Interviewed by Gaëlle Fournier, photographed by Emma Jean
First off to introduce yourself, three facts about you.
When I say that I come from New York, people automatically think of New York City and that I’m from there exactly, but I actually come from a really small town right outside of New York City. I do love Reims it’s a beautiful city, people say that it’s too small, sometimes it does feel a little suffocated, but at the same time it’s just so beautiful. My favorite TV show is Parks and Recreation. I like to go running a lot, I was on the track team for a little bit in high school but now I just jog on my own, it’s a great way to not only get exercise but also to think about things, a process to plan what you are going to do in the future. The best place to do it in Reims is right along the canal, the road towards the center is a pretty nice one as well as the more industrial part of the city.
Why would you like to be a Student Rep?
I have two reasons for running. The first is personal. During the integration week, I thought we all had something beautiful going on – that you literally went up to everyone and you could make new friends. That’s still mainly the case here, but I’d say the student life we have today is a little less cohesive than the integration week. I’m not saying that people are unfriendly, but we’re settled into our groups; we are separated by languages, by cohort, by the time we are actually on campus because everyone has different classes … So I honestly wanted to run this campaign to meet a lot more people and to rediscover the spirit of the integration week. The second motive is ideological. Sciences Po is a model for what a free society should look like in terms of the different viewpoints that everyone expresses. We all have different political views but at the same time we are able to reconcile them and remain friends. To have that high level discourse while maintaining civility is very important, and I think that Sciences Po, especially the campus of Reims, is a perfect example of that. This is what I’m going to promote as a student representative. I’m going to ask the administration to reaffirm the Chicago statement on the principle of free speech which is basically a document that promotes the freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas. This is what is especially important in an academic environment. I also want to increase dialogue on campus and work with the administration to protect everyone’s rights, so they can express their personal views on different issues.
Do you have previous similar experience?
Yes, I mean the reality of this campaign is that everyone has some sort of student council experience – this is kind of boring, this is the part that people are going to cross over – but I was the chairman of the student faculty advisor council at my high school. This was a group of twelve teachers and twelve faculty members who met once every two weeks, to discuss issues at the school. It was a new body that was created when I was in high school, so I had to work will all of the other members to come up with the rules of the game so that we could work in a constructive manner. We managed to get that constitution passed and then I worked with all these teachers and administrators and other faculties members around the school on issues relating to a homework calendar for testing so people wouldn’t be overwhelmed with work. But the takeaway of this is that I have worked with faculty members as equals before and I’m going to do it again. You need to have a mature approach to it, a pragmatic approach that is really realistic, as I learned on the student-faculty advisory council when my school’s principal had to veto initiatives due to constraints of state law. There are bounds that student representatives – both back at my high school and here at Sciences Po – have to work within. I know how to work within those boundaries and still get results that make our community better.
What would be your main aims and missions as a Student Rep?
Well at jimmyquinn2016.wordpress.com you can read about all of my issues there. Basically, the first thing I would do as a student representative is ask the administration to participate in a campus wide forum to discuss the firing of Olivier Ruchet because the reality is that he was taken away from us in the middle of a semester. To me, it’s absurd for the administration to decapitate an academic program while students are about to take finals. I think we deserve answers. I understand the perspective of the administration and Director Frédéric Mion. There is a legal case that is still proceeding and they are constrained by that, their ability to express the events that happen to us but at the same time, we are students here, we are paying to learn here and if we are doing that, the administration needs to at least give us some explanations and not just excuses, platitudes and deflections in my opinion. The second thing I’m going to do is work with the administration to see if we can prolong the library hours here on campus. I have always said that I’m going to be a pragmatic and realistic student representative and I understand that this issue is limited by French labour laws and different contracts that we have with the people who work to make our campus safe and secure, but at the same time if we were even able to get one more hour to keep the library open until 9:00 pm, even if it was just for a couple of days or weeks, I think that would make a big difference for a lot of people on campus. I have a friend who has class until 7:30 pm and he said that he likes to take a break after this class and that he likes to study after that. Everyone knows it’s very difficult to study in your apartment so to have the library open a little longer would be a much better solution. I’m going to work with the administration to try to implement that and we’ll see how far we get. Thirdly, I’m going to ask the administration to reaffirm the Chicago principles on the freedom of expression. Some other things I talked about on my campaign website are student health and the small transparency on campus. Concerning student health, at the beginning of the year, all of us were living alone for the first time in our lives and that’s a difficult adjustment. I think it would be great if we could work with a student life advisor to provide workshops on different aspects of health and independent living such as getting enough sleep! Personally, I’m a bit sleep deprived right now – this student rep campaign is a pretty rigorous process. Our health is very important and I believe if we were given the right information about how we can maintain our health, we’ll all be able to do a little bit better and have a better community.
Why do you think you would be the most suitable for this position?
I have used this word so many times and people are going to hate me for because I keep on saying it – but it’s because I’m pragmatic. I understand the realities of what this job entails and I’m not going to make promises that I can’t keep. I’m going to do what we are able to do and do the things that will improve campus life.
Miscellaneous question: If you were a famous political leader, who would you be and why?
I would be Angela Merkel. She is also pragmatic and she puts country over political expediency. She puts the necessities of her society over what people are saying in the moment. She is able to look at into the future and see what is going to be vital for Germany without bowing to political pressure. I think that’s an important attribute to have, you have to be able to stand on principles, to be realistic but also have a vision for the kind of community you want to help create. I realize that a lot of Sciences pistes are cynical about the student representative process, saying student representatives don’t really do anything and that they have no power. I would say I totally agree with them, that’s a little bit true. What matters is the person who has that role and if the person who has that role is able to work with the administration to get constructive results, we’ll be able to accomplish a lot I believe. That is what I’m willing to do and what I will do as your student representative. I look forward to the chance to be able to do that.