The March 3 SU executive leadership ballot, explained
Student Union will host elections for the SU executive board, Senate, Treasury, class councils and Olin Business Council March 3. Each of the nine candidates running for the executive board have outlined their platforms and plans for their positions if elected.
Candidates: Freshman Nkemjika Emenike, freshman Ranen Miao, sophomore Matthew Kim
Emenike is Senate’s current Diversity and Inclusion Committee chair. In the past, she has also served as a member of the Health and Wellness Committee and Senate Chief of Staff. Her platform is centered around equity, safety and mental health.
To make campus more equitable, Emenike hopes to advocate for increased support of programs such as TRIO, Washington University for Undergraduate Socioeconomic Diversity (WU/FUSED) and Deneb STARS. She also suggested hosting a book drive or donation for students who are unable to afford textbooks.
She plans to target student safety by facilitating more communication between the Washington University Police Department and the student body with the goal of increasing transparency about WUPD’s bias training and plans to increase policing. If elected, Emenike also hopes to destigmatize mental health by reforming the Habif Health and Wellness Center and advocating for a more diverse staff.
Emenike said that Senate’s 2019 restructure has made it more effective in directly attending to the needs of students, and as president, she hopes to make SU even more accessible to students.
“I think SU still needs to do a better job of just overall being more connected to the student body,” Emenike wrote in a statement to Student Life. “I think many students see SU as another level of bureaucracy, another part of the administration. I think we need to do a better job of reaching out to students, of advertising our committees and current projects and initiatives and of collaborating with students to do more programming.”
Miao is the current First Year Class President, and has based his campaign upon three overarching themes: health, advocacy and representation. Some of his plans he wishes to implement if elected include creating more access to free menstrual products, promoting safe sex, enhancing marginalized students’ visibility to the administration and implementing a system for trauma-informed first responders.
If elected, Miao also wants to emphasize the advocacy and service aspects of SU to students, who are often unfamiliar with what exactly SU does.
“Constantly working on restructuring and changing the internal parts of SU is always good, but it’s not what students actually need,” Miao said. “I think a student shouldn’t have to be involved in SU or be invested in everything that SU is doing in order to be touched by the work that SU does.”
He also expressed his support of the campaigns of WashU Undergraduate & Graduate Workers’ Union (WUGWU), WU/FUSED, Close the Workhouse and Fossil Free WashU.
Kim, who served as First Year Class President during the 2018-2019 school year, joined Senate this semester after taking a break from SU. His mission is to improve the overall culture within SU, with which he was personally dissatisfied during his freshman year.
“Originally, I didn’t really want to run for this position because I knew that the problem that I will be eventually facing is an intangible one,” Kim said. “It’s greater than any project or any deadlines that we’re making. But I think that’s the key to unlocking everything else underneath that we have to finish.”
Three initiatives he hopes to implement are creating “dining hours” for SU officers to meet with their constituents, teaching freshmen about SU’s operations during Bear Beginnings and increasing collaboration between SU entities.
“Just the fact that me, someone who is chubby and bubbly and happy, can become a leader in that podium, in that position, defies the very fact that SU has to be dominant or hierarchical,” Kim said. “SU can be your fellow student.”
Executive Vice President
Candidates: Sophomore Fadel Alkilani, sophomore Anne He
Alkilani has experience serving on Treasury, ENCouncil and on Senate’s Academic Affairs Committee, where he gained an interest in overseeing SU’s internal operations. One issue he wants to address is a high turnover rate within SU, which leads to inconsistency in perspectives and abilities of officers, thus affecting policy changes.
“People kind of feel alone, isolated, sometimes they feel a little powerless,” Alkilani said.
Alkilani was also a member of the constitutional task force that revamped the VP Administration and VP Public Relations positions into Executive Vice President (EVP) and Vice President of Engagement (VPE), respectively. He said that his extensive experience working with policy change will aid him in the role, as well as the fact that his experience spans across several SU entities.
“We talk all the time about making SU face the student body better and interact with the student body better, but I think it’s very difficult if a body is divided within itself to be able to project the unifying image and work with people outside of itself,” Alkilani said.
If elected, closing the distance between the entities would be one of his major priorities. He also plans to work closely with the VPE to increase SU’s outreach and engagement.
His other policy positions include increasing sustainability, implementing campus-wide religious accomodations and improving SU’s archiving system.
He, who joined Senate during the fall of her freshman year, currently serves as the body’s first Academic Affairs Committee chair. She has overseen projects such as the push to extend the add/drop deadline for courses, improving academic religious accomodations and creating a non-STEM career fair.
He said that now that she has spent two years working to enact change on campus, she has gained an understanding of how best to support that change from a higher position.
“In order for meaningful advocacy to happen, there needs to be a strong internal foundation and strong processes in order to be able to make that happen, to enable the change,” He said.
He has three primary goals: improve the relationship between SU and the student body, between SU and University administration and improve relationships within SU itself. Some of her ideas for improving these relationships include forming an SU recruitment committee to increase student body engagement and working with the incoming provost to communicate prevalent student concerns when she arrives on campus.
He said that serving as EVP would also serve as an effective platform to improve the culture within SU and help it run more efficiently by focusing on students and issues pertinent to them.
“Throughout my couple years here, every so often, articles will appear in StudLife, for instance, or op-eds, where people are being political and digging into the drama rather than focusing their attention on what students actually care about…I think that’s where the whole idea of SU being bureaucratic comes into play,” He said. “I think that stuff like that really delegitimizes SU to students because they see that their student leaders are focusing on things that are not addressing the issues that students care about, which fundamentally just doesn’t make any sense.”
Candidate: Junior Alexa Jochims
Jochims, the current Treasury speaker, is running unopposed for VP Finance. In the past, she served as Treasury’s Activities Committee chair and in both roles, she worked closely with the two previous VPs of Finance, junior Ariel Ashie and senior Shelly Gupta.
“Shelly and Ariel and I knew that there was a lot that I still wanted to do in my time at SU that being VP Finance could give me that platform to do,” Jochims said.
She wants to use her role to continue to oversee SU’s recent financial overhaul, and to increase student body engagement with SU while collecting internal input to improve how SU Finance operates. Jochims hopes to reach out directly to students and groups to more directly inform them and involve them in the process of allocating the Student Activities Fee and any future policy changes.
Vice President of Engagement
Candidates: Sophomore Arjan Kalra and junior Madhulika Kastury
Kalra, a current Treasury representative, has past Treasury leadership experience as Budget Committee chair. He has been involved with past SU projects such as the initiative to expand the Kognito program, which trains faculty members on issues related to mental health and to expand medical amnesty beyond alcohol. Kalra is also involved in Safe Spot, an initiative to locate student resources such as Habif and the Office for Student Success in one localized spot on campus.
Kalra said that disconnect between SU and the student body would be a main priority for him as VPE as he works to support other officers in pursuing specific issues and goals.
“I think the big reason I’m running for this position specifically, is because…SU is not very well connected right now with the student body…they don’t really see SU as an organization they can trust,” Kalra said. “A lot of my focus is going to be more towards repairing the relationship and supporting the students that are already working on a lot of these issues.”
He expressed a desire to bridge the gap between SU and marginalized communities, planning to work with the next VP Finance on expanding the SU Opportunity Fund beyond Pell Grant-eligible students. With 2020 being an election year, he also hopes to work with the Gephardt Institute and WashU Votes to increase student body engagement.
“Everyone really knows that there’s been a lot of internal events and just like general perception around SU that have made SU not a safe space for a diverse array of perspectives,” Kalra said.
Kastury, who also serves as a Treasury representative and has been a part of Budget Committee and the Activities Committee, has centered her platform around seven different movements aimed to reflect the requests of the student body. If elected as VPE, she hopes to accomplish fossil fuel divestment, eliminate bias in the SU election process, expand mental health resources, demilitarize the Washington University Police Department, increase access to free menstrual products on campus, increase spaces for student groups and change the rape culture on campus.
Her motivation to run for VPE was largely driven by her own difficult experiences in SU during her freshman year as a woman of color in Treasury. She described the experience as isolating.
“I felt that no one cared about my voice or my presence in the body because I wasn’t reached out to, wasn’t really welcomed very well,” Kastury said. “But ultimately, I continued throughout this institution just because I thought it was very important…I’ve realized that my voice specifically was a unique one. And it was difficult for me as the lone person advocating for people that looked like me, people who are like me, in this body that feels like it doesn’t seem to prioritize those voices as much.”
She hopes to help marginalized communities while in the role, and detailed her personal efforts to mentor younger Treasury representatives, especially representatives of color. Kastury pointed out the lack of diversity in SU and the high turnover rate of the students of color who do join.
“That’s just a tragedy to me because, especially in the financial realm, we need to have those voices and those perspectives to understand financially how we can help students of those backgrounds because it’s a very nuanced situation…I think it’s going to be better for those opinions to come from those people that it affects directly,” Kastury said.
Vice President of Programming
Candidate: Junior Charlotte Pohl
Pohl is running unopposed for her third term as VP Programming. She felt that with the recent changes to the SPB structure and the Trending Topics restructure, it would be beneficial to keep SPB and VP Programming leadership consistent while the new changes play out.
“My favorite part about this job, the reason why I’m running for a third time, is seeing the execution of the programs and the impact that they have on the student body,” Pohl said. “I’m just very excited to see what we can do with the new budget we were funded in general budget a couple weeks ago…I’m excited to see the events that come out of that and how they’re received by the student body.”
She cited her past accomplishments within her first and second term, including Game Day and Cultural Happy Hour. She plans to continue expanding those initiatives within her third term.
After serving on two different executive lineups, Pohl is interested to see what the 54th administration’s makeup will be.
“Something that’s really important that I’ve noticed in the past two years is that everyone comes in with their own individual goals because that will drive you forward in the position and then finding ways for the other members to fit into those goals and help support them.”