Following SGA class council elections, several positions remain vacant

By DIVA PAREKH and EMILY MCDONALD | May 5, 2018

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Of the eligible student body, consisting of the current freshman, sophomore and junior classes, 23.3 percent cast their ballots. 

The Committee on Student Elections (CSE) announced the results of the 2018-19 Student Government Association (SGA) Class Council elections on Friday. A total of 928 students voted, which marked a seven percent decrease from last year. Of the eligible student body, consisting of the current freshman, sophomore and junior classes, 23.3 percent cast their ballots.

Zanir Habib was elected as senior class president with 197 votes. He ran against incumbent candidate Ash Panakam, who received 178 votes. Sophomore Class Senator Dean Chien, who ran against Ali Rachidi, was elected junior class president with 204 votes. Rachidi received 111 votes. Current Freshman Class President Sam Schatmeyer was re-elected as sophomore class president with 142 votes. He ran unopposed.

A total of 10 seats remain vacant, despite the fact that several candidates ran unopposed. In an email to The News-Letter, SGA Executive Vice President AJ Tsang explained that he requested a recount with the CSE on Saturday morning. He wrote that the CSE denied his request. 

“Several candidates, SGA members and I are contending that it is statistically impossible for candidates to have been unopposed on the ballot and still receive less than 50 votes,” Tsang wrote.

This year, students cast their ballots by ranking the candidates in order of preference from one to six. Due to this voting system, Tsang expressed confusion over the vacancies. 

“We believe that the total times each candidate was ranked, and thus voted for, must have been greater than 50, and thus, every candidate listed on each class senate ballot should have won,” he wrote. “The CSE Bylaws require that it use an iterative system to ensure that 6 candidates win each Class Senator position, regardless of how many first-choice votes they receive.”

According to Tsang, the CSE denied SGA’s request for a recount as the Committee was no longer using the previous election system which ensured that six candidates would win each position. 

“By refusing students six votes for six positions in SGA, the CSE's electoral tabulations violate the fundamental democratic rights of the student body,” Tsang wrote. “In light of these factors, and more, we are appealing to the SGA Judiciary to have the CSE conduct a recount of the Class Senator elections”

Tsang also wrote that CSE Bylaws require the CSE to announce and hold a special election within two weeks of an initial class council election, or unanimously vote to use an alternative method to fill the vacancies. 

Members of the CSE were unable to respond to requests as of press time. 

Despite the several vacant SGA seats and low voter turnout, the newly elected class presidents said that they are excited to represent the student body during the next school year.

Habib said that as senior class president, he plans to address mental health resources on campus and the Office of Institutional Equity’s handling of sexual assault cases. According to Habib, students seeking resources are often directed from one office to another, which makes the process of accessing help more difficult for them. 

“I’d like to create a resource that allows more interfacing between the mental health resources,” he said.

Habib also addressed changes he would like to see in SGA.

“With the resources SGA has been given, they’ve been trying their best, and they’ve been doing a good job,” he said, “but let’s try and do a better job.”

Chien said that as the junior class president, he will focus on increasing mental health resources for students, creating more opportunities for students to engage with Baltimore City and increasing funding for student groups and organizations. 

“In terms of Baltimore community building, increasing the efforts and making sure that our students are going out into the City and really connect with the City definitely is huge,” he said. 

Chien also emphasized the importance of student input in SGA’s legislative processes. 

“SGA is here for you, anything that you need. We do have certain powers and responsibilities on this campus to do good,” he said. “We definitely want to hear your input.”

Next year’s senior class council will include Jennifer Baron. Baron was the only candidate who ran; the remaining five seats remain open. The senior class elections had the highest voter turnout, with 395 current juniors voting.

Pavan Patel, Madelynn Wellons, Jessup Jong and Mohamad Elgendi will comprise next year’s junior class council. Six candidates ran for six senator positions, but only four of those were filled. The remaining two candidates, Kiana Boroumand and Omar Lloyd, were unable to secure the 50-vote threshold required to be elected. A total of 334 sophomores voted, and none of the candidates were incumbent. 

The sophomore class council will include Isaac Lucas, Lauren Paulet and Coco Cai. The sophomore class had the lowest voter turnout, with 199 current freshmen voting. Similar to the junior class elections, six candidates ran for six senator positions, but Sam Mollin, Evan Mays and Matthew Taj could not secure 50 votes, leaving three open seats on the senate.

Schatmeyer appreciated the chance to represent the class of 2021 for the second time and discussed the lack of competition in the sophomore class council elections.

“The fact that the entire council ran unopposed definitely hurt the discourse,” he said. “There needs to be challenging and productive conversations about what the best way to manage student government is, and I think the freshman class lost out on that this year.”

Schatmeyer explained that as sophomore class president, he plans to adjust the number of senators allocated for each class. 

“We are going to be exploring the idea of increasing the class council sizes,” Schatmeyer said.

He believes that doing so will reduce time commitments for the council members and, as a result, more people will want to run.

“If we had more manpower we would be able to accomplish more, and people would run because they would know that it wouldn’t take away from the other things they want to do on this campus,” he said.

Katy Wilner and Meagan Peoples contributed reporting. 

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