Questions for the EC Candidates / by Sarah Kakusho

I. As SSU executive council what is your specific vision for SUA in the next academic year?

Although I feel it’s hard to say because the dynamics of the student body changes yearly which strongly influences the dynamics of SUA as a whole, I want to strengthen communication, between departments, between faculty, between administration and staff, and especially between other students. Not just having a one-way stream of communication, but having a two-way stream so that there’s always a possibility for mutual understanding.

Also, bringing back and/or improving, centralized information for students, the Pearl, SSU Pubs, SSU newsletter, etc. Having each department write for these resources to update on what has been going on so that it is easily accessible, easy to find, for everyone on campus.

Hopefully, this will allow for promotion of upcoming events and provide as a catalyst for people to support in whatever way they can for these departments. The key is to spark the seeking spirit, the desire for people to find each other, talk to each other, motivate each other, and embrace each others’ differences in interests and cultures. Connection = communication = unity.

I think it’s time to centralize past records of everything into a student archive so that it’s available to students. It’s one of the many ways that we can ensure that the future SUA students connect with the founding classes, to see where SUA’s foundation came from (i.e. for us now, the first four classes).

II. 1) How will you cultivate sensitivity among the student body regarding the issue of SGI and non-SGI members? 2) To what degree do you think incoming students should be made aware that a majority of students are SGI members, should this information be made known to students before they come to SUA, upon arrival (during the CORE period) or not at all?

SUA’s non-SGI member population is slowly increasing with each class. Because it is such a sensitive issue, the most I think we would be able to do as a school is to have a wide-scale dialogue about the issue, as we have done during Student Festival in 2006, where one whole session was dedicated to talking about the issue of SGI and non-SGI members. I think religion also very personal as well, so perhaps, even if we did do this on a grand scale it won’t be as helpful as it would talking to individuals, for example on a roommate-to-roommate basis, although I would have to say, it’s better to have this type of discussion earlier than later. I don’t know about the situation of this now, since I was not here when 2012 entered as a class. But, if it’s still in large issue, it’ll definitely be something for me to look into, to learn more about for myself as a student, not just a prospective EC member.

III. 1) How will you push SUA towards environmental sustainability? 2) How can EC best utilize the new environmental department and 3) how will you, in your position, pursue environmental suitability without collaboration of Green Planet or Environmental Department?

Limit event/activity promotion via paper, push more towards online advertising and promotion using resources like podcasts and webvideocasts. I think it’s already a start that ED was established in order to push SUA towards environment sustainability. To help it move forward further, I can see ED holding events like the Eco-Olympics which was talked about last year to allow for “humanitarian competition” on campus to drive the students to be more eco-conscious. Also continuing the research of how to be environmentally conscious can be instilled not only within the students, but pushing the all other Soka staff and faculty to do this as well. Within my position, regardless of if the amendments pass or not (though I highly think they will be passed), I will uphold those and encourage others to abide by those as well because it’s definitely a huge step to do it on a campus-wide scale, but EC members should also be a role model in leading the students to take more eco-friendly actions. Simply turning off the lights when I leave the room; recycling all that can be recycled.

IV. In what way do you think you can be a positive role model for the student body?

Be open for conversation on anything, from issues about SUA to daily life. Definitely putting academics as priority as we are all students, but equally as high, protecting the students, which would require time-management, knowing my limits and staying relaxed. If the students see that the people representing them are stressed, how could they feel at ease? But I think the key thing is to be myself, and not letting the leadership role hinder myself as a person.

V. What will you do to facilitate dialogue between students and faculty?

Encourage students to go to faculty hiring sessions which allow students to make the initial connection with prospective professors, since it is an opportunity for students to be a part of the hiring process. Make it be known that because we have such a small faculty-student ratio, students should take the opportunity to utilize office hours. Also, to better the transparency issue between faculty-student dialogues, help AD maintain communication. Again, encouraging multi-streamed communication.

VI. How will you get a cohesive understanding of student's thoughts?

Uninterrupted listening. It’s definitely important to see the overall spectrum of what a person’s thoughts encompass, to not judge and have preconceived notions that the person you’re talking to is on a certain “side” of an issue. It’s important that the understanding of the person has just as much justification as another person’s. In this way, although reaching out to every single person is not too realistic, among the EC members, it’s important to get as much input from the students with this mindset, to learn from the students because they have just as much potential to contribute.

I don’t know how much more to elaborate. What are you referring to in this respect?

VII. What efforts, if any, will you take in order to make Student Forum less about advertising and more about students expressing their views?

By stepping up the use of SSU Publications and other resources and directing students more to these resources, it would allow for more time during the Open Mic part of Student Forum. There is no point in having resources like these if it’s just going to be reiterated at forums. Rather than announcing everything at student forums, we could direct students to these resources so that it would not only save time for Open Mic, but it’ll spotlight those who work hard for these resources to be made possible. Also, possibly incorporate short dialogue sessions about proposed ideas for Open Mic during the forums, or even shortly after the student forums.

Other courses of action would be to hold town hall meetings, similar to what RHA did last year, where during lunch and/or dinner, students can openly talk about issues at designated tables.

VIII. What efforts, if any, will you take in order to keep study abroad students updated while they are away from SUA? (I ask this because many students who have recently returned have said that the weekly reports did not provide adequate information)

In terms of elections, the situation as of last year’s Q&A, the candidates abroad were only relayed the questions asked by the students and EC and not the answers of the other candidates. I’ll definitely look into two-way communication for candidates who are abroad so that they can be fully a part of the Q&A. As for the other study abroaders, either make videos available of speeches and Q&As, and/or utilize the same two-way system as the candidates except with requests that mics are muted.

Also, rather than trying to “recreate the wheel,” we continuously support the development of SSU Publications and bring back the SSU newsletter to establish it as the central source for information.

IX. What do you feel the role of ISD is at SUA, and how will you be able to work with AD to justify or explain the reasoning for ISD's placement under the academic department?

ISD is important to SUA because it helps us understand the philosophy behind the institution from a leader who has dedicated his whole being to creating positive connections with people all around the world. Not that I’m saying other university founders don’t get that credit either. I think the overall idea of ISD is to engage students in one example of how to live contributively on a global scale. And ISD, or at least what I experienced my freshmen year, helps students find ways for them to contribute on a local scale, what they can do, through seeing the examples of the founder and his efforts for “world peace,” the mutual understanding of the human spirit, what we all strive for.

In my opinion, because ISD serves this role, it’s in a way fostering students to learn outside of the classroom setting. But, who knows, depending on the dynamic of SUA next year, maybe it’ll break away from AD just as SESRP has. The important thing is students are able to actively engage in dialogue and learn something from each other through the founder’s words. How do we interpret his words for future SUA students when the founder will no longer be around to write and engage in dialogue? How do we continue passing the founding spirit that SUA’s mottos and principles were founded on?

X. What course of action will you take if a student has strong objections to the actions of executive council or any other group under the SSU?

Sitting down and talking to him/her is #1, listening to his/her concerns and worries about the actions of EC (also refer to the other question regarding understanding students’ thoughts). And then from there, see if there’s anything that can be done about the situation like giving reasons of why actions were handled the way they were, etc. Given that there are possibilities of unsolvable problems, the next best thing is to at least have an understanding between the student and EC.

There will always be people who won’t agree with certain actions taken by EC, but hopefully, the actions made by EC, specifically speaking of the EC team I may be a part of if I’m elected, will be justifiable, since the actions made by EC should ALWAYS be for the sake of the students.

It’s kind of hard to answer this question because there are so many possibilities for different situations.