The future leaders of the College of Charleston student body are not old enough to rent a car. They cannot legally purchase alcohol and cannot play the slots in Vegas.
The student body chose a young team to lead them into the 2014-2015 school year, voting in Ryan Spraker as President elect and Sean Stivaletta as Vice President elect. While both will start their administration as juniors, it is clear from their interview that this bromance has been going strong since freshman year.
The Yard sat down with Spraker and Stivaletta to talk politics, hobbies, and what the future of the College looks like following a tumultuous spring.
Meet the President
Ryan Spraker, sophomore
Major: Political Science with a concentration in Politics, Philosophy and Law
Hometown: Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Fun Fact: “[He’s] a huge Beyonce fan, hands down, one of his favorite people to listen to. Whenever it comes on in the car, he’s blasting it.” – Sean Stivaletta
Meet the Vice President
Sean Stivaletta, Sophomore
Major: Political Science with a concentration in Politics, Philosophy and Law
Minor: History, “But I’m not declared yet.”
Hometown: Franklin, Mass.
Fun Fact: “I don’t know… you know… I’m not interesting.” -SS (Interestingly, Stivaletta sailed in Junior Olympic youth regattas from 2009-2011.)
Leah Sutherland: What does this mean for your senior year when you’ve already accomplished so much as juniors?
Ryan Spraker: I think what will be beneficial for me, it’s kinda like the strategic plan for myself, is definitely some work experience, I’d like to go to law school after graduation, so being president my junior year gives me full time to devote to SGA, and then after that, my senior year will be the bachelor’s essay and independent study. I’m in the Honor’s College, so I’m hoping this will fit very well into my junior year.
Sean Stivaletta: I think we’re going to take it one step at a time. Right now, we’re focused on this year and getting our job done to the best of our ability and I just want to bring all the experience that I have to do an incredible job as Vice President.
LS: What is going to be the focus of the Spraker/Stivaletta administration?
RS: Our administration is going to get students in contact with the people who make the changes on our campus, so we want to make sure that students can talk to the SGA representatives, and make sure students can talk to administration, faculty and the Board Of Trustees (BOT). We’ve seen some heated issues and we want to makes sure students can really get themselves heard.
SS: I think the slogan that we ran on, “Honor, Tradition, Experience,” is something that we really hope to bring to SGA. SGA has been improving over the last couple of years and we want to make sure that continues to happen. I think that because the two of us have already had leadership roles, we can bring that experience and tradition that we’re all so proud of. I plan to really open communication between the council and the senators. I want people to be aware, to be educated of the rules, the bylaws and how senate really runs. Overall, I really want to start to see us move forward, and be an instrument to get the students’ voice to President elect McConnell, to the BOT, which has been the source of dissatisfaction among the student body right now.
LS: What’s it like following the Hensley/Piedmont administration?
RS: It’s an honor to follow them. They have done an amazing job of redefining what student government is. It’s much more accessible to students now, it’s much more recognized, and Jordan has done a phenomenal job of representing students. Sean and I want to continue what they had, that openness and accessibility.
SS: It’s exciting to follow them. Since I got here, since I saw Erica Arbetter, then move to the Hensely/Piedmont administration, they’ve really found their stride. They were amazing when they first came in and they’ve gotten better and better every single day. Being in the room with them when we make decisions… its incredible. If you really think about it, in executive council, it is six college students, and we’re sitting in a room discussing state legislature… We need leadership in those types of talks. Jordan Hensley and Chris Piedmont have been shining examples in those situations… They’ve put such a good reputation out there for SGA… in the last few weeks when everything has come out of the woodwork, all piling up at once and it’s been hectic and we’ve been running around doing everything at once, they’ve never complained. They’ve just sat there, soaked it all in and showed why they were elected, showed the leadership they were elected to show.
LS: How do you think all the controversy we’ve seen over the past semester will affect the next school year?
RS: I think The College is at a transformative time. When you’ve been around for 244 years, it’s hard to change. I think we’re going to move in the right direction. I think there are some barriers, some obstacles, but our students are doing a very good job of letting voices be heard about those… we are going to become something better than we’ve been before, promoting our students and their well being… I don’t think they’re going to define us, whatsoever. With any kind of change there is resistance, so growth is an obstacle we’ll have to work with. I think what we know as the College of Charleston will still be here, the core values of the College will not change.
SS: Hopefully it doesn’t. While I think it’s a good thing that we made our position clear to the board, we also need to remember that they are some people that we really need to work with. I hope we didn’t create a tension that stops us from working with them. I’m hoping that Ryan and I will be that medium between the [students and the BOT]. I know the faculty and student body feel hurt to be left out of the decision making, but I think [the BOT] were entirely taken aback and will have to come back with a new position. I just hope that it’s not aggressive to the point where they don’t let us do our job.
RS: SGA passed their vote of no confidence, that stemmed not wholly from the presidential search process but also lack of representation from the merger. I think that just gives room for rebuilding. Conversations that I’ve had with Chair Padgett since then, it’s time to rebuild and rekindle the relationship between students and the board of trustees. I don’t think students are necessarily done with the administration and over it, I think the reason students are out in CisternYard with signs is that they care deeply about this institution and they want to help re-bridge what’s happening with the students, faculty and administration.
LS: Ryan, what’s your view on the BOT’s choice of McConnell for the future president of the College?
RS: You know, I hope that the BOT has the best interests of the College in mind. Being that 19 out of 20 of them are alums of [the College] I really hope that that is true. I think that regardless of who they picked, we are the College of Charleston, we will continue being the College of Charleston and we will continue attracting the best students to the best city in America, by far. As far as president elect McConnell is concerned, I think he does bring some assets to the table… he does have some drawbacks which have definitely been highlighted during the process of him being appointed, but I think it’s time to bridge the gaps. He seems to be open to listening to students, being a former student body president at the College… I think it’s the student’s job, Student Government’s job to make sure that happens. I can assure you no matter who the president is, I will be at the table, really guiding them and trying to make sure the student voices are heard.
LS: It’s obvious you’re both busy. Besides everything you do on campus, all of your schoolwork, what are your hobbies?
RS: Yeah, it’s strange how busy I am sometimes. Um, I’m obsessed with “House of Cards” and “Scandal,” definitely my guilty pleasures. I like to stay up on current events. It sounds like I’m 60 years old, but I like CNN a lot. My girlfriend goes to Coastal Carolina, so a lot of times on the weekends, either she’s here or I’m back in Myrtle, so I would say spending time with her, my friends and family is my main hobby.
SS: To be honest, I don’t have much time to do anything else [besides SGA, school, being in a fraternity and being Honor Board Chairman]. I go straight to the Honor Board office when I wake up, work until class, but around 3:30 every day is when it switches to SGA, which usually it goes until about 7. When I do have free time, I’m usually catching up on television shows. “House of Cards” is what I’m catching up on right now. I try to take it easy when I do have time off.
LS: Okay, I have one final question for Ryan. For a lot of people who don’t know you specifically, they do know who you are when I say the guy who is super well dressed all the time- suits everywhere. What’s the reasoning for that?
RS: Um, I really like it. I like dressing well. Growing up I was always the kid who would dress really nicely for school. I may have even been caught in middle school wearing the two polos with the popped collar… not proud of it, but it happened. I just enjoy it, and I feel like when you dress nicely and present yourself well, your day goes better.
Rest assured that the day Spraker was elected president, he was wearing a suit.
*This is a slightly edited transcript of Leah Sutherland’s conversations with Ryan Spraker and Sean Stivaletta, who were interviewed separately due to scheduling conflicts.