishes to enact large changes, I believe that the general student body has a right to consent to or deny these decisions by means of a referendum.

Additionally, I understand the need for transparency in the Senate. In order to reinforce the credibility of the USA in the eyes of the students, there must be a healthy flow of information between both. If the students are to take the Senate at its word, those in the Senate must take their jobs seriously. If USA proves itself worthy in the eyes of the students, a strong connection between the two will form organically.

How do you define the roles of USA president?

The USA President is the chief executive of the Senate. Both an enforcer and a deliberator, the President must be willing to consider criticism while standing firm in the principles of Canisius College.

Likewise, the USA President is the chief representative of the student body. The President must be someone who is outgoing, diplomatic, and shrewd. Despite adversity, the USA will look to the President for leadership, and the President must be ready to perform his duties regardless.

What qualities/ qualifications make you the right fit for this position?

As a former Senator, I understand USA protocol. While working closely with the USA J.U.S.T.I.C.E and Diversity Committees, I have assisted in the facilitation of events aimed at educating our campus. Outside of Senate, I am active with the ALANA center in spreading awareness for diversity and inclusion.

Furthermore, I take my positions with the College Democrats and the New York Civil Liberties Union very seriously, seeking to foster a campus where free speech is not only protected, but encouraged also.

Finally, having served the community with Campus Ministry and Griffins Giving Back, I believe we have a duty to reach out to our neighbors in need.

How will you encourage senators to be involved/active in the Canisius community?

Often, I have heard club leaders complain about a lack of campus involvement on behalf of the Senate. Many club leaders find it disheartening to painstakingly organize campus events and never see Senators attend. Senators must be willing to visit clubs, asking students what their interests and concerns are. As President, I hope to encourage Senators to reach out to their constituencies and become more known to the students they serve. As I have discussed before, credibility is key to the authority of USA, and I find it integral to our mission that we are seen as the genuine and legitimate representation of the students’ concerns.
Matthew Smardz

Bio: I’m a junior Biochemistry major and have previously served as a USA Senator in my freshman and sophomore years and currently serve as the Vice President for Marketing and Public Relations. Besides my involvement in USA, I am a Resident Assistant and previously was an Orientation Leader. What I love most about Canisius are the unique opportunities the College offers its students. With being a school of Canisius’ size, I have been able to forge the connections and relationships that have truly made Canisius my home over the last three years.


What will be your top priorities as president?


As President, my top priorities revolve around the student experience. I hope to increase the transparency of USA and foster more communications between the student body and USA. I would like to see USA as the organization leading a resurgence in Canisius pride, as well as continuing its role as an organization that takes the concerns of students and advocates for what students want and need on campus.

 How will you create a stronger connection between the student body and USA?

In order for USA to be as successful as it can be, it must have deep connections to the student body. One way in which I believe this can be achieved is by hosting more “meet your representative” events. USA is currently working on one of these types of events, however, I believe that these should happen more frequently. To be truly effective as an elected representative, the people who vote must know who their representatives are. Be it simple tabling in the library for an initiative, or a “Meet Your Senate BBQ” event, I believe engaging directly with students in a way that they can meet their representatives is the primary way to make the connections to the student body USA needs to be successful. In addition, developing a positive, productive morale from within USA is important in order to make USA appear more approachable. If students see USA as an inviting body, they will be more apt to comfortably reach out to USA. Being present on campus visibly and positively is important. It is important that USA representatives form connections with the student body instead of relying on students to come to them. Forging connections to various organizations on campus will only increase the productivity of USA and allow USA to effectively make decisions on what student want and need on campus. Finally, encouraging people to attend Senate Meetings and voice their concerns directly during General Student Concerns is a way in which USA can directly interact with the student body.

How do you define the roles of USA president?

The role of USA President is to be a voice and liaison for the undergraduate students. The USA President is the bridge between administration and both USA and the student body. They act as the spokesperson for the students and must be grounded in what students want and are thinking. Furthermore, it is vital that the President be in the know of the happenings of USA, being both involved and visible. Visibility is key to the role as President. The President should be someone who is actively seen on campus and is involved in the undergraduate student experience in order to make the connections required to be successful in the role.

What qualities/ qualifications make you the right fit for this position?

I believe I am qualified to be USA President for several reasons. First, I have been active as a member of USA for the past three years, one of which I have served on the Executive Board. Having a year’s worth of experience as an Executive Board member has been very formative in my decision to not only to run but to also guide what I would like to do as President if elected. Having the experience and knowing the ins and outs of how the USA Executive Board operates is something that is very advantageous in a Presidential Candidate. Furthermore, I served as a senator for two years which allows me to relate to the feeling of being a Senator. Forming a connection to the senators is key in any Executive Board position in building morale and a positive, effective USA. Beyond just qualifications, I believe I possess the qualities that would make me a great fit for Presidency. I am a dedicated worker, I put my whole self in all that I do and pride myself on my work. When confronted with a problem, I work to find the root of the issue and to fix it, not just smooth it over. I am a compassionate person who genuinely cares for those around me and want to see the success of others. I am committed. Despite being a driven and dedicated person, when I commit myself to a project or initiative, I work to see it to fruition. Lastly, I have a genuine passion for bettering the student experience and a love for Canisius and want to see this next year be the best year it can possibly be.

How will you encourage senators to be involved/active in the Canisius community?

In order to encourage senators to be active in the community and in the school, I believe it is important to emphasize the important role they play as representatives of their peers. Asking senators to attend events, to go out to and talk to their constituents is not enough. I believe that as President, it should be a group effort of USA as a whole to have a larger outreach to students. Having USA attend events, but inviting more than just its members is vital. Leading by example is key to the success of any leader, and is something I will strive to do if elected. Breaking down the barrier between USA representatives and the student body is vital to successfully stimulate more involvement between senators and the Canisius Community. Many senators are already leaders within the community, but the focus must be on expanding the reach that each senator has; be it through outreach events like tabling in the library, talking to students directly, or emailing their class.



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