Student Association

How James Franco’s experiences and family life have influenced him to campaign for Student Association

Ally Moreo | Photo Editor

James Franco’s interest in safety is rooted in exposure to his family’s police background. It’s why he wanted to join SA his freshman year, and why he feels completely at ease speaking to DPS officers.

Editor’s note: With Student Association elections occurring this week, The Daily Orange is profiling the two candidates for SA president through Tuesday.

Before beginning his freshman year at Syracuse University, James Franco sent a Facebook friend request to the other students living on his floor — the honors learning community in Sadler Hall.

One girl had been repeatedly denying his request. Three times, to be exact. Apparently, Franco said, she thought his profile was a fan account dedicated to the actor of the same name. She also thought his profile picture looked like Ellen DeGeneres.

“I thought, ‘Alright, great start to this already,” said Franco, a junior political science and history double major. “This girl probably hates me.”

Two years later, and that “girl” is now one of Franco’s best friends, Angie Pati, and his running mate for the Student Association elections for the 61st session, for which voting began on Monday. Franco and Pati are running for president and vice president, respectively, and are campaigning on the theme of “Proactivity > Reactivity.” The two were the first to announce their campaign in late March, followed by Tyler Rossi and Roy Tin.

Pati said it’s “wild” that what started as an ongoing joke freshman year has grown into a full-fledged campaign.

“James would say, ‘You should run with me,’ and I was like, ‘Nah, I can’t,’” said Pati, a junior neuroscience and psychology dual major. “He did wait around for me to switch over, and he always says that he knew that I would. He just knows me so well.”


Their platform comprises four elements: safety; health and advocacy; experience and engagement; and diversity. Franco and Pati’s ideas across the four pillars include establishing a peer listening service; enlisting the help of DPS to implement a shuttle service in the immediate area around on Euclid Avenue; and creating a multicultural community within SA comprised of leaders from student groups on campus.

The two both said their success as president and vice president will rely on the balance of Franco’s SA experience and Pati’s diverse experiences outside of the organization. Franco has held multiple positions in SA since his freshman year and is currently the chair of academic affairs. Pati’s involvement lineup, on the other hand, incudes Love Your Melon, SU’s Student Affairs Advisory Board and the Phi Sigma Pi honors fraternity.

“We realized that our different paths would somehow cross to create a really dynamic pair that could make some change in Student Association,” Pati said.

That’s not to say Franco has no experience outside of SA. He’s also been an active member of Syracuse University Ambulance, a choice influenced by his upbringing in a law enforcement family in New Hartford, New York, about 45 minutes away from the university. His father, who shares his same first name, worked for the Utica Police Department for 20 years before retiring in 2008. Similarly, Franco’s uncle also worked for UPD for 20 years as a detective before retiring.

Franco’s interest in safety is rooted in exposure to his family’s police background. It’s why he wanted to join SA his freshman year, and why he feels completely at ease speaking to DPS officers. It’s also why, after graduating from SU, he plans to attend law school and study to become a federal prosecutor.

“He sees law enforcement as a career, and he looks at being a prosecutor as protecting the public, protecting the community, trying to help the people,” his father said. “He’s seen my career as a police officer and has seen some joy in that, and obviously I just am really proud as a father.”

As the son of a police officer, Franco from time to time gets asked if he’s ever considered following in his father’s footsteps. While he admits he has, he also realizes he has the opportunity to go further than that, as Franco is the first person within his family to pursue a four-year university degree.

“(My dad) thinks that I can do better than what he did — which, I hate when he says that because I truly admire what he did and what the entire field does,” Franco said. “But I do understand in the sense that I had the chance to go to higher education and be lucky enough to be somewhere like Syracuse.”

His pursuit led him to Syracuse, where he expressed an interest in SA before he got to campus. Before his freshman year started, Franco emailed then-SA Vice President Daniela Lopez asking what he could do to get involved in the organization. The more he got to know SA and the people involved, the more he saw himself taking on a bigger role. As a freshman, Franco told then-SA President Boris Gresely that he wanted to someday try to be in his shoes.

The leaders of that administration, he added, helped create his vision for how a college union like SA should operate.

Three years later, and Franco’s resume experience boasts a number of positions. As the current chair of academic affairs, Franco’s contributions to SA this semester include extending the E.S. Bird Library hours during midterms and being one of the primary writers of SA’s “sanctuary campus” bill.

At the same time, he is aware of the “SA lens” and has even gone as far as to call SA experience “overrated.” The biggest value in that experience, he said, is to understand within SA that SA can’t do everything — to realize the difference between an ambitious goal and an attainable goal.

Kathleen Dempsey, a policy studies major, helps run social media for the Franco-Pati campaign. As a freshman, Dempsey said she believed their platform spoke to everyone on campus and wanted to make sure her voice was heard.

“I know when I came here, I didn’t know my resources on campus, and one of the best things that they’re trying to do is to bring those resources into the freshman year forums, the CAS 101 classes,” Dempsey said. “And I just really appreciated that because they’re really important for freshmen and students of all ages to have.”

Ultimately, Pati said, it’s also about how much Franco enjoys the ability to affect change in the university and being involved in SA. When Franco lost the comptroller election last year, he didn’t bolt from SA. Rather, he stayed on the finance board, was appointed a cabinet position and produced tangible results as a dedicated SA member.

“SA is not supposed to be a divisive party split government. It’s supposed to be a student union where your main job is to advocate students on a large scale, but your constituency is every student,” Franco said. “If you have this to help people, then we should say, ‘Let’s get it done.’”


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