Student Body President candidate: Zeke Maroclo-Kemmerling

Improving student experience with stress and mental health has motivated much of the work that Zeke Maroclo-Kemmerling, a junior majoring in Biological Physics, has done in Student Senate. After seeing David Cresswell’s effort at quantifying aspects of the student experience in the Life@CMU study, Maroclo-Kemmerling chose to join Student Senate via a vacancy election to help with these issues, which he says have impacted him personally.

The issue of combatting overwork culture is now a distinguishing part of Maroclo-Kemmerling’s platform in his campaign for Student Body President. Maroclo-Kemmerling sees “overwork culture” as an umbrella term that can address many of the different pressures Carnegie Mellon students often talk about, from stress culture to sleep culture.

After Cresswell’s Life@CMU study reported that students experienced similar levels of stress to other universities, Maroclo-Kemmerling observed that some tried to shift the conversation from helping address the cause of student stress to shifting student’s perspectives on their own workload. “The university is taking the stance that if we just change the context, then the culture will realign proportionally,” said Maroclo-Kemmerling, “And I think that's a good step. But I think you need a more institutional level change as well. And where I really want to get work done is in the policy that can help make this easier for students.”

“I want to institute academic policies that would be more universal,” says Maroclo-Kemmerling, “but allow enough breathing room for professors to do their own thing, but would require professors to be more conscientious.” He acknowledges that changing academic policy is a “dangerous road to run down,” but thinks that facilitating conversations about what standardized policy should look like will help close the gap between faculty and student’s perspectives on academics.

Maroclo-Kemmerling gained experience navigating the complicated world of academic policy during his time on the Academic Affairs Committee in Student Senate, where he worked with others on the committee in continuing to negotiate the terms of the add/drop deadline, understanding student needs when it comes to access to online learning resources, establishing college-level career resources, and suggesting ways to align prerequisite requirements with the actual demands of the course.

Maroclo-Kemmerling took on initiatives outside of his committee as well, passing a policy with the Advocacy Committee to work with SLICE and the Office of Title IX Initiatives to integrate more concrete policies surrounding sexual assault and relationship violence into clubs. Sexual assault is rarely discussed in clubs, says Maroclo-Kemmerling, and awareness and reporting mechanisms are currently “very touch and go, and var[y] greatly based on the clubs themselves.”

Maroclo-Kemmerling is also proposing increasing access to student government by implementing office hours for the Student Body President like the ones Provost Jim Garrett has begun to hold.

Maroclo-Kemmerling has also made including more graduate students in his cabinet a facet of his platform. He was careful to note that there are parts of the graduate student experience, such as their dual status as employees and students, that he hasn’t encountered as an undergraduate. “The easiest, most direct way to deal with that is to encompass, to integrate, that experience more intimately with you and your presidency and your cabinet,” said Maroclo-Kemmerling.

To close our interview, Maroclo-Kemmerling wanted to highlight the role that the student body president could have in increasing involvement in the wider Pittsburgh community.

“CMU as a research university has a vast array of resources and influence that would just be such great benefit to the the community and to the city. And, clearly we don't always do right by them,” says Maroclo-Kemmerling. An important part of his platform, says Maroclo-Kemmerling, is to “make sure the university stays committed, and make sure that we as students and faculty can find ways to contribute to the community.”