Newly elected FYCC pushes for class unity, community engagement

| Senior News Editor

In an election with record voter turnout, freshman Spencer Stewart prevailed to become president of the First-Year Class Council.

Stewart, who edged out eight other candidates to win, garnered nearly 36 percent of the vote. Vice President of Administration Jillian Shah won nearly half of the vote in her contested election. Sungjae Park and Vishesh Patel ran uncontested for vice president of finance and vice president of programming, respectively. Jessica Zepeda will also join the First-Year Class Council as vice president of public relations, winning close to 41 percent of the vote.

Screen Shot 2017-09-21 at 9.23.43 AMElla Chochrek | Student Life

56 percent of the freshman class voted in the class council election—the highest turnout in recent years. Patel cites freshman Steven Kish, Student Union’s election commissioner, and his constant engagement with candidates throughout the campaigning process, as well as SU’s push to recruit passionate underclassmen for various positions, including class councils.

“For one thing, I think that Steven Kish, our new election commissioner, did a fantastic job. Every day, he tried contacting us, updating us on campaign stuff,” Patel said. “I think that that had a really big part to play. In addition, Student Union really wanted to improve upon the election results and the election turnout. I did see emails and Facebook postings going through the Class of 2021 GroupMe,.”

Stewart notes the stiff competition in the presidential race as a motivating factor for election participation, as well as the politically active freshman class.

“I think it had a snowballing effect where a candidate would try and go the extra mile and all of the other candidates would want to go two extra miles. I think that was part of what led to it,” Stewart said. “Also we have a very engaged class… Here it’s like every single kid you meet, you can have an hourlong conversation about politics. Everyone is super passionate and super excited to talk about it, and super excited to share their opinions.”

While the newly elected freshman council has yet to fully transition into their roles, they share a common vision to foster a sense of community within the freshman class.

“There’s these disparities between people on our campus and these different groups forming and I don’t want that same high school environment within our class,” Shah said. “I want to make sure I work alongside Senate and alongside the president and everybody else on council to make sure those divisions won’t become strengthened—[that] are weakened and diminished.”

One of Patel’s major goals is to increase awareness amongst the freshman class about SU’s main purpose—to advocate and remain accessible to students.

“Student Union isn’t really something that is known about among the freshman. I have a different point of view on that because I [participated in] the [pre-orientation], but I don’t think a lot of people really know that Student Union is an entity that’s there to support them and help them out,” Patel said.

The new council also hopes to initiate close engagement with the St. Louis community, starting with encouraging freshmen to increase their knowledge about the history of St. Louis and current social injustices that exist within the community.

“I think that a distinction needs to be drawn between community service and the knowledge base of it,” Shah said. “A lot of freshmen don’t know about what happens in these areas and I feel like, yes, community service is great, but that’s not going to happen unless students are willing to learn and accept what lies outside of Wash. U.’s environment and the implications of having such a large and affluent campus near so much poverty.”

Both Stewart and Patel hope to foster school spirit among the freshman class by creating new programming for the freshman class.

“I would like to set an air of creativity and getting new stuff done. I’ve heard that a lot of the
time—you hand down the baton and you keep doing the same stuff over and over again. I’d like to see where we have faults with class disunity and trying to figure out ways we can fix it rather than just going on about the same exact solutions over and over again… trying to get creative with it,” Stewart said.

“A lot of what I want to do is I want to take the events that have already been done in the past to help bring the freshman class closer together. I want to build on the events that have happened in the past—the most successful ones—and I want to create some new things that the student body hasn’t seen before,” Patel said.

Outgoing First-Year Class Council president and sophomore Kendrick Rogers, current president of Sophomore Class Council, is confident that the new council will successfully implement their ideas over the course of the year.

“I feel like they’re a promising group. And I can’t wait to see what they bring to the table this year,” Rogers said.