Student Life endorses Sng, Kapur, Biswas, Wu, Fong; hopes for more politically active community
This Tuesday, when students go to vote for Student Union executive positions, they will be faced with the most contested race in recent history. Two years ago, after the election of the Elevate! slate, the long-held slate system was abolished, allowing candidates to run as individuals. Last year’s race evidenced the shortcomings of this new system, as only one of the five positions was contested. However, this year’s race has proven that the system can work, with three of the five executive positions contested, and each of those contested races containing three separate candidates.
The most heated of these races is certainly the presidential race. Two candidates, Mike Holtz and Kenneth Sng, come from within the current SU executive branch: Holtz is vice president of administration and Sng is vice president of finance. The third candidate, Demetri Kavadas, is a complete outsider, having transferred to Washington University only a year ago. However, Kavadas has quickly made a name for himself as “the backpack kid” who delightfully plays music from a speaker in his backpack to the enjoyment of fellow students.
Holtz and Sng are clearly the more experienced of the three candidates. In terms of accomplishments, Holtz has reformed the SU advocacy process, passed several resolutions and helped create the new “Join SU” page for recruitment. Holtz has campaigned on a platform of transparency, honesty and advocacy that includes campaigns in mental health and a voter registration drive. His platform is, however, vague in its means of accomplishing these goals.
While these goals and accomplishments are substantive, Holtz’s efforts pale in comparison to those of Sng. In his role as vice president of finance, Sng completed several major projects in order to directly increase the transparency and accountability of Student Union. Most prominently, he released the previously internal Budget Allocation Manual, a project which made the various ins and outs of budget allocation much clearer to student groups. Sng’s accomplishment not only shows a commitment to real, effective transparency, but also enforces the accountability of formerly autonomous treasurers to the students whom they represent.
Much has been made of the cancellation of WILD, with anonymous Yik Yak posts insinuating that it was Sng alone who made the decision. These posts are irresponsible, as the cancellation was one made by all of SU Exec. Further, it has become increasingly clear that the cancellation was inevitable, regardless of Exec’s opinions. Sng, through his 40-plus student group endorsements, has proven that he has the support of the student body. His work in increasing financial transparency similarly shows a commitment to the interests of the student body. For those that are still concerned about WILD, Sng has made it clear that he is in support of two WILDs in the future.
The candidates for vice president of administration, junior Chris Wilson, freshman Noah Silverman and sophomore Sankalp Kapur, are varied. Though each has experience in different aspects of SU, Kapur is the standout among the three. His platform is based not simply on fulfilling the day-to-day duties of the position, but on expanding his efforts through big campaigns, such as a mental health advocacy campaign similar to It’s on Us. He has not only set a big goal, but he has already begun looking at the logistical options for implementing it, a move which shows passion and dedication to the administration position. The other two candidates have promising platforms, but often fall short when it comes to concrete plans. While the Student Life editorial board believes Kapur is the best candidate for the job, we suggest he more fully consider the implications of shifting the collegiate readership program (which provides print editions of the leading local and national newspapers to students and faculty) to a digital platform.
The final contested position, that of vice president of finance, displays three candidates with quite varied experiences. Sophomore Keaton Schifer serves currently as Treasury’s budget committee chair, sophomore Omar Abdelaziz serves as assistant treasurer of Alpha Kappa Psi and junior Vikram Biswas is currently the speaker of the Treasury. While Adbelaziz brings a set of fresh eyes to SU, his lack of internal knowledge of the budgetary process (along with the recent major shifts in that process) would be difficult to overcome. Schifer, though experienced, has taken credit for projects that were not entirely his. His platform says that he “made the Budget Allocation Manual available to the entire student body,” without acknowledging the collaborative effort involved in the project or the efforts of Sng in spearheading the project. Schifer also supports decreasing funds for the collegiate readership program, which provides an essential link to the world outside the Wash. U. bubble.
Biswas, therefore, is the strongest choice. Through his work as speaker of the Treasury, Biswas has the most direct experience with the new general budget meeting format and the most accurate proposals for improving it. Though his informal “Finance Fridays” events will likely be ill-attended without considerable public relations support, they are a noble effort at student engagement beyond the vague notion of surveys. Biswas also has considerable knowledge of the budgetary process from writing the “How to Write a Budget” manual.
The Student Life editorial board also endorses the two uncontested candidates, sophomore Richard Wu for vice president of programming and sophomore Amelia Fong for vice president of public relations. Wu is clearly passionate about the work of programming, having served on Freshman Class Council and Sophomore Class Council, as well as helping to create the Sophomore Spirit Days. In his interview with our board, Wu spoke candidly about his efforts to create more inclusive and exciting programming and has already begun looking at how to successfully program for the presidential debate. We fully believe that Wu will take on the challenge of his office with passion and promise.
Though we endorse Fong as a qualified candidate, we strongly recommend that she develop a more concrete and comprehensive platform. Currently, her candidate statement reads with the confidence of knowing that she is uncontested, with few actual policies proposed. Coming off the impressive work of current vice president of public relations, senior Chan Kwon, Fong will need to prove herself to the student body during her term.
We at Student Life are excited to see so many hotly contested races. Hopefully this year’s races are indicative of a renewed interest in student government, and we will see increased voter turnout on election day. After all, a more politically involved campus is a healthier campus.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Omar Abdelaziz serves as assistant treasurer of Alpha Kappa Psi, not treasurer.