At the end of the 2022-2023 Spring semester, former Senate President and Student Ambassador Libby Harrity was ousted, not only from their respective positions on campus, but also from New College itself. Harrity was charged with battery following an incident at a spring protest when they allegedly spit at New College Trustee Christopher Rufo. Rufo reportedly agreed to drop the misdemeanor charge if Harrity agreed not to return to campus. Subsequently, Harrity enrolled in Hampshire College, where they have been rebuilding their academic life.
Current Education Policy Committee (EPC) Representative, thesis student Cynthia Lucas, assumed the role of Interim Senate President in the weeks leading up to the Fall 2023 Senate elections. The Senate President race featured two candidates: second-year transfer student and Equipment Technical Advisor (EQTA) Alexander “Fish” Sauer and first-year Anna Chavez. Prior to the election, Sauer received official endorsements from Harrity and former Senate President Pro Tempore Nickolas Steinig. Sauer was elected as Senate President, receiving 80.46 percent of the total votes. A representative from the Catalyst spoke with Sauer following their election.
“Last year I turned 30, so obviously I’m a non-traditional student and I’ve come into school late in life,” Sauer said. “Throughout my career experiences, I’ve worked for nonprofit, for-profit, start-up, medium-sized and Fortune 500 companies. A lot of that experience has shown me that it is very important to be aware of how a community’s inner workings function.”
Prior to transferring to New College, Sauer studied at the New York Film Academy, where they were working towards an MA in Cinematography and Film/Video Production until they withdrew in order to care for their family. Additionally, Sauer worked for multiple tech start-ups, including Centiment, a neurodata-driven AI company that specializes in innovative advertising and marketing, where they served as the Executive Director of the Data Science Fellowship Program.
“I think my background is that of someone that has suffered because I did not know and also was empowered because I knew,” Sauer explained. “When you know how the inner workings move, it really helps you figure out what the right door to knock on is. You can also get a good temperature of what an organization’s current values and priorities are.”
Sauer credited the desire for change as a motivator in choosing to run for Senate President.
“A big portion of me getting involved in student government was based on the acknowledgement that if I want to be able to see change that I want to make on campus, I have to be involved on some level,” Sauer said. “Whether that was just as a senator, or upon becoming an EQTA.”
Sauer mentioned that the decision to put their name on the ballot came at the end of a period of learning.
“I wanted to run for Senate after I spent a year understanding and shadowing different people in student government as much as I could,” Sauer stated. “I had an opportunity last year to go to Tallahassee to help fundraise for us and that gave me a deeper understanding of what is required when speaking to the political and administrative side.”
Sauer described their approach to leadership.
“Listen first. Listen first, understand as much as you can from the individual across from you,” Sauer elaborated. “Traditionally, I don’t like to think about it as ‘across from you.’ I will create that space so that we feel like we’re on the same side of the table.
“I’d like to meet with students. Committees, Chairs, any organized groups on campus that are trying to collaborate, brainstorm, seek guidance, whatever they need. I represent the Senate in that way to meet those needs,” they continued.
Emphasizing their belief in communication as key to great leadership, Sauer spoke about a proposal for the establishment of a new position, Chief of Communications, set to be on the agenda at the October Senate meeting.
“It’s just Safari and me right now [in the Senate,]” Sauer explained. “If you look at how big the Senate is, that’s a lot of mouths to listen to. I now have to figure out how to meet with all of them. It’s very clear to me that there needs to be a position for someone in the community that really cares about making sure the students stay informed.”
Further, Sauer voiced the idea that current members of student government should think about how to handle current issues while also thinking about the future.
“If you’re in a four-year program as a student and your problem didn’t get resolved in four years, it can feel very defeating,” Sauer said. “By having it written down, it makes it easier for those that come after you to figure out where your stewardship ended and where their ability can begin to contribute toward furthering that progress.”
Sauer commented on the effects that the political climate has had on the way they view their presidency.
“The arrival of the turmoil that came to campus during ISP really gave me a visceral moment to apply everything I’d been learning in the New College Challenge with [Professor of Sociology] David Brain,” Sauer said. “We spent the fall semester really investigating and learning about core issues on campus from an urban planning perspective, as well as understanding the individual stakeholders, whether it’s faculty, staff, student or administrative.
“We need a way to bring these stakeholders together, otherwise we will not have a consistent support, nor will we have consistent ideas of how we should navigate the school,” Sauer continued.
Sauer spoke on the responsibility they feel serving an institution they hold in such high regard as New College.
“People came here to heal, to play, to learn and to connect,” Sauer stated. “We should do nothing but facilitate and cultivate space and conditions ripe for that. This school is a big sandbox to play in, no matter what your perspective or background is. This school challenges you to step up to the plate. You change by going here.” Sauer ended the interview with a message for the student body:
“I’m coming back as a non-traditional student. The first thing I know how to do is ask questions and listen, [in order] to give a chance to fill any gaps in my understanding. I want to ask questions, I want to listen and make sure I understand. What I produce and what we vote on has to be a reflection of us as a group,” Sauer concluded.