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Staff Editorial: Our editorial board members read the Student Union candidate platforms so you do not have to

The spring 2021 Student Union elections are today. Check your emails for the link to vote and see the interviews candidates did with the Student Life news team.

The members of the Student Life Editorial Board were divided into groups in order to best analyze the individual platforms of each Student Union candidate in their respective positions. After considering the platforms, the goals of the candidates and past goals and accomplishments, these groups of Editorial Board members gave their endorsements. The endorsements reflect the opinion of individual Editorial Board members. Members of the Editorial Board who have reported on Student Union in the past were not involved in these discussions.

President: Ranen Miao (unopposed)
Ranen Miao is running unopposed for a second term as Student Union president. In his second term, Miao seeks to prioritize socioeconomic equity on campus by improving mental health services and securing funding for the Office of Student Success. Recognizing that socioeconomic equity is tied with racial justice, Miao seeks to ensure space equity on campus in order to celebrate and recognize the variety in students’ backgrounds. Additionally, Miao has a goal of improving Wash. U.’s mental health resources by consolidating them into one easily accessible and centralized facility.

In his time as SU President, Miao has secured $50,000 worth of funding for menstrual products on the Danforth Campus and allocated $80,000 of funds towards rent relief and food security. Miao has also created and maintained a biweekly email system in which students are made aware of the updates and initiatives of Student Union. These emails also provide resources and opportunities that are available to students.

The Endorsement
For his work as Student Union president thus far and for his advocacy of student groups and concerns, as a member of the Student Life Editorial Board, I endorse Ranen Miao for SU president in a second term. We hope to see Miao continue advocating for student groups and for change on Wash. U.’s campus for the betterment of the student body.

Kya Vaughn, Managing Editor

Executive Vice President: Zoe Hancock v. Miriam Silberman
Miriam Silberman is currently running for SU executive vice president, after having worked in Student Union for two years in different roles. Silberman has worked as president of ArtSci Council and as the speaker of the South 40, allowing her the opportunity to foster connections with prominent Wash. U. administrators. Silberman played a role in securing the allotted $50,000 for menstrual products for the Danforth Campus during this past year. This year, class councils were removed, a decision that Silberman opposes. In her position as Student Union executive vice president, Silberman plans to continue furthering the work of this past year by trying to span the accessibility of free menstrual products across all Wash. U. campuses, along with striving to achieve socioeconomic and gender equity on campus, similar goals to those of SU presidential candidate Ranen Miao. Furthermore, Silberman plans to focus on the expansion of committees within SU, specifically in Senate, in order to allow students who are interested in working with SU the opportunity to do so without having to make any formal commitments initially. As members of the Student Life Editorial Board, we find this concept to be beneficial to gauging actual interest of students in working with SU.

Zoe Hancock is running for executive vice president after three years in SU Treasury, where she served in multiple roles, including the Activities Committee Chair. Her experience in SU included working on the three budgets, participating as a member of the constitution taskforce, communicating directly with Campus Life administrators and helping student groups move through the appeals process more smoothly. In the executive vice president role, Hancock emphasized the need to create more transparency between SU and the student body. She plans to do this through increased SU executive office hours and more accessible Social Planning Board conversations. Hancock hopes to expand recruitment over the next year, noting that COVID-19 made it challenging to drum up interest in SU. In doing so, she recognized a need to increase their diversity and inclusion efforts. Outside of recruitment, Hancock expressed a desire to restore class councils and their role within SU. Finally, she wants to bolster the interconnectivity within SU, allowing upperclassmen to support underclassmen through expanded peer mentoring programs.

The Endorsement
Based on the positions of each candidate, as members of the Student Life Editorial Board, we endorse Miriam Silberman for executive vice president. Silberman’s platform seeks to continue pushing for the progressive initiatives that SU has enforced during this past year. Furthermore, we appreciate and welcome Silberman’s suggestions of making SU a more open and inclusive environment to bolster student interest and involvement with SU. Although Hancock has created an impressive resume during her three years in SU, Silberman brings her own range of experience working across campus as President of ArtSci and Speaker of the South 40.

Kya Vaughn, Managing Editor
Ben Simon, Senior Scene Editor

Vice President of Finance: Fadel Alkilani v. Noah Vermes
Candidate Noah Vermes proposes to set up a student activism fund to help students engage in the democratic process, as Vermes wants to support the increase in students wanting to be more politically involved. Another aspect of his proposals concerns funding better campus internet, as digital work has become a more standardized part of campus life. Rather than focusing on his experience, which does include vice president of finance for the First Year Class Council, Vermes highlighted his ability to connect and communicate with students across campus, as well as other members of SU. Vermes also noted the need for a streamlined process of creating and utilizing SU’s general budget, emphasizing his plans to communicate effectively, to rely upon representatives’ goals and skills and “to find a balance between optimization and tangible progress in both the experience of these representatives, and the overall progress in the general budget.” Lastly, Vermes noted the need to make information more available to constituents across all SU platforms.

Candidate Fadel Alkilani emphasized his experience, with three terms serving on the Treasury and Budget Committee as well as other positions within SU. He plans to work toward increased efficiency by implementing measures like flat funding for student groups and a more fair distribution of funds through a budget restructure. This distribution change would also include a close look at WILD, which Alkilani stated is overfunded at the cost of smaller events. Alkilani acknowledged his history of stirring the pot in SU and promised to always stand by and push for what he believes is right—helping Wash. U. students and the people of St. Louis. He also discussed the Mental Health Fund, which he hopes to make available to a wider range of students.

The Endorsement
As members of the Student Life Editorial Board, we endorse Noah Vermes because of his demonstrated commitment to communicate and be a voice for the student community, from outgoing seniors who voice concerns about their experiences on campus to underclassmen coming in with fresh perspectives. Despite his lesser experience working within the SU Treasury, Vermes has held a financial-focused position, and discusses how he is able to leverage his Statistics major and interest in advocating to serve the student population. We believe that Vermes’ support for increased transparency, as well as funding student activism, is key to long-lasting, impactful change, and urge students to vote for Vermes.

Isabella Neubauer, Senior Cadenza Editor
Christine Watridge, Multimedia Editor

Vice President of Engagement: Philip Keisler v. Abdallah Belhadj
Candidate Philip Keisler is a current Senate chair and campus residential experience committee member with two and a half years of work for SU under his belt. His platform is based on student participation in St. Louis community aid (and further elimination of the Wash. U. bubble) and higher support from SU for campus activism groups (e.g. WashU for Abolition, Abolish Greek Life, Title Mine, Fossil Free WashU, etc.). Keisler, if elected, also wants to write and share a letter on student debt with other student governments in order to put pressure on the current presidential administration. He’s in strong support of student activism and the vehicles by which SU, as a student-centered organization, can protect and back students who choose to take action against community injustice. His plans largely involve specific ties to his own perceptions (and firsthand experiences) of where change can be made: accessibility of mutual aid networks, upkeep of executive relations between SU and specific activist groups, address of student debt, increased engagement and visibility of SU action within the community, and so on.

Candidate Abdallah Belhadj presents an entirely different background, one more centered on work with the Muslim Student Association and Interfaith Alliance. From his work as an RA, Belhadj says that his firsthand experience of student struggle during COVID gave him a crucial look into what students are hoping for in a post-COVID school year. His platform is centered on increased accessibility of SU (especially extending discourse and communication beyond the sphere of social media) and a more tangible, down-to-earth relationship between SU and the student body—that SU should no longer be seen as an ivory tower. His time on the executive board would focus on diversifying the student voices that are heard in relation to all major avenues of campus activism, and advocating for student activists.

The Endorsement
As members of the Student Life Editorial Board, we endorse Philip Keisler for vice president of engagement. Neither candidate, within this contention, is a loss for the student body—both Keisler and Belhadj provide strong civic-engagement-centered platforms and hold equal passion for the position. However, Keisler’s SU experience gives his campaign its last bit of working edge, propping up his promises with in-system practice and a more nuanced understanding of how progress can be made. Keisler presents both a clear understanding of problems he can address from an executive position and streamlined methods by which he can go about that address.

HN Hoffmann, Multimedia Editor
Jaden Satenstein, Multimedia Editor

Vice President of Programming: Miri Goodman (unopposed)
Candidate Miri Goodman prioritizes the facilitation of a smooth transition from pandemic programming to non-pandemic programming, and hopes to work to find solutions to the fatigue that can come with strictly virtual events. Goodman hopes to continue the legacy of her predecessor, senior Charlotte Pohl, by planning events that improve student turnout and engagement. One programming idea of Goodman’s is for a possible weekend-long film festival, which could be involved with the Film and Media Studies Department as well as cultural departments.

She states that her experience as the vice president of PR in the First Year Class Council and the president on the Sophomore Class Council have given her the opportunity to keep her finger on the pulse of what students need, which qualifies her for the position of vice president of programming. Goodman also placed importance on maintaining transparency with the student body and promoting WUGO as a resource for students. On the argument that bigger, more expensive events like WILD are depriving smaller events of the funding they need, Goodman seemed willing to trust the process of allocating funds to those who are a part of general budget meetings, but was not opposed to working with those who believe that the larger events are being overfunded.

The Endorsement
As a member of the Student Life Editorial Board, I endorse Miri Goodman for vice president of programming and look forward to the work she will do as the University transitions toward in-person activity. We hope that she will promote better transparency with the student body and be responsive and flexible to student needs during this difficult time.

Jamila Dawkins, Forum Editor

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