By Miranda Wilder, Staff Writer
Giselle Hart and Robert Richard-Snipes have officially become the next pair of candidates running for Student Body President (Hart) and Vice President (Snipes) as of Sunday, promoting an ideal of campus-wide unity.
Their goal is to make the University of New Hampshire a more diverse and unified school; a place where all voices are equal and welcomed warmly.
“We really just have three big pillars and essences,” Snipes said. “Transparency, engagement and sustainability. We want to make UNH as a whole more sustainable, whether it be a sustainable community, a sustainable environment – because UNH preaches sustainability so much, we want to try to implement it in every aspect throughout campus.”
Hart first approached Snipes at an event last semester, the Ferguson Dialogue, expressing her consideration for running. At this time, her plan was not entirely concrete. Once she met Snipes, however, their ideals seemed to mesh and the two quickly became a team.
“Our mission is that we’re trying to make the student senate more successful, transparent,” Hart said. “I think a lot of people are unaware. We want to make what we do a lot more clear, more visible and also inviting. We want it to be welcoming and get a lot more people involved.”
Snipes, a junior double major in political science and women’s studies, is the undergraduate coordinator of UNH’s Diversity Support Coalition (DSC) and also sits on the president’s commission for the status of people of color.
Hart, a sophomore majoring in environmental conservation studies, was co-hosting the Ferguson event with Snipes when their coordinator Emily Dickman introduced the two.
The DSC is an umbrella organization, meaning it is one big student organization that represents six smaller ones. This brought both Hart and Snipes to the realization that there just isn’t enough collaboration between all the effort students have been putting in campus-wide.
“Both me and Giselle saw that it was a disconnect and thought it was a good time to bring to the table and advocate for some of the people who aren’t usually represented or involved in the student government,” Snipes said.
“I think that both of us kind of came to the conclusion that [a lot of] people didn’t really know what was going on in the senate,” Hart added.
Hart focuses a lot on promoting environmental awareness, social justice work, diversity and inclusion. This is something, with particular emphasis on having a multitude of diverse voices, she strives deeply to spread even more here at UNH.
“I think we both kind of came to the conclusion on our own that those things aren’t really apart of what we’re doing right now, and we wanted to make all these initiatives come together,” Hart said. “A lot of students are doing things individually, and we saw an opportunity for all of us to come together.”
Whereas Hart was a music major until this semester, Snipes started as a biochemistry major his freshman year. He shortly realized that work in a lab was not for him, and switched to studying politics, something that has always interested him, focusing primarily on analyzing policies.
“I need to talk to people, I need to be around people,” Snipes said. “I found someone who shares similar interests [Hart], so we said ‘hey, we’ll give it a shot.’”
Similarly, Hart had a cathartic realization that she was meant to be more involved in making a difference in the community, and made her music a second priority.
“My involvement with environmental advocacy throughout freshman year became more rewarding for me,” Hart said.
Another key goal of this campaign is to fight for the smaller organizations to have a higher budget.
“I do oversee six organizations, so I kind of have to know how money works,” Snipes said.
While he enjoys attending budget meetings, he finds it difficult to believe the low-wage stipend amounts students get for all the effort they put into these extracurricular activities, sometimes more strenuous than schoolwork itself.
“I think that is something that really needs to be emphasized,” he said. “All the good work students are doing – a lot of it goes unrecognized.”
Snipes grew up in a single-parent household, having to move around quite a bit because his mother is in the military. He’s lived in a plethora of places, including Japan, Florida and Virginia, not to mention he has visited Iraq five times. He finds that his world travels will help give him perspective in the student government.
“I definitely learned a lot from having to be responsible from a young age,” Snipes said. “It’s given me perspective, made me more responsible, seeing the big picture and just being an active good citizen, or civil servant. You get to see a lot of different places and a lot of different people.”
Hart, originally from Cohasset, Massachusetts, has always been involved in her community.
“I’ve always been very engaged in my community and been very passionate about making reforms and changes,” Hart said. “What I see right now is the opportunity to build the bridge between the experiences I’ve had in the community with politics at UNH and see how we can make change.”
Hart’s key principle, however, is to express the importance of other students’ voices, so that she can help spread the word of those who are lesser heard and hopefully make the changes she aspires to make from there.
“A big part of it is just bringing more voices to the table, getting people to share what they care about,” she said. “It’s not just about us. We really are trying to make it so more people can come to the table and show how we can make it a better experience for them – make it better for everyone, and that starts with the senate being more representative for all students that go actually here.”