By Mariel Wamsley
Philip Petropoulos must be one of the most passionate students here. He is studying Marketing and is involved in student life and his personal favorite the Debate club. He was very enthusiastic to start the interview with me in order to inform me about everything he has on his platform and finally ask my opinion.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
This is my second year at Deree. I was also president of the student council in Pierce, and it was a very good experience because it helped me understand how the college works, all the mechanics. That was the basic argument when Elpida came to me and said, “Philip, I want you to be the president and I want to be the vice president.” Some characteristics I have are that I’m very passionate – if I set a goal, I will do whatever it takes to make it happen – and I’m very organized. I’m realistic; one plus one equals two – not five, not 1,000. I hate general things; for example, “make Deree great again”. .no. So, these are some basic elements of my character.
What made you want to run for president?
As I said earlier, I was president of the student council and this gave me the perception that if you want to change something, you have to take an action. In the beginning, I said that I have to take the position of vice president, but Elipda came to me and said, “No, Philip, you have more time, you know the place, you know how it works.” She said, “I want to support you,” and I said, “OK, let’s do this.” The fact here with this running-mate is that we don’t care about the titles, we care about doing things. That’s a very strong point that we have in our campaign. A lot of people, in the beginning, questioned this position, but because Elipda has a lot of other responsibilities, she gave me this task, and it’s very heavy.
What changes would you like to implement at Deree?
Our main focuses are clubs, societies, and student life; we have these three pillars. To be more specific, about clubs, we want to excite things; we want to combine them. We want to create a sense of place, that you are not the debate club alone and you are not the Gazette club alone; we can create things together. This is very important. Through the campaign between March 1-5, we will show people what we clearly want to do.
What do you think the most difficult part of representing the student body will be?
The most difficult thing, from my experience, is to be in a position to listen. A lot of people tend to talk and not to listen. The key solution to some problems – from my personal experience, I think, to the majority of problems – is to try to listen to the opposite voice, to try to listen to the other voice, because we are humans and we tend to be selfish and all that. When you want to be in the position of a leader or in a position to organize things, you have to listen. This is a mandatory thing. So, I think the most difficult thing is to try to communicate, collaborate, and talk with people. Because we are humans, sometimes we might not always like some voices, but we cannot be in a position to judge these voices, whether you like them or not. I think this is the most difficult.
How do you see your role as a mediator between students and the administration?
First of all, I see student government as a bridge of communication between students and faculty. A lot of problems occur because some students don’t have someone to help them and to communicate their voices to the faculty. I’ll give you an example because, as I’ve said, I want to be realistic. For example, you might be in a class and the professor might be unfair to you, and you have a problem. You have to transfer your problem to someone you feel is there to listen to you; the student government has this role. One argument of our campaign is to create an email to which every student will address his or her problem. The student government will take this problem and immediately address it to the specific staff [who can solve it]. But I see, again, the student government as a bridge. Student government is not something to put on your resume – it’s a communication bridge.
Tell me about your relationship with Elpida (your running mate). How did you decide to run with her? What makes you a good team?
First of all, with Elpida, we have a lot of similar interests – Model United Nations, Congress, and all that – and we have amazing cooperation. We have this idea connection, and I think this is very difficult to find. At the same time, we are very opposite, but we can see a common ground to our communication. We are opposite because, as you know, I am very passionate and extroverted; sometimes Elpida tends to close into herself, and I open her, in a way. Also, because I am very passionate, I get lost in my thoughts and Elpida comes to me and says, “OK Philip, shut up.” This communication helps, and I think when you have fire and water, even though sometimes they cannot work, sometimes you can do a lot of things. I believe in her a lot. She’s amazing. I believe that when our strengths meet, they can create a very vivid image. During the election, some people might want this because when something is vivid, sometimes it is also strange, and people tend to avoid stranger things. But we want to convince people that we want to do things, not to say things.
Are there any controversial issues on campus you would like to address?
On campus specifically, I’ve been talking with a lot of fellow students who have said the biggest problem is that some students with some physical disabilities cannot access some specific classes. This is a big issue that we have to find a solution for. The main buildings and the main rooms are accessible, but I want every class to be accessible to every student. It’s a matter of equality – you have to be able to access every single room. So, that’s an issue. Another issue is with the LGBTQ community – they are doing amazing work and I totally support them, and we need to teach a lot of signals to teachers because we are entering a new era. Especially here in Greece, we are a decade behind; in Greece, we are in 2003. We have to move on and, because we are an American college, we have to inform people about what’s happening; this is very important. Our slogan is, “Support, Inform, Succeed”; “inform” is very important.
Tell me a bit more about your background. Is there anything that’s particularly important to you? What are some big lessons you’ve learned?
I discovered myself totally through clubs, [especially] through debate. I have a lot of experience in debate, and I just discovered myself. Then I was in the procedure of heading to a public university and in Greece, you have to take the Panhellenic exams – it’s a very difficult process because you have to learn everything. I went to Patra; I was there for six months, and then I had an opportunity here. First I wanted to study law, but I knew I couldn’t have the grades to study law. Then I said to myself, “OK, what is the next step? Instead of law, what do you want?” It was marketing because marketing is the law for the business world. Marketing is amazing, and here I am studying marketing communications because I love to communicate with people.
Why should people place their trust in you? How do you place your trust in other people?
Trust is a very important thing because if you trust the wrong person, the outcome can be bad. I want people in this election to trust me because I’m serious. I have never done a very silly thing or said a silly thing – when I say a silly thing, I mean general things. As you know, I hate general things and broad language. By specifically saying what I’m willing to do, this is the first step of a good relationship based on trust. If I’m clear to you, you know what to expect. I think trust is to minimize the risk of something unexpected. [I am] realistic and serious – and when I say serious, I mean precise of what I want to do. I don’t want you to think I am a little bit arrogant, but in the election at Pierce, I got 340 votes and it was a record; three out of four students voted for me because of that, because I was very precise. This is a key element for every election.
What is something you have to offer that other candidates might not?
What I can offer is very simple: time. The other candidates, as far as I know, don’t have the luxury of time. Yesterday we had our speeches and while organizing them, a lot of people said, “No, I cannot – I have this, I have that,” etc. but if you want to run, you have to run; you have to spend your time. I also think – because I’m very honest – a lot of the candidates have done major things have had an internship for six months – okay, it’s very good for your professional and academic road, but if you want to take this responsibility, you have to sacrifice or invest your time. I can say that I want to do this and that, and I want to be realistic and passionate and all of this – there are good elements, but if you don’t have the time to organize, to schedule, to talk, to disagree, to agree, to have this type of communication, you cannot do everything, and you will have a student government with closed lights. Some students will say, “What is this?” For me, it is inappropriate to ask a student about the student government and them to not have an opinion on it. This is ridiculous. So, what I can offer is time that I personally believe the other candidates in this position might not have. To prove my words, every semester I have taken four courses; now, for the elections, I am taking three. That is because I have more time. I’d prefer to change two, three, four things, not 100 – four things – and to have one semester more in my academic years. When people trust you, you have a weight on your shoulders; it is a responsibility. If you cannot find this as a gift, you are not capable to be president or vice president or whatever. A vote is trust.
Is there anything you’d like to leave with voters?
The last thing I would like to say is to value your vote. Value the key points because the student government is not here to help you create only events, it is also here to create opportunities to connect people. Above all, all the candidates must know that they have to spend a majority of their time. So, be precise, be passionate, and be humane.