Meet this year’s candidates for Student Union’s executive positions

| Senior News Editor

In the week leading up to the election, Student Life conducted interviews with each candidate, covering a variety of topics. The interview transcripts have been edited for clarity and brevity.

  • Ranen Miao

    Ranen Miao

    Current SU President

    Candidate for SU President

    Ranen Miao

    SL: If you’re elected, what will some of your top priorities be?

    RM: I think the number one priority is socioeconomic equity. I’m trying to make sure that our campus is going to be a space where students of all different economic backgrounds can feel like they belong here. That means improving our mental health services, ensuring access to free laundry and free menstrual products, guaranteeing that we have funding for the Office of Student Success and also ensuring that we have space equity on campus for students from a variety of different backgrounds. Deeply tied with socioeconomic equity is racial justice, and all forms of social justice on campus, creating an inclusive space where students regardless of their backgrounds are able to feel like they belong here and are able to benefit from our university equally. So for example, ensuring that there is additional funding for rent support and for food insecurity, working with the students who are currently organizing for a food pantry to support them, working to ensure that we have a $15 minimum wage for student workers as well as contract workers and helping to ensure that we have increased engagement with the St. Louis community.

    SL: What experience and background do you have that qualifies you for this position?

    RM: I’m proud that I got to serve as the student body president for the past year. Before that, I was on the First Year Class Council…I was also on the University Student Affairs Advisory Board to the chancellor, I was on the dining services advisory team, I was a Green Ambassador on the Student Environmental Council, served on the co-curricular advisory board on the public side, I worked on a public safety board with [Washington University Police Department] Chief Mark Glenn. I also got to advise in a variety of other capacities for different boards that have popped up, like the Residential Student Advisory Board, for example. 

    My proudest accomplishments are that I got to secure $50,000 in the upcoming budget for menstrual products across the Danforth campus. This is really important to me; I think every single person deserves to get free access to tampons, pads and other menstrual products. Regardless of their own income background, I think this is really important for us to be on par with other top performing institutions, all of which have free menstrual products. We were able to get three new mental health counselors from the Habif Health and Wellness Center, which I’m really excited about, because students have been agitating about this for years, and together with @stillwaiting_washu last year, we were able to get that done. We allocated $80,000 towards rent relief and towards food insecurity. Through the COVID Relief Fund, we were able to fundraise over $85,000 for anti-racist organizations in June and organized a series of panels. And we were also able to create a constituent service program and mentorship match program to help connect students with one another and with their student government. So those are just some of the things that I’m pretty proud of. 

    SL: Tell me about your plans for communicating with the student body and being transparent about the work that you’re doing.

    RM: In the past year, one of the new policies that I instituted was creating a biweekly email system. If you check your email, you will see that I’ve been sending many to your WUSTL email. And that’s how I’ve been communicating what Student Union has been doing to the entirety of the student body, ensuring that information about elections, information about appointments, information about upcoming events and our community partners like Gephardt, the Career Center, Skandalaris, what they’re currently doing is communicated to the student body. So that’s the first thing. The second thing is building partnerships with organizations that we [SU] previously did not work with, so Residential Life for example, but also the First Year Center, Campus Life, Student Affairs and a lot of these community partners who now want to work with Student Union as opposed to previously viewing Student Union is a very insulated, insular organization that did not engage with the community. And the third thing I would say is just working with a lot of student groups and organizations partnering on lots of different events, whether it be my first year working on combining SU’s efforts with other student organizations to create a culture night, or integrating student organizations into the new Trending Topics decision making process or working with Give Thanks Give Back to organize a gift drive, and bringing student groups together when crafting different demands for the University about how we can move forward. I think these are all really important ways of making sure that our advocacy is not just what Student Union wants, but most importantly, it’s what students want, centering those voices in all those conversations.

    SL: So you’ve brought up a bunch of really ambitious goals in your platform that I think a lot of people generally support. What do you think is the best strategy in terms of advocacy to actually get some of these things done?

    RM: I think the most important strategy is working with the students. I really don’t like the idea of pushing for things that students themselves don’t fundamentally support, and that’s why everything that we did this year had high student support and are things that really matter to students. Mental health, for example, is an issue that a lot of students have been talking with me about and is an issue that we’re able to fight for. Academic accommodations is another example. Centering those student voices shows that we have popular support behind these movements and are more likely to compel people to institute those changes, even if they don’t necessarily want to. An example of this is pass/fail grading. Even though we weren’t able to get that for the spring 2021 semester, the vote became far more narrow, because I was able to lobby hundreds of faculty and staff…The second thing is going to protests, using social media to try to convince people and persuade people—this is how we can build grassroots support for a lot of these movements and engage students to make sure that they are also in tune with what is going on. And lastly, I would say bringing students to administrators if they want to speak to them. For example, a group of students really cared about removing the tent that was on The Swamp in the South 40. That was an issue that I personally wasn’t well-versed in, but we were able to bring students over to Campus Life, they were able to discuss it and we were able to get that tent removed. 

    SL: The way things are looking in terms of the COVID pandemic and the vaccination process, it’s looking pretty likely that we’re going to have a transition back to some level of in-person activity in the fall. What do you see as your role in that transition process?

    RM: I think it’s disseminating information about COVID-19. There’s a good degree of misinformation, I think, about both testing and about vaccines…definitely working together with medical professionals getting that information out there in student body emails and working together to film things like a PSA is about what the vaccine is, why it’s safe, the different types of vaccines, just getting that information out there is super important to me.

    SL: Can you tell me what you plan to do as president to address the messy situation that our University has with Greek Life?

    RM: So I’m not part of Greek Life and I do not have the best views of Greek Life. In the past year, I’ve worked with student leaders across campus to call on the University to implement space equity. I think that is the bare minimum of where we can find a compromise and where we can find common ground. I worked on the co-curricular advisory board last year, actually with a group of folks from Greek Life and two or three other disaffiliated folks. And we were able to talk about a concrete set of policies moving forward, one of which is space equity, agreed upon by everybody on that board. So that’s something that I think is really important, something that we all agree on. And frankly, it’s something that the University has never been able to justify. Why do only fraternities, as an organization on campus, get their own houses, while no other student group gets it? I think that’s the biggest point that I want to direct us towards, but also educating our community on the harms of Greek Life and also making sure that students feel like that is not the only way that they can get connected with the social life on campus. I think that we’ve seen a lot of really dangerous behaviors with the current rush process, where people are going in-person to these parties that are unsanctioned, very dangerous, transmitting COVID at really high rates. We saw at Duke University just a week ago how dangerous these types of rush events actually are. So I think it’s important for the University to crack down when these violations are happening, it’s important for us to clearly identify alternative visions of what social life on campus can look like, and work together with student groups to build that community.

    SL: So you’ve mentioned space equity and dehousing as some of your main goals. Is abolition still in the cards, or is that something that’s too unrealistic?

    RM: I think there is a huge movement on campus to abolish Greek Life. 

    The University, if it had the moral courage to, should be coming out in support of it, but because the University right now isn’t doing it, I think it’s up to students to use this grassroots movement, to educate others to build community and to create and to answer questions that people in Greek Life have, like why reform can’t work. And it’s important for us to educate the community that either is unengaged, or does not care about the issue right now, about why this is something that matters. So because the University has refused to act, I think that Abolish Greek Life should continue to use education and dissemination of information on building power to disincentivize students from participating in rush, building alternative communities and promoting alternative spaces on campus. If you look at the numbers in the past year alone, we’ve seen the number of fraternity men decrease by over 25%, and the number of sorority women decrease by over 80%. Rush this year, for both of those organizations, has declined by over 40% and continues to decline, like we see in other comparable institutions with abolition movements across the country. I think ultimately, if Greek Life will disappear on campus, it will be because students themselves are driving that change. And that’s why I think it’s really up to grassroots organizers now, because the University is not taking the stance.

    SL: Another contentious issue on campus has been the push by both student and non-student workers for higher wages, more benefits, etc. Tell me about the role you think SU should play in this struggle.

    RM: As a proud member of WUGWU [Washington University Graduate and Undergraduate Workers’ Union], I think it’s really important for us to have unions…So student unionization is really critical for guaranteeing higher wages, for better working conditions, better, more reasonable working hours, and I totally support local efforts to unionize. I think that the best way that we can get them to the table is by making sure that we continue to increase the number of students who are involved in WUGWU…In the past, I think we’ve either not taken the stance or not supported them as openly as I think we should have. So in the past year, I’ve signed every single petition that has been put out. I have gone to WUGWU meetings, I pay my dues and voted in the SEIU disaffiliation. And I’m really proud to see the organizing work that is coming out of WUGWU, so I want to make sure that Student Union has an outward sense of supporting them.

    SL: Improving mental health services at Wash. U. is something that you’ve been involved in for a while and is a major part of your platform. Can you give me an overview of how you hope to improve Wash. U.’s mental health services?

    RM: I think the #1 long term goal we have is building a place to consolidate student mental health resources. And this was originally introduced by [senior] Sophie Scott a few years ago as a really big project and unfortunately was stalled by the onset of COVID-19. The idea of it is that we should centralize student-facing resources that will help students with what they’re going through. So it’s not just talking about mental health services and going to therapy. The point where these mental health services fail is when they are unable to address a lot of the material and tangible problems that students are experiencing. For example, if you are currently undergoing counseling at RSVP, or you are not able to have a decent and dignified Title IX experience when you go to the gender equity entitlement compliance office, then you were not able to ameliorate the root cause of a lot of your mental anguish. And I think fighting for structural policy changes and making sure that there are additional resources available to students beyond just therapy is really, really important…And we can help students navigate those resources…by having these specific workers at this facility, who will speak with the student and then determine which resources they need. This type of centralization, I think, is going to help improve holistic wellbeing on our campus…It’s something that I think many members of our university administration and student bodies support. And pushing for that, I think is a really important long-term goal. In the short term, I think it’s important for us to increase the number of counselors. Like I said earlier, we’re able to get three more this year. I think the goal is to get three more so that we are at the ideal amount…I think we need additional financial support for people who are in Uncle Joe’s. I think it’s wrong that students are fully uncompensated for doing hundreds of hours of training, and then hundreds of hours of labor for the University, because our mental health services are failing students. And I think it’s important that we also prioritize additional services that are not just therapy and counseling, but also promoting things like group therapy, promoting other forms of mental health support so that we can promote holistic well-being and help improve the original problems that students are experiencing.

    SL: What do you see as the biggest area for potential improvement and growth within SU?

    RM: I would love to incorporate more student voices and offer more opportunities for students to be a part of SU…I’m already working with other campus-wide other student organizations right now about rebooting Engage360. To increase service opportunities, I want to create opportunities for students to lobby the federal government on important issues relating to students, like a renewal of the Higher Education Act or changes in Title IX policies. And I want to empower students so that they can speak on these issues and feel like SU is a good place for them to be connected with other resources on campus…If we can build an organization that students are comfortable with, that they trust and that they believe will offer them the resources and support that they need, I think we will be much more successful.

    SL: Is there anything else that you would like to talk about?

    RM: I’m very excited to run in this election, and even though I’m unopposed, I will continue campaigning, because I want people to know that I’m not trying to take this position for granted…I know I have very strong opinions; some of those opinions many people might not agree with. But one of the things I’m proudest of is that I’ve been able to have conversations with people who disagree with me, both to the left and to the right, and who I’ve been able to have been able to change my mind, enhanced my perspectives and helped me create policies that are more inclusive. No matter your affiliation, your background, your identity or your political ideology, you should feel comfortable talking with me, because I want to serve you and I do not want to be a student body president for a select group of students, but for every single student on this campus.

  • Zoe Hancock

    Zoe Hancock

    Current Treasury Representative

    Candidate for Executive Vice President

    Zoe Hancock

    SL: If you’re elected, what will some of your top priorities be?

    ZH: Most of what the actual role for Executive Vice President really entails is organizing and running the internal structure of SU, and then also working towards recruitment and retention. Something that I definitely want to really work hard on is re-establishing the culture and excitement over Student Union. Specifically, COVID has been really hard because people just kind of forgot that SU exists, and that really hinders the ability to do really meaningful and beneficial work on campus, because a lot of students that normally would work really hard to leave a positive impact are really feeling fatigued and overwhelmed. So that’s something that I really want to work on, because that also then translates to having difficulty filling these positions. For Treasury and Senate and even exec, some of the positions are unopposed and in Treasury and Senate they’re uncontested. I think in those situations, that’s also kind of where we fall into SU’s historical problems with D&I recruitment and really making sure that we’re an equitable and representative space of the student body…so I would say one of my main priorities is really trying to hold more exec office hours in the SU office…and to really work on publicizing them for individuals who aren’t on execs of their individual student groups, for our underclassmen who were involved in Senate or Treasury and maybe don’t really feel like they have a place in Student Union or at Wash. U. Another thing that I really want to prioritize is making sure that we’re following through on the decisions that we’ve made this semester. So I think in the past two to three years, there’s been a lot of restructuring and re-evaluating of SU and the way that things are done, even in terms of the exact positions. I remember working to create the position of Executive Vice President, so obviously, everything is pretty new. But something that I really want to focus on is that we recently removed class councils from Student Union, so something that that I really want to focus on is making sure that there is a consistent effort between Senate, Treasury and SPB to really make sure that the class councils that we’ve removed are being replaced in the way that we said they would be, because I know that was more of a controversial decision. 

    SL: Let’s talk about class councils. What are some specific ways that you think their roles can be filled now that they are gone?

    ZH: The general idea is to have specific members represent class councils on the board of directors of SPB. While a lot of that does fall under like the VP of Programming, part of the Executive Vice President’s role is to really make sure that there is an availability of students with general questions and concerns to be able to access SU. I think SPB does a really good job of programming and sorting everything out, but I think they do that behind closed doors in a lot of situations. So working on really making sure that I can work with the VP programming to make sure that they’re open for suggestions and open for questions and trying to increase the amount of open meetings. The class councils also really do do a lot of vital work in terms of internships and career opportunities and things for sophomores and juniors, and then obviously seniors have a lot of really specific programming things that go on…So I think that will be a good opportunity for me to really be accessible, but also kind of help out in a lot of different areas…I really kind of want to be available as just an SU database, available for any emails, any questions.

    SL: What experience and background do you have that qualifies you for this position?

    ZH: I am just about to complete my third year in Treasury. I started in Student Union Treasury as a freshman in the fall. So that was really exciting to kind of watch the evolution of all of that. The reason that I’m so passionate about creating an SU culture is that it’s something that I really think that I got, that some of our some of our current first-years and last year’s first-years didn’t really get to experience. So I really feel at home at Student Union, and I really feel like I have really strong relationships with all of our SU business coordinators and advisors and administrators. And I’m really familiar with other people in Student Union that I have strong relationships with and can work really well with. I’ve sat through three general budgets, I’ve spent the last year as Activities Committee Chair for SU under Treasury. So I planned the two activities fairs, I ran student group recognition and category upgrades for the past two semesters, I worked with the constitution task force when we were updating the constitution. I worked to help create the expansion of the exec team. I think realistically, I understand the internal structure of SU almost as well as anybody could. I just feel so at home and connected with this organization that I think this is the best kind of role for me to really be able to do all of the things that I’m passionate about, but also have somebody make sure that the organization doesn’t fall apart. 

    SL: What makes you a better candidate than Miriam?

    ZH: I think Miriam is really in tune with some of the more progressive and student-facing measures of SU, which I think is really important and really vital. I think her role as ArtSci Council president and her roles on class councils really put a strength in her position for advocacy, which I think is really awesome…But in terms of balancing activism and balancing these really ambitious goals that SU has, that I fully support…I think there’s also a reason that we have Treasury and that we have Constitutional Council, and that we have a lot of these back-end processes, because we need to be able to make sure that while we’re doing all of this advocacy work, that we’re also making sure that student groups get funded, and that there’s opportunities for different resources, and if students have connections with administrators that they would like to build, or really working on making sure that we can focus on advocacy, but also keep the back end together. I think this is something that I probably have a little bit more experience than she does, in terms of just being familiar with SU…there’s so much that goes on that, luckily, student groups don’t see, because if everything had to be done out in the open, nothing would ever get done…I’m really proud to stand with SU in terms of Greek Life and WUPD abolition and all of these advocacy measures, I fully am on board with all of those, but I also just think that a lot of the administrative roles are kind of lacking from her platform.

    SL: In the fall, how do you plan to boost SU’s culture, recruitment, retention, etc. while still prioritizing COVID safety?

    ZH: That’s actually something that I’m really excited about working on. I’ve been working really closely with the Campus Life department, with [Assistant Director for Student Involvement] Peggy Hermes and [Associate Director for Student Involvement] Beth Doores and really setting out what our activity is going to look like. I was a really instrumental part of setting the guidelines and creating our student groups’ starting point Trello board to allow student groups to really go through the appeals process to get their events approved beforehand. 

    I actually think that I have a really fundamental understanding of the safety measures and precautions that Student Union and Campus Life are currently taking for student groups. I expect that I will also be kind of an instrumental part of how that changes throughout the semester. Obviously, safety is completely the number one priority for everybody. But I think just in terms of whatever limited capacity we can open the office for, or creating more Zoom opportunities for group bonding and group questions…I’m really hoping to work with the chairs of Senate and Treasury to really reinstitute those peer mentoring programs. I think a lot of what we used to have in terms of Treasury Buddies and Senate Peer Mentoring has really fallen behind. I think that’s really instrumental for being leaders for those newer underclassmen reps who have so much potential, but unfortunately, just too often burn out. Because it’s really easy to come into SU with all of these really ambitious, really good goals, and then recognize that they take a lot of time. And I think that frustration and all of the bureaucracy and red tape that we have to jump through with administration so often really kind of leaves people frustrated and kind of just exhausted with the process. So I think that continued environment, and office hours that are specifically directed towards younger Student Union reps will be really crucial.

    SL: Is there anything else that you would like to talk about?

    ZH: I think SU is headed in a really positive direction. I’m really excited. I’ve been working really hard with other members of Treasury leadership to really work on this financial restructure; I think it’s going to be a really positive thing to see groups no longer be threatened by the concept of a funding percentage. I’m really excited about the ways that we’ve transformed the general budget and really increased the ways that Senate and Treasury can form more beneficial working relationships. And I’m just really excited to have the opportunity to continue that work with the whole broader aspect of SU and really making it a more accessible, positive and friendly organization for students.

  • Miriam Silberman

    Miriam Silberman

    Current Speaker of the CS40

    Candidate for Executive Vice President

    Miriam Silberman

    SL: If you’re elected, what will some of your top priorities be?

    MS: I have currently a laundry list of top priorities, largely involving socioeconomic justice as well as gender equity. One of the projects that I worked on a lot last year was helping to get menstrual products for free on the Danforth Campus. $50,000 is allocated for that…It was pushed back because of COVID. [My other priorities include] increasing the budget to include all buildings across all campuses, as well as allocating money towards gender-neutral restrooms and also gender affirming wardrobes for people who are transitioning and need money because it’s quite expensive. On top of that, something I’d really like to see more of is socioeconomic justice. For people who are using work study as a component of their financial aid, the way that it works right now is you either get work study, or you apply a credit if you’re doing a lab, which does end up ultimately setting back people who need to do work study in order to make ends meet because they’re unable to take the same credits that their counterparts who don’t need that additional assistance would…Really, socioeconomic and gender equity are at the top of the list. 

    SL: What experience and background do you have that qualifies you for this position?

    MS: I’ve been an official SU member for two years. My freshman year, I was elected as president of ArtSci Council, meaning that I worked with the EVP my freshman year and with [junior] Anne [He] this year in order to coordinate across the school and then work with other class councils…That’s given me experience with the role…I think that that insight will give me some sort of an advantage, but more than that, my time working as Speaker of the South 40 and doing other student advocacy as a whole has given me a lot of connections to staff and faculty and other student leaders. Those connections will allow me to help push some of the agenda that I’m interested in, as well as function on the [executive] board. Within the South 40, we have five executive members. I’m the speaker, and so understanding how to coordinate agendas, understanding how to set meetings that are not just busywork and get things done is something that I’ve worked for, and that I’m very good at. On top of that, coordinating with faculty can be sometimes a little bit difficult. But as the president of ArtSci Council, one of my responsibilities was to coordinate with the different levels within the School of Arts and Sciences in order to make things happen…so understanding how the structures work is pretty important, and I have a lot of experience with that.

    SL: You’ve brought up a bunch of ambitious goals. What do you think is the best strategy in terms of advocacy to actually get some of these things done?

    MS: I would say in order to get a lot of these things done, there are two steps you have to do. One, you do have to apply pressure. I think that continuous PR towards the general student body who can therefore apply pressure as a collective is going to be very important to get a lot of this done. Because ultimately, when it comes down to it, the tuition that we’re paying pays for some of these administrators’ [salaries]. I do think that’s an important thing to recognize. However, I’ve also seen great value in meeting one-on-one, and reaching out and becoming very familiar with administrators to get things done. By both really appealing to things that the general student body is interested in…but also having continuous meetings, a lot of follow-up emails, follow-up conversations regarding potential policies will be a large part of what I do as a VP if I’m elected.

    SL: What makes you a better candidate than Zoe?

    MS: I’m very tentative of ‘me versus her’ politics. I do understand that it’s a race, but I’m not aware of who Zoe is as an individual; I’d like to think she’s a good person. Overall, I’ve had a lot of one-on-one interactions in a very similar position. As far as I am aware, Zoe was the activities chair within the Treasury last year, which is an interactive position. But working directly with the Dean of Arts and Sciences, with now Vice Chancellor Rob Wild and Assistant Vice Chancellor Kawanna Leggett, during my time as CS40 speaker has been really invaluable. And that’s something that only a handful of students on campus can say. Those direct connections really propelled me forward as a candidate. And them knowing the policies I work on and me being on administrative groups with them, even today, will afford me those connections.

    SL: For the last year, Anne He has been the EVP. How do you plan to run the office differently?

    MS: I think, overall, she did a good job. There was one point of contention that I think I would have handled slightly differently. That is the reorganizing and restructuring of the class councils and the school councils. This year, the amendment was passed to eliminate class councils. School councils were not eliminated because we fought very hard to retain our position. I think that during those meetings, there were a few times where it felt like they could have been handled a little bit nicer, whether that be having more interaction with all of the schools present at one time, whether that be communicating with the class councils as well as the school councils. I think that hearing dialogue from all different parties would have been very beneficial. And that wasn’t something that I feel like we got to see. 

    SL: Do you disagree with the end result of the decision to eliminate class councils or just the process that led to it?

    MS: I do disagree with the end result. I may be slightly biased, but I am friends with lots of people on the class councils and from what I’ve heard, they felt that the decision to eliminate them during such an odd year felt wrong because it felt like a lot of the decisions were being made off of activity during a pandemic versus during not a pandemic. I think that if they had approached us next year or the year after, when things had totally evened out, and you could really see activity and budgeting very clearly, then that would have felt more fair.

    SL: A major part of being the EVP is managing internal SU affairs and dealing with recruitment and retention of members in SU. What is your approach to getting more people involved in SU next fall?

    MS: I’ll start with recruitment. Something that I’ve been told by a lot of first-years working with the CS40, which is mostly first-years, is that SU seems very exclusive, it seems like it’s something for upperclassmen, it seems like you can never be an executive member unless you’ve been in some other Senate, Treasury or other executive position for several years. So they don’t really want to dedicate as much time for something that they feel will reap little reward. 

    Something that I think that I would do is really begin the expansion of committees, especially in Senate, so that people can have a more informal method to join regarding something that they care about without necessarily having to feel like they have to run for a position or write an essay to get into the Senate or the Treasury at the beginning of the year…I would like to make the SU office a place that’s more open physically, for people to feel comfortable entering and talking to the executive members. And that includes actually restructuring the way that the office is set up. Right now, it’s a lot of closed desks, you don’t really know whose desk is whose during office hours. It can be a little bit awkward to interact with someone, but I would like to have an open-door policy during office hours, [where] people can come in and just talk and get to know SU senators and executive members, and then hopefully have a lot of resources around the office so people know what things they can get involved in very quickly, and that connects to retention of students. I’m hoping to increase retention through a similar method, making the Senate a place where you are actively encouraged to interact in a very non-formal way is a way to increase retention. And then additionally, having more one-on-one interaction with senators as an executive member would increase [participation in] further elections. In CS40, I’ve been successful in getting people to run even during a pandemic when the roles have been very non-traditional, because I’ve had upwards of hour-long conversations, one-on-one with individuals, answering questions and making sure that they’re in a good headspace to run and that they have all their resources. I feel that by doing the same thing within SU, I’d be able to both maintain retention of people who are already in it, and then also increase the number of members we have, because they see SU as a place that’s warm and not scary.

    SL: Is there anything else that you would like to talk about?

    MS: It’s a very odd year, and there’s going to be a lot of transition work coming off of this year, and transition work is something that I’m good at, because I have a lot of experience with it. Additionally, coming off of this year, I know there’s going to be difficulties with socioeconomic situations for a lot of students, and I am someone who has directly experienced that, being a low-SES student myself. I really want to make sure that Wash. U. is a welcoming place for everyone, and I know that sometimes the administration or even SU has historically not been the place to do that. And that’s why I’m running. I’m really running in order to make sure that voices like mine are heard alongside everyone else’s.

  • Fadel Alkilani

    Fadel Alkilani

    Current Treasury Representative

    Candidate for VP of Finance

    Fadel Alkilani

    SL: If you’re elected what will some of your top priorities be?

    FA: VP Finance is a multifaceted position. It’s probably the highest time commitment of any position in SU. There’s a lot that goes into the role. I think part of the election process has not been covering the actual role of the VP Finance. The majority of what the VP Finance does is they act as the treasurer for Student Union, so SU’s millions of dollars of expenses are all funneled through the VP Finance…I think that’s something where having experience with SU finance, having experience in the financial branch of SU is super important, and that’s stuff that’s more administrative in nature, like working with the business coordinators…I’ve known them for years and the VP Finance works very closely with them for the entirety of their term.

    There’s a lot of decision-making that’s also done, like under-$1000 appeals, trying to do those in a way that’s very equitable and fair. I think our financial guidelines when it comes to appeals have been really fair in the past, especially under-$1000 appeals. I think the experience that I have in dealing with financial decisions should make those a very straightforward and simple process with student groups. 

    Finally, financial guidelines. Obviously we’re going through a restructure. That restructure was developed by the previous VP Finance alongside [junior] Arjan Kalra, so I think [senior] Alexa [Jochims] and Arjan have really put a lot of time into developing the restructure, but both of them will not be in SU next year and so there are very few people that know the ins and outs of this restructure and our plans to develop that, so I’m hopefully planning to continue that development. Developing flat funding and distributing flat funding for student groups that gives them a lot more leeway in how to spend their money is something that I’m planning to implement for next year, as opposed to making groups budget for social events or GBMs [which is] a waste of time both on on SU’s side and on the student group side…Continuing this restructure is something that’s super important because…if the restructure crashes and burns, that’s going to put a lot of student groups in a horrible position where they won’t be able to program the way that they want to program, and so that’s something that I want to avoid at all costs.

    The Mental Health Fund has been a huge talking point. It was developed two years ago by Shelly Gupta and Gaby Smith. They signed an MOU [memorandum of understanding] with the administration. I voted for it at the time. There were some issues with it. I didn’t like the fact that we were doing an endowment, it doesn’t make sense for SU to be funding fundamental programs for students [instead of the administration]…But the way the deal is negotiated, it’s setting aside this money and we won’t be able to make a net positive on this for like another 20 or 30 years following our current stock market return rate, which is not the best plan, because hopefully within 10 years, Wash. U. is going to be providing the proper mental health facilities that they’re supposed to. We have about $100,000 sitting in an SU savings account, it’s just sitting there, it’s not doing anything…If we can cancel that endowment contract and put the money so that it’s directly given to students, that would be so much better.

    Some people have mentioned the idea of developing an advocacy fund. I would be open to the idea…but the thing is, it’s not very clear what it would be used for…I want to help the St. Louis community, I want to help the Wash. U community and I have some specific concrete plans to do. I think campaigning on the idea of advocacy sounds great, but when you actually get into the details, there’s not much there. I want to make sure that advocacy groups get the money that they need, and currently, I feel like through the SU budgeting process, especially with this restructure, a lot of advocacy groups are getting the money that they need. I really haven’t heard from advocacy groups specifically that they want SU funding.

    SL: What experience and background do you have that qualifies you for this position?

    FA: I’ve been in SU since basically the first election my freshman year, [when] I ran for Treasury. I’ve been in [the] Budget Committee since then. When it comes to financial stuff, I’m probably the most experienced person who’s going to be in SU next year…I was in Senate Academic Affairs Committee for a semester; I wanted to learn how SU’s advocacy works, working with administrators and all that. I was on Constitutional Task Force for a year…as well as the Exec 53 Constitutional Task Force Subcommittee. Basically, there are very few people who know the SU constitution and statutes as well as I do, and that has advantages. I know the rules. Some people can say that’s a disadvantage that I’m by the book. However, I’m also very willing to change those rules. And I also know how to change those rules, and how to make them better…Writing that language, writing legislation, writing financial legislation, writing financial guidelines, is something that a VP Finance does. That’s one of their jobs. They set financial regulations for SU, and that’s something I’m very comfortable doing and that I have a lot of experience in. Also, I was Budget Committee Chair for the past year.

    SL: What makes you a better candidate than Noah, and how is your vision for the office of VP of Finance different from his?

    FA: I don’t want to just say it boils down to experience, because experience isn’t necessarily the only good thing. I think I know how to actually implement some of the policy ideas that Noah is bringing to the table. I also have been talking about [some of these ideas] for longer than Noah has been here. So I don’t want to disparage him. But I also know that he did not even know most of the things that the VP Finance does when he started running for the position…I don’t think there’s significant policy differences between me and Noah. I think a lot of the policies that he’s talked about, I had already talked about and created, and I have explicit plans on how to execute them. If people want someone who can actually get the stuff done, that’s [me].

    SL: You’ve been pretty vocal in the past about certain redundancies and inefficiencies in the general budget process. Can you tell me about what those are and how you would improve them?

    FA: What [the current system] does is it breaks Senate and Treasury into small committees that look at different parts of the budget and discuss and vote on different parts of the budget. And the point of that was basically to minimize the amount of time spent in a big session, and to increase the efficiency and value of the discussion, because a discussion in a big body is not just not going to be as productive. So I really like that system, but what I realized after that is you reach a point in the budget where it’s like, ‘Okay, section teams talked about this, this was unanimous in section teams.’ And because it was unanimous in section teams, everyone’s like, ‘Yeah, this is fine,’ and vote yes, vote yes and vote yes…I think that process can be simplified a little bit by basically…creating a form before general budget, where every single line item that people want to be discussed in the large session can be put into the form, and then we’ll go through those, and then we’ll vote on the budget. [During] the last general budget, if you look at it, I think for the $3.8 million budget, we moved $10,000 from one place to another, and I think that’s just not the most efficient way to do that. 

    SL: At the forum on Tuesday, you brought up how big events like WILD are overfunded at the expense of more important smaller line items. As VP of Finance, how would you resolve that issue?

    FA: That stuff is all decided in general budget. I love WILD, I staffed WILD last year, I enjoyed it, I have an A$AP Ferg poster on my wall, and I get that it has a lot of value for a student body. But when you look at, for instance, the cost, WILD by itself is about $500,000 of our budget. I can’t really, in the position of VP Finance, just move that money around, but what I’m hoping is that going into general budget, depending on what student groups need, depending on what the student body needs, [SU should be] taking a more critical eye on these things. 

    SL: The last thing I want to talk about is your willingness to work with other people on SU, because I don’t think I would be remiss to say that you are someone who tends to stir the pot and create controversy that sometimes leads to people feeling like they are being attacked or that things are getting personal. What will your approach be to avoiding these types of interpersonal conflicts in the future and resolving them if they arise?

    FA: Interpersonal conflict within SU is a very old thing, and I am someone who tends to stir the pot, that is certainly true. I’m someone who is unapologetically going to stand for what is right, even if people don’t agree. I think there’s definitely been conflict over that in the past. I think holding a position of a legislative rep, for instance is a bit different than being in the position of VP Finance. When I’m [Budget Committee] chair, I’m not going to initiate conflict with someone that I’m chair over, because that power dynamic is something that complicates things…it’s something that isn’t fair and is not constructive…Within exec, I’m probably going to have some conflict within exec council. I’m sure that we can deal with it politely and fairly, but I’m definitely not someone who is going to initiate a conflict with someone who is not at the same [level]. That being said, I understand I have caused some people to think that I’m a bit brash or not as careful with my words. That being said, going into this position, my intentionality is always to help the student body and to help the St. Louis community, and that’s something that I will always stand for, even if it hurts some people’s feelings.

    SL: Is there anything else that you would like to talk about?

    FA: I stand very much with Abolish Greek Life. I think there are some things that the VP of Finance can do, for instance IFC and WPA are both SU recognized groups. I don’t think that should be the case…[I also want to make] sure that some student groups don’t recreate the conditions that occurred in Greek Life that a lot of marginalized groups have said occur in Greek life. Something that I’ve been looking at is working on selectivity within SU groups. I’ve been working on this policy for a little bit; I have a list of groups that I want to contact to talk about it. But there are a lot of SU recognized groups that still have rush processes or some kind of selectivity process that is not very open and not very transparent. Something that I’m thinking of doing through the powers of the VP Finance is making sure that those selectivity processes are transparent and open.

  • Noah Vermes

    Noah Vermes

    Current VP of Finance for the First Year Class Council

    Candidate for VP of Finance

    Noah Vermes

    SL: If you’re elected, what will some of your top priorities be?

    NV: My main focus is essentially the tagline of my campaign. It’s bringing a friendly face to finance, meaning I want to remain understanding and appreciative of the student body with every aspect of my role, which generally is allocating and responding to appeals and working through the general budget process. One big thing that I want to focus on is small things to support the student body. There has been a big rise in student activism…and we as leaders, should be at that point to uplift voices for students. I want to establish a Student Activism Fund, which, much like some of the other funds, such as the Mental Health Fund, the Opportunity Fund and the Food Security Fund, it takes a while to really fully set them into place. My goal is to hopefully establish the foundations for that. Other than that, I’m hoping to allocate funding towards better internet on campus, because I personally think that it’s really difficult in this digital age, when Zooms crash all the time, when you can’t really access certain documents. I’ve had issues with submitting homework assignments that have gone past the deadline, because the internet connection isn’t great. 

    I also want to push a small business community outreach initiative that will allow our students to get more involved in supporting small businesses, supporting underrepresented businesses going out and advocating for change they believe in and supporting the local community.

    SL: What experience and background do you have that qualifies you for this position?

    NV: This past year, I served as the First Year Class Council’s Vice President [of] Finance. And in that role, specifically, I developed this love for representing and advocating and supporting constituents. And in this role, I did gain some semblance of financial background, but the majority of it was working alongside amazing colleagues to provide support to the students…and we were part of this giant class that really had a lot of weight on our shoulders, because we were that introductory class to figuring out what it meant to be on campus or going to college in the time of a pandemic, so there were a lot of struggles with that. But I’m really happy that we are able to plan certain remote student panels and mental health panels. And while that has been super incredible to be a part of, I want to combine that with my quantitative background, because I’m a Statistics major, hopefully a Finance major, a spreadsheet nerd, everything along those lines. I want to be able to connect those two loves of supporting, representing and advocating, and allocating, budgeting and organizing.

    SL: What makes you a better candidate than Fadel?

    NV: I genuinely believe that I am more in tune with students’ wants and needs, because just inherent of his nature as a junior at the school, he doesn’t know what it’s like to be a freshman coming into this school in the time of pandemic, or even jumping directly into leadership in a time of a pandemic, where part of it is we can’t be so focused on the long-term. Where he’s had all this experience with budgeting the general budget, and really, yes, that is crucial. But I think it’s incredibly crucial to have these connections, and be skilled with fostering interpersonal relationships with your constituents, to be able to be that supportive, friendly face and to be able to get in the mindset of those you’re representing and being able to just genuinely communicate with them on what they believe is the most important way to allocate funding.

    SL: As you mentioned, Fadel is a candidate with significantly more experience with the budgeting process than you. How do you plan to compensate for that difference?

    NV: So I have had consistent communication with many representatives of Student Union, whether that be [sophomore] Ranen [Miao], [junior] Arjan [Kalra], [senior] Alexa [Jochims], [junior] Gaby [Smith]. I’ve read through many different outlets of information to understand the role that the Treasury and the budget and the general budget process can play in students’ lives. I understand the roles of categories within student groups. I know the goals of the financial restructure. I’m hoping to provide a understanding perspective to the new financial restructure, which on one hand, they’re trying to simplify how to balance the needs of the student body, [where] it’s quite easy to get caught up with all the intricate details and lose out on the big picture, which is the benefit of your constituents.

    SL: During this year’s general budget session, some people were critical of redundancies and inefficiencies within the budgeting process. Do you think those criticisms are valid, and are there any specific ways that you would modify the budgeting process?

    NV: I believe that the general budget process can always be improved. I think there’s always room to optimize it. But to answer your question about whether these complaints are valid, of course they’re valid. It’s not that they’re criticizing the allocation of the general budget as a whole or criticizing the idea of it. They believe that it takes too long, which is always something fair, because everything can be optimized, except we have to balance the wants and needs and goals of each individual representative on Treasury and Senate. I think personally that it is not my place at this current moment to present a solution, but to present a plan for coming up with that solution. So my goal is to communicate with exec councils, communicate with financial leadership and both of the respective legislative bodies to find out the goals of this upcoming general budget process. And when planning these logistics, I hope to communicate with people who participated in [the] general budget last year to find out what it was like for them to communicate, and even more so as we transition to the coming year. 

    SL: You’ve brought up a bunch of ambitious goals. What do you think is the best strategy in terms of advocacy to actually get some of these things done?

    NV: As of now, my experience working with admin has been positive, mainly because I have not yet had the real ability to put pressure on them to say, ‘This is what we want, this is what we need to be doing…’ [We should include] members of student groups that can connect with the larger student body, specifically those with particular interests, not just SU, and use that as a platform to present our information to admin and continue to put pressure on them to make the changes that are needed. And it comes with teamwork, also, I believe, where you’re able to rally behind someone who you know, and you genuinely believe has your back with what you want to do and what you want to achieve. And what you believe is the best choice for where to go in the coming year. And it comes with consistent communication and consistent action towards admin to push these boundaries. And if I’m only able to achieve a portion of what I set out to do at the beginning of the year, that’s as long as we’re continuing to put pressure, we set the foundation for more change to be made in later years.

    SL: At the forum last night, some candidates were arguing that big programming events like WILD are overfunded at the expense of more important smaller-line items. Do you think that argument is valid? As VP of Finance, how would you resolve that issue?

    NV: I think it’s a valid criticism, just from an outside perspective. We’re allocating quite a large sum of money towards these events. Granted, during COVID-19, we weren’t able to put these on. And think there is room to say, ‘Hey, we can take out maybe a quarter of that funding, which is still a large sum of money, and continue to put on this strong WILD experience.’ [Senior] Charlotte [Pohl] has done an amazing job in the past planning, but now we’re shifting to a new VP Programming on exec who may have a different perspective, who may have different goals in regards to the Social Programming Board and WILD. So it’s a valid complaint and I do believe that there’s room for some change.

    SL: Is there anything else that you would like to talk about?

    NV: I just believe that my experience working with people and my quantitative background and my own want to make tangible change in direct collaboration with members of the undergraduate student body, whether they be the incoming first-years, whether they be the class of 2024, [or] outgoing seniors, just gaining some perspective on what they believe should have been done and what wasn’t done during their time at the school. Also, upperclassmen that lost a year due to COVID-19, what they believe can make their final years more special and just better as a whole. I believe that I represent every student on this campus.

  • bdallah Belhadj

    Abdallah Belhadj

    Current RA and Muslim Student Association member

    Candidate for VP of Engagement

    Abdallah Belhadj

    SL: If you’re elected, what will some of your top priorities be?

    AB: The primary reason I am running for SU VP of Engagement is that, in my experience at Wash. U., it has been pretty difficult to get involved civically in the way that I wanted to. There were the signature programs from Gephardt Institute, and I applied to those and I unfortunately did not get them. But what really bothered me about that was, when I did ask for feedback, there was no feedback given at all. And so I’d say the basis of this campaign is basically making sure that we, as an institution, we have the means to give students feedback about their performances, whether it’s like the Gephardt Institute, or it’s interviewing for clubs. Oftentimes, we don’t get the constructive feedback that we need to improve and to see ourselves grow on campus.

    SL: What experience and background do you have that qualifies you for this position?

    AB: I’ve been involved in the Muslim Student Association as well as the Washington University Interfaith Alliance, I have been a treasurer for that. I’ve also been an interfaith fellow, and that really familiarized me with the CDI, and so I do have a commitment to diversity and inclusion on campus. I’m also an RA on the South 40. I’ve been an RA for about almost a year now, and I do think that I’ve been exposed firsthand to the first-year experience for this new COVID school year. And by having conversations with my residents and other RAs on campus, I think I’ve really gained a sense of the hopes as well as the struggles that people have had this year, and I look forward to combining that with people in SU’s experiences to really forge a new post-COVID school year that integrates all those hopes and addresses the challenges that we’ve had this past year.

    SL: What are some ways that you’ve seen SU fail to step up for students through your experience as an RA?

    AB: I mentioned this in the town hall, that there was a mention of SU being an elitist institution, and there being some sort of disconnect or disparity between the students on campus and what SU represents and stands for. I don’t have any prior SU experience; I think I’m the only person running right now that doesn’t have any SU experience, and so I do seek to change the perspectives on campus held about SU. So if SU is to just only share things on social media, use really technical lingo about what they are doing and not disclosing upon the public what they are doing, that’s only going to contribute to that facade, or to that idea of SU being this ivory tower. So really, I hope to challenge that by being the only person that does not have SU experience running. 

    SL: You mentioned that you feel SU has not done a good job of communicating with the student body. How would you change SU’s communication strategy?

    AB: I think primarily SU uses social media to convey what’s going on…But I think really, being able to casually…fit in these student issues in casual conversations on campus can really help that. I have some friends in SU, [and] it’s not that they don’t talk about it in casual conversation, but only keeping the communication and discourse on social media and people sharing it on their stories saying ‘Oh, this is important. This is important,’ and not reflecting that in casual conversation.

    SL: What makes you a better candidate than Philip?

    AB: He’s a very formidable candidate. I recognize what he’s done in SU and his experience, but I don’t think SU experience is ultimately what determines the efficacy of somebody’s job. So I think I’m a better candidate because of my commitment to diversity. I worked in the interfaith fellows and I understand the connections between the CDI and other parts of the University, or within the Muslim Students Association. And I think having that minority perspective of being a Muslim on campus will ultimately help me understand the position in a different way, not necessarily better than Philip’s, but it will be a fresh perspective. Also, one thing is that we talked about freedom of speech in the town hall. And I would just like to re-address that. I’m originally from Alabama, I was a Muslim in Alabama and my political views lean towards the left. I was the minority view in Alabama. So we talked about freedom of speech in the town hall, and people seem[ed] to reiterate the fact that, ‘Yes we have free speech, but people should not be able to speak their minds on campus, specifically conservative people should not be able to speak their minds on campus.’ And I think I was the only one to offer the perspective that I was in a minority position before with a minority viewpoint. But freedom of speech is what really allowed me to express my opinions in that area, and truly be able to express my identity. So I know it’s kind of a tangent, but it’s something I wanted to address from the town hall.

    SL: Something Philip brought up a lot during his interview was how SU can do more to support activist organizations like WUGWU, Fossil Free WashU or Abolish Greek Life. What is your plan to engage with student activists?

    AB: Being on SU exec, I think it’s very crucial that we serve as a liaison between the students and the institution at large. And so being able to advocate for students like [Sabrina Sayed] who were disrespected by the institution and given a very absurd fine is, I think, ultimately our role. Having said that, I think it’s important to amplify voices that are not usually as loud. And so students [who] come from the perspective of being from the BIPOC community or different minorities on campus…need to be amplified, because there seems to be a prevalent voice when it comes to abolishing Greek Life and abolishing WUPD. But I think being able to diversify those voices and gain different perspectives is ultimately what matters. 

  • Philip Keisler

    Philip Keisler

    Current SU Senator

    Candidate for VP of Engagement

    Philip Keisler

    SL: If you’re elected, what will some of your top priorities be?

    PK: I know there are a lot of students on campus who are really passionate during this time of COVID about giving back to the St. Louis community, recently through mutual aid networks and things like that, but sometimes [it can be] just a little tough to find those opportunities. Something that I’ve gotten involved in in St. Louis is St. Louis quarantine support, helping get food to people who are still in quarantine because they have COVID or because they’ve been compromised. I think it’d be great if we could get either a community service page on either Facebook or the SU websites or something like that so we can send out an email blast like once a month, where students can submit their own kind of organization they’re involved in with opportunities coming up, so students can get engaged. And I think that is one way we can help somewhat break down the St. Louis bubble that obviously exists.

    I’ve also been working on drafting a letter on student debt. I want to try and use this executive position to try and reach out to a lot of student governments across the country and get them to sign on to that letter, so we can hopefully put pressure on the current presidential administration to take some action on student debt. On a broader level as well, I think that SU has, in some ways, done less communication this year than usual because of COVID, and I want to make sure we bring back a lot of that form of communication, like the constant [SUp This Week]  emails, once a month or every two weeks or so. And bringing those back is really important, but also engaging with StudLife is very important…And then on an even broader level, I think SU is moving into more of an activist role. I think that we see a lot of really great activism on campus—we see WashU for Abolition, Abolish Greek Life…Title Mine, Fossil Free WashU. As VP, I would really be working hand-in-hand with those groups, trying to make sure every student has the ability to protest and has the space to do that, and is also aware of the protests going on campus…Student Union has some institutional power and connections with administrators, but if we don’t leverage that hand-in-hand with activism and students voicing their public support, it’s not going to be as effective, so working together in that way is really important to getting a lot of big things accomplished.

    SL: What experience and background do you have that qualifies you for this position?

    PK: I spent the last two and a half years as a SU senator. In addition, I spent two and a half terms as the chair of the campus residential experience committee that dealt with dining, housing, sustainability and the general campus experience. In that time, I had a lot of opportunities to advocate for students. VP [of engagement] is a lot about engagement but also a lot about advocacy as well. And one of the jobs is to be the parliamentarian of the Senate. I have really good relationship with senators so I can help them accomplish their projects. Also, part [of the job] is engagement. I’ve done some work with graphic designers for campaigns, so I have some experience in that regard as well…Then on the advocacy front, I’ve also had good relationships with administrators, and I’ve used those to accomplish some really big things. I worked with other students like [senior] Steven Kish and [junior] David Waldman to lobby over 120 professors to get Election Day off, so the students could voice their opinion and vote this past election. When [Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs] Rob Wild came into Senate, he presented an expungement policy that was leaving out marijuana, so I stood up for students there and made it very clear that we should not be continuing the racist practice of overcriminalizing marijuana and treating it differently…I think I’ve also been really active in activist [organizations] on campus, going to protests like Abolish WUPD, going to the Fight for 15 and things of that nature. I think it’s crucial that SU is not just talking to talk, [but] we’re also walking the walk alongside activists. I think that I have a good relationship with a lot of groups on campus; I was the one who stood up for Fossil Free WashU against the Board of Trustees when they were trying to deny that climate change even existed, and also supporting WUGWU’s Martinville protest as well, I was working with [senior] Sophie Scott and [junior] Beth Weisinger to help get water supplies to them and also helping to make sure they had a stable location, they could protest, it wouldn’t be kicked off of. I think that I have a really good history of getting important things accomplished in the Senate, but also you’re standing up side by side with activists and fighting the good fight.

    SL: What makes you a better candidate than Abdallah?

    PK: I think experience does matter, particularly [for] an executive role. I think that you have to deal with administrators constantly, you’re having to also help manage other entities and your interaction with them, I think, does matter if you’ve been in SU before and have the connections and experience and know how the system works. That’s not to say that a candidate can’t do a good job. I’m sure Abdallah would do a good job too, but I think that is an important distinction. I also think…I have a really clear kind of vision of what I want to do with community service, whether it’s advocacy and student debt, WashU for Abolition, Title Mine or whether it’s plans to increase engagement through things like StudLife and more regular emails. I think I have a really clear vision that is influenced by the experience I’ve had and what I’ve already accomplished, and I think that that would make me really effective in this role.

    SL: Let’s talk about SU’s perception on campus, because at the forum on Tuesday, a few people brought up the idea that SU is often perceived as elitist. How do you plan to counter that idea?

    PK: Usually when people will rag on SU, it’s often because [of the idea that] SU doesn’t do anything. That, I think, is solved by more publicity around this stuff…I heard that people really loved the SU Instagram posts that SU Senate did about the different projects, and like, there’s a good reason for that, because it’s like ‘Okay, SU is taking action on these issues, that’s cool. I’m excited to see how that turns out.’ So that is the kind of thing I think we need to be emphasizing more, because when people see SU as a place that actually can get stuff done and is effective, that’s going to make them have a better opinion of SU but also, just as importantly, it’s going to make it so they might think ‘I could run for something too.’ ‘I’m passionate about the stuff on campus, I’m a member of Title Mine, I’m a member of Wash. U. for Abolition. This is a place where I could go and I could work on this stuff, too.’ So then we get more contested elections, and we get even better debates where people are giving more opinions, different ideas and that’s a much better system…One small thing I’ve done to try and help make our elections a little bit better is trying to put ranked-choice voting into play, which I think is important to try and make sure that the people who are elected are the people who the majority of students want. But the bottom line is making sure we’re being public about what we’re doing, and then making sure that when we follow through, we take the victory lap. 

    SL: Something that we’ve talked about a lot is SU’s relationship with activist groups. How do you see that role changing if you’re elected?

    PK: I think it has been changing slowly over the last few years. Martinville was one point where I talked about how me, Sophie and Beth were organizing all the resources we could at SU to support that protest…I think that it is definitely important that we’re going to meet with Rob Wild, and going to meet with all these administrators and having those conversations. But just as importantly, we should bring those activists with us to the table, and often bring the table to them…Then if Wash. U. takes punitive measures…like with Sabrina Sayed, it’s a $1500 fine, which I think is way out of proportion, and is clearly an effort to make an example of [her]…That’s an example of where SU can take a strong stand for activism on campus and against that kind of punitive measure. That’s why I signed on to the petition, and I would encourage anyone else to as well and to continue bringing this up, because I don’t think that we should allow Wash. U. to make examples out of activists.

  • Miri Goodman

    Miri Goodman

    Current Sophomore Class Council President

    Candidate for VP of Programming

    Miri Goodman

    SL: If you’re elected, what will some of your top priorities be?

    MG: I think the biggest thing is trying to deal with what’s been happening with the pandemic. Having lived in both a pandemic and non-pandemic world for Wash. U., I want to be able to transition back from that world that we’ve been living in, hopefully, if everything goes smoothly, but I also want to be able to effectively program for students, which has been much more difficult this year because of the quick transition that’s needed to happen. So I want to be able to figure out hybrid programming and ways that we can still implement effective programs that we can put on for students that will be enjoyable and effective, and really take advantage of the new things that we’ve been discovering work and don’t work.

    SL: What experience and background do you have that qualifies you for this position?

    MG: Over the past two years, I’ve served first in the First Year Class Counsel as the VP of PR and then on the Sophomore Class Council as president. I think that’s given me an ear to the ground for students. And I’ve been able to listen and figure out and program for them. I’ve worked with two incredible boards for the class councils, and I hope that I can effectively continue that. Also, I have really good skills at choosing people for those boards, because of when I had to figure out people for the Sophomore Class Council. I think that I can effectively sort through applications for the SPB. And since I was on the outskirts of SU, as a member of a Class Council, I know the inner workings of it, but I’m not too much in the weeds, and I don’t think that people see it as an elitist position.

    SL: Charlotte Pohl has held this office of SU’s VP of Programming for three years now. How do you plan to run the office differently?

    MG: Charlotte certainly has held the position very well, and I hope to actually learn more from her as I go, after the elections next week, hoping everything goes well…I spoke with her a little bit about the position beforehand, just to get a sense of what I was getting into and what I was applying for, to really prepare myself and hope to continue speaking with her. Something that she planned was Game Day, and that was kind of her pet project. And it grew from nothing into an extremely popular event. And I hope that I can continue that with a different event. Planning different events in my head, coming up with things like movie screenings, but more like a film festival or something like that, I hope to be able to create an event that continues on her legacy, as well as just improving turnout and improving student engagement.

    SL: Tell me more about this movie screening idea. What would that look like?

    MG: I know there have been pre-screenings for movies in the past. I think it all depends on being able to get those kinds of people to give us those film screenings and reaching out. And I really think that could be fun for people to have a weekend-long film festival. People can build engagement with the Film and Media Studies Department. It can get multiple cultural departments involved as well.

    SL: Tell me about your plans for communicating with the student body and being transparent about the work that you’re doing.

    MG: I think that transparency is super important. Students really want to know that first of all, SU isn’t unapproachable, and I want to become more approachable…As current Sophomore Class Council President, I send out weekly emails to the sophomore class keeping you updated with what’s going on on campus and the events that we’re programming, and I think any SU board needs people to know that they’re actually available for comment…I also think that I want to strongly encourage people to go on WUGO because a lot of social media is not as approachable because some people don’t have social media and don’t check it…I think that student groups should really utilize that and we should try to promote WUGO in general and get people to use it.

    SL: At the forum last night, some candidates were arguing that big programming events like WILD are overfunded at the expense of more important smaller line items. Do you think that argument is valid?

    MG: I’ve certainly heard this argument before, and it’s often something I’ve been struggling with…I think that SPB is a really important programming body for the students. I haven’t been part of general budget meetings, but I trust the general budget to allocate funds. And when they’ve allocated these funds in the past to the Social Programming Board to plan these events like WILD and comedy events, and all of that, I think that it shows the importance of these events for students. And I’d be happy to work with the general budget and all the people who disagree and think that the amount of money being allocated is too much. And I’m sure that we can figure out a way to either decrease the budget or work around with the money and potentially solve this issue.

    SL: The way things are looking in terms of the COVID pandemic and the vaccination process, it’s looking pretty likely that we’re going to have a transition back to some level of in-person activity in the fall. Obviously a lot of things are up in the air right now, but do you have an idea of where the line might be drawn between programming that can be done safely and programming that can’t? 

    MG: I certainly wish I knew where we could draw that line and figure out what is going on. I know, this past year was really difficult for a lot of student groups. I know Zoom fatigue is so real, and no one wants to jump on Zoom for an extra three hours a day for programming that they might normally go to [in person]. I think that, of course, we’ll have to listen to whatever the University says and their guidelines for whatever programming that is available. I hope to be able to put on whatever we can, depending on social distancing levels…And hopefully, a lot more in-person things would be great, but I think having a hybrid option for a lot of events is super important. And being able to record events and post them on Facebook or YouTube where they’re accessible is important.

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